NYT: Alan Gross Helps Restore Cuban Relations With U.S.

An American who was imprisoned by Cuba for five years is now looking to help restore relations between the Caribbean island and the U.S.

Alan Gross, an American aid worker, sat in a Cuban prison for delivering forbidden communications equipment to Cuba’s small Jewish community in efforts to spread internet access in the country.

Despite the time he spent in Cuba contemplating suicide as hope dwindled away, Gross is now considering a return to Cuba to assist in raising money to support elected officials and candidates advocating for freer trade and travel, according to the New York Times.

Mr. Gross will lead an “off the record discussion on modernizing U.S.-Cuba policy” at a May 4 fund-raiser for New Cuba PAC in Miami, which suggests contributions of $1,000 to $5,000.

The released American expressed his support of Congress restoring diplomatic relations and easing trade and travel restrictions as a step toward increasing the flow of information to Cuba.

Mr. Scott Gilbert, Mr. Gross’ lawyer, said he had “transcended the imprisonment he suffered for five years” and had promised since his release to “do what he could to promote a more constructive relationship” between the countries.

The case became of the utmost importance while President Barack Obama and President Raúl Castro hashed out what it would take to normalize relations between the two countries.

Cuba and the U.S. have been enemies since the Cold War 50 years ago, when they withdrew their ambassadors and America placed them on the terrorist watch group.

American and Cuban government negotiators agreed on Gross’ return to the States, an exchange of additional prisoners who had been held on spying charges, in an effort to work toward restoring full diplomatic relations and reopening embassies, as reported by the NY Times.

President Obama has also been working to loosen trade and travel restrictions. Since then, U.S. corporations have been eager to jump in and do business with Cuba, American visits have increased and many on both sides oppose the embargo.

“The time is right to build a competitive organization,” said James Williams, a Democratic political consultant.

Sen. Jeff Flake has recently sponsored a bill to relax trade and travel restrictions. It has gained support from bipartisan co-sponsors but still has a way to go without the endorsement of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

On the other hand, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Cuban-American Republican from the Miami area, filed legislation into a larger budget bill that would forbid flights and cruises to Cuba. Diaz-Balart argues that Mr. Obama’s new regulations had violated bans on tourist travel there.

By Suzanne Vega, JP Updates

May 3, 2015

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