Although The Death of the White Rose takes place during the Cuban revolution, it is inevitable in researching the events of 1952-1959 that I should have run into stories about developments that are taking place in Cuba today. One such story is that of Alan Gross. Mr. Gross is an American who was arrested in December 2009 as he was leaving Havana and convicted in 2011 in Cuba for actions relating to electronic equipment that he had smuggled into Cuba. The equipment is alleged to have been brought there to permit the minute Jewish community to communicate with Jews outside of Cuba. His predicament is the subject of a recent Washington Post editorial demanding his release.
His trip to Cuba and the equipment that he brought with him was funded by a $6 million contract between USAID and an American contractor, Development Alternatives, Inc. The purpose of the contract was to promote democracy in Cuba, according to one of the comments to the Post editorial. He failed to report to Cuban customs that he was bringing in satellite telephones and computers to allow for Internet access. In looking at the comments to the news coverage in the Washington Post, it is unclear to me exactly what Mr. Gross brought in. The recent Post editorial refers to satellite phones. A comment describes them as B-Gans transmitters, capable of sending encrypted files. I looked at Development Alternatives, Inc.’s website and discovered that it provides many humanitarian services all over the world. Here is a link to their webpage that describes their work in Latin America: http://www.dai.com/work/region_detail.php?rid=3 . It is interesting to note that while USAID is listed as a client, there is no mention of contracts to develop democratic institutions in Cuba.
Evidently, former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has been trying to broker a deal to exchange Gross for four Cubans who are in a U.S. prison and another who has been released on parole. The four are serving long terms for placing anti-Castro activists in Florida under surveillance and for conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit espionage, using false identification and twenty other charges. The American government has offered one of the Cubans who has completed his prison term, but who is currently on probation for three years. Cuba turned down the offer.
The Cuban trial was not open to the public (no great surprise). As a result it is difficult to understand exactly what Gross was doing in Cuba. The explanation that he was providing Cuban Jews with Internet service sounds pretty silly to me. I doubt that USAID, assuming that it was their money that funded Mr. Gross, ever imagined that taxpayer funds would be used for such a purpose. Does anyone know of any American Congressional hearings examining the details of this contract? If so, it would be enlightening to hear about them. If the contract was used to fund only Gross’s activities it is particularly strange. The current Jewish population is estimated to be 1500. That would mean USAID was spending $4,000 per Jewish Cuban to improve their connectivity. It is a bit odd.
Speaking of odd things, here is a brief progress report about my novel. I am on the third draft now and am working on chapter 6 (there are 18 in total). I made some reasonable progress over the past weekend, but once again, the day job is interfering with its completion. I am very happy with the ending—it is suspenseful and a page turner. Making each page like that is a continuing challenge. I hope when you have an opportunity to read the whole story, you will feel the same about each chapter.