Nearly four years after release, Alan Gross is grateful

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My Nov. 29 post about the Alan Gross case led to some lively debate on Facebook. I had raised the possibility that U.S. officials were slow to negotiate for the release of the American development worker because hardline Florida lawmakers needed a victim. Janet Ballantyne, a former honcho at the Agency for International Development, had said:

There is no doubt in my mind that the U.S. could have negotiated release for Gross within months of his being captured, but his being held a prisoner there was very much a symbol for Cuban-Americans who were looking for regime change.

In response to the post, former foreign correspondent Juan Tamayo commented on Facebook:

Folks please note that she offers NO evidence at all for her headline allegation and says that it is her belief. She has a right to her opinions and biases. But this is far from a fact.

Veteran journalist Mark Seibel asked:

Will one of you explain to me why the head of USAID chose the day Gross was released to resign? I’ve never seen an explanation and I’ve been curious. I mean, I can understand taking a job to head the Rockefeller Foundation but to not stick around a few hours to welcome home someone who’d served Cuban prison time on your agency’s behalf?

Raj Shah, who led USAID from 2009 to 2015, is now president of the Rockefeller Foundation.

Alan Gross speaks to then-President Barack Obama in 2014. Photo: White House.

Alan Gross responded on Facebook with several insightful comments:

Perhaps I can chime in here with three points:

  1. Dr Shah visited me at my lawyer’s office before his resignation date.
  2. While I was not ‘accidentally’ left in a Cuban prison, my being arbitrarily detained there was not intentional by at least the US Government. Regardless, I am certain that at least some people at USAID and elsewhere at that time were happy to negatively exploit my captivity.
  3. In addition to my wife, Judy, lawyers, led by Scott Gilbert, relatives and friends, a lot of people in government worked very hard for my freedom, way too many to name all here. Chris Van Hollen, Patrick Leahy, Jeff Flake, Barbara Lee, Ben Rhodes, Ricardo Zuniga, The Pope, Barack Obama, etc., etc., etc. immediately come to mind. Thank goodness these folks did not dislike me because I was captured.

This 17 December will mark four years in freedom for me – and it is my preference to focus on the years ahead, not the years behind.

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