As Jewish American Alan Gross remains in a Cuban jail, held hostage by the Castro regime, Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) gave a presentation on Sunday about how Cuba is “an exciting country” to visit and that all remaining restrictions on travel to Cuba should be lifted.
“Sharing a glimpse at his personal experiences in Cuba, Rep. Farr admitted that there is no more exciting place to visit on the American continent,” noted the Havana Times.
Farr spoke at the Washington, D.C. Travel & Adventure Show, where new “people-to-people” tours of Communist Cuba were one of the featured attractions. He has been urging Obama to normalize relations with Cuba and to remove Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism.
However, fugitives from justice in America continue to remain in Cuba, under the protection of the Castro brothers’ regime. These include cop-killer Joanne Chesimard, Puerto Rican FALN bomb-maker William Morales, and Victor Manuel Gerena, a Puerto Rican terrorist involved in an armored car robbery. A WikiLeaks cable from a U.S. diplomat in Havana revealed that the regime continues to give sanctuary to members of various terrorist groups. “We have reliable reporting indicating the presence of ELN, FARC and ETA members here in Havana,” the cable says. The National Liberation Army (ELN) and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are Colombia’s main terrorist organizations, while the ETA is a terrorist separatist group operating in the Basque region of Spain.
President Obama lifted many restrictions on travel to Cuba, an initiative announced even though Alan Gross had been in prison in Cuba without charges for more than a year and has lost 90 pounds as his health deteriorates. Obama’s pro-Castro policy move was greeted with official charges against Gross and now a sentence of 15 years. His “crime” was distributing laptops and cellular phones to Cuban citizens, mostly in the Jewish community, as part of a U.S. foreign aid project. The regime called it “a subversive project to try to topple the revolution.”
In an understatement, The Washington Post noted that the Gross case hasn’t stopped the Obama administration from loosening travel restrictions to the island. The Post story, “Maryland Contractor draws 15-year sentence in Cuba,” was carried back on page 11. The paper refused to call Gross a hostage of the regime.
A flier available at one of the travel exhibits declared, “Thank the President for Purposeful Travel [to Cuba] and urge full and fast implementation.” So-called “purposeful travel” is done under academic, religious, or educational cover and will result in financial subsidies for the Castro regime at a time when another WikiLeaks cable said it is near bankruptcy.
A glossy travel booklet, “Cuba with all the senses,” proclaimed, “Cuba is history and harmony. It is natural beauty. There are so many reasons to visit its endless beaches, its historical towns and cities, its lush mountains and its charming valleys.” It was produced by Sol Melia Cuba hotels.
Another group at the travel show promoting trips to Cuba was Global Exchange, founded by Medea Benjamin of Code Pink. Her group also sponsors travel to Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, where the regime has imprisoned former presidential candidate Alejandro Peña-Esclusa. Like the case of Gross in Cuba, the Chavez government fabricated false accusations against him.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called the sentencing of Gross “a shameless act by a desperate regime,” adding, “This is a regime which will use anything and anyone, including a United States citizen, to wage its propaganda war against all those in Cuba demanding freedom, and all those responsible nations around the world who stand up for the oppressed Cuban people.”
The Obama Administration’s weak response to Gross’s fate has greatly disturbed advocates of freedom in Cuba such as Rep. David Rivera (R-Fla.), who in advance of the sentencing had released a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and said, “Madame Secretary, being patient with a dictator is not a policy.”
Rivera said, “In January the Obama administration announced relaxed regulations for travel and remittances to Cuba. However, in recent Foreign Affairs Committee and Western Hemisphere Subcommittee hearings, Clinton and [Assistant Secretary of State Arturo] Valenzuela could not cite a single example of the Castro dictatorship responding positively toward unilateral concessions from the United States government in the last 52 years.”
After the sentencing of Gross, the administration issued a brief statement from National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor. It said, “Today’s sentencing adds another injustice to Alan Gross’s ordeal. He has already spent too many days in detention and should not spend one more. We urge the immediate release of Mr. Gross so that he can return home to his wife and family.”
Rivera had warned, “Allowing the Cuban dictatorship to take this action against an American citizen without serious consequences from our government will endanger Americans around the world and embolden other terrorist and rogue regimes in their anti-American activities.”
But it appears that Jesse Jackson is riding to the rescue.
On March 1, Jesse Jackson had issued an “appeal to His Excellency President Raul Castro” to release Gross on humanitarian grounds. Jackson groveled to Castro, saying, “My appeal is solely a humanitarian one with deep respect of the national sovereignty of your beloved country.”
Humberto Fontova notes that Jackson traveled to Cuba in 1984 to meet with Fidel Castro and sing his praises with chants of “Viva Fidel!” Jackson was accompanied by Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s pastor of 20 years.