Prosecutors in Cuba said they will charge Alan Gross, the American detained as a spy in Cuba since December 2009, with "Actions Against the Independence and Territorial Integrity of the State," seeking a 20-year prison sentence.
Two years ago, Gross went to Cuba on a ten-day trip to provide internet access to the Jewish community as part of a government-backed program promoting democracy. Accused by Cuban officials of spying, Gross's ten-day trip turned into a prison stint with no end in sight.
Since his detainment, he has become a human bargaining chip in the strained ongoing and slow-going negotiations between the United States and Cuba.
If the internet is the new battlefield in the long, simmering standoff between Cuba and the United States, then jailed American contractor Alan Gross is the conflict's first POW.
A trial date has not been set, but the Gross case, along with several other web-related developments this month, has offered the best insight yet into the Castro government's evolving views of the internet, as Cuban authorities cautiously attempt to introduce modern technology while pushing back against U.S. efforts to wield it against them.
Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz released a statement saying:
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The news that the Castro brothers are seeking a 20-year imprisonment of Alan Gross for distributing cell phones to the Jewish community of Havana--after he has languished in a Cuban cell without access to medical care for fourteen months--is outrageous.
This affront is magnified by the recent announcement by the Obama Administration that the United States will be loosening travel restrictions which will pump much-needed money into the desperate Cuban economy, boosting the Castro regime...We should not be opening up our markets and our travel before the Castro regime brings true reform to the Cuban people.
About a week ago, the Sun-Sentinel published an article about airlines bracing themselves for the surge that would result if travel restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba were lifted. With the news that Cuban officials are pushing for a 20-year prison sentence for Gross, it looks like the U.S. and Cuban governments may be right back to the drawing board.
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