Washington — The chants of “Free Alan Gross!” were unlikely to reach the ears of President Barack Obama in the Oval Office. But the gathering of several dozen activists outside the White House — on the fourth anniversary of the arrest of the Jewish American contractor in Cuba — highlighted a tactical shift in the movement for his release.
Once focused angrily on Cuban leader Fidel Castro, family members, supporters and Jewish activists today point to President Obama and his administration as the ones who have failed Alan Gross, leaving him to molder in a Cuban prison.
“It is up to our government to secure his release,” said Gross’s wife, Judy Gross at the December 3 protest. Standing across the road from the White House, Judy Gross listed the family milestones her husband had missed in his four-year imprisonment. “Imagine how he felt a few months ago when he couldn’t walk his daughter down the aisle,” she told the crowd made up of local politicians, supporters and members of the Washington Jewish community. “President Obama, imagine it was one of your daughters.”
Alan Gross himself, in a letter sent from his prison cell last week, made clear he was disappointed with his government’s treatment of his case. “Mr. President, please, please assure my family and me you will do whatever is necessary to get me out of this hell,” Gross wrote in a letter that was read aloud by his wife. “I’m fired up and ready to go, please do whatever it takes to keep this fire from being extinguished.”
In the past, the gatherings marking the anniversaries of Gross’s arrest were somber, but this year’s carried a tone of frustration. The lack of national interest in the Gross case, a failure to mobilize the public on the issue, and mainly, a sense that the Obama administration is ignoring possible openings from Havana, have all fueled the growing anger at the U.S. government.
“The U.S. has said it will not sit down if there are preconditions, but now the Cubans are not asking for any preconditions and our government still won’t sit down with them,” said Scott Gilbert, an attorney representing the Gross family.