The Cuban regime has just announced a prisoner release, at the very end of 2011. This is partly an effort to get some positive publicity before the scheduled visit of the Pope, and partly a cold-blooded move by the regime to release older prisoners who are a burden on their prison system.
Not included in the group to be released is Alan Gross. Here is what the State Department said about that:
"We have seen reports that the Council of State of Cuba has announced the release of 2,900 prisoners and Alan Gross is not among them. If this is correct, we are deeply disappointed and deplore the fact that the Cuban government has decided not to take this opportunity to extend this humanitarian release to Mr. Gross this holiday season, especially in light of his deteriorating health, and to put an end to the Gross family's long plight. We continue to call on the Cuban authorities to release Alan Gross and return him to his family, where he belongs."
Who is Alan Gross? He is a Jewish American social worker, a long-time USAID contractor who was jailed in December 2009. He now completes two years in a Cuban prison. His wife responded to the news that he would not be released:
"To receive news in the middle of Hanukkah that the Cuban authorities have once again overlooked an opportunity to release Alan on humanitarian grounds is devastating. Our family is simply heartbroken."
What was Gross's crime? What was he doing in Cuba? His job was to connect the tiny Cuban Jewish community to the Internet, and thereby to the global Jewish community.