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Alan Gross approaches anniversary of his imprisonment

   This undated family photo released by Judy Gross shows her with her husband Alan Gross, left, in an undisclosed location. Alan Gross, a 60-year-old U.S. government contractor from Potomac, Maryland, was arrested in Cuba on Dec. 3.

In a few days, Alan Gross will celebrate an anniversary that he should had never had to celebrate: one year of his detainment and imprisonment by the Castro regime. After months of negotiations and pleas from his wife and cancer-stricken daughter, the Cuban government refuses to give up Gross without something in return. As his wife Judy Gross puts it, Alan is not a prisoner, "he is a hostage."

Alan Gross is in a Cuban prison, held by the Cuban dictatorship, awaiting charges to be leveled against him by the Castro regime. He could be free tomorrow if the Castro tyranny wanted it, yet there are some, like "Cuba Expert" John McAuliff, who believe the U.S. is the problem:

Gross has emerged as a pawn between two nations that severed diplomatic ties decades ago. His arrest appears to have stalled any momentum that may have existed for Havana and Washington to begin building bridges. Experts say Gross now serves as a symbol of both a nation that lacks the rule of law, and another's misguided efforts at promoting democracy.

Gross was arrested Dec. 3 at his Havana hotel on the tail end of a weeklong trip. A consultant, he had been hired by Bethesda-based Development Alternatives, Inc., (DAI) to help bring the Internet to Jewish organizations. But Gross' five trips to Cuba were funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development's Cuba program, whose mission is to help foster democracy on an island ruled by the same pair of communist brothers since 1959.

Or as Cuba sees it: counter-revolutionary regime change.

``I find it frustrating that Cuba has not charged Alan Gross but even more frustrating that the U.S. has not taken the steps which could have led to his release,'' said John McAuliff, who runs a foundation that helped normalize relations with Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. ``The fundamental problem is mutual respect and sovereignty.''

McAuliff is also an anti-embargo activist in New York who follows the case closely.

What a wonderful plan McAuliff has presented: give in to the demands of the hostage takers and send them a few billion dollars for their trouble.

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