It breaks my heart to read about Alan Gross. Alan and I go back to fifth grade, when his family first moved to Baltimore and he showed up in my class the first day of school. We became instant friends, and stayed close through high school. I remember frequently staying for dinner and sleeping over at his house when we were kids. We lost track of each other in college, and reconnected, like many of our generation, on Facebook a few years ago. I remember meeting his wife when they were dating, early in our college days.
I lived in Miami from 1978 to 1984, and I understand the hurt of losing a business or worse, losing your country. Two of my grandfather’s brothers left Cuba after having their businesses confiscated by the Castro government. Many cannot stomach the idea of any contact with Cuba. Their representatives, Bob Menedez, Democratic Senator from New Jersey, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican congressional representative from Florida, do not want the U.S. to make a deal with Castro. Cuba is personal to them.
Alan Gross is personal to me. The United States could negotiate his release, probably in exchange for the three remaining prisoners of the Cuban Five. If Israel can negotiate with Hamas to release an Israeli soldier, if we can have trade relations with Russia, China, and Vietnam, then we can talk about a prisoner swap with Cuba.
Alan went to Cuba on a U.S. government program. I’m sure he thought the government would help him out if he got in trouble. If our government can’t help this one man, then no one working for the United States can feel safe. It is up to President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry and Undersecretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, who attended junior high school with me and Alan, to find a diplomatic solution, and bring my good friend Alan Gross home to his family.