Monday, February 27, 2012

Humanitarian Plea

Rene Gonzalez' lawyer has filed a motion to allow him to travel to Cuba for two weeks to be with his sick brother.  He is currently serving probation after being released from prison where he spent over a decade after his questionable trial in Miami.  There have been many suggestions that he, along with the other five Cubans who were collecting information on violent groups in Miami, could be part of an exchange for the American, Alan Gross, who is currently serving a fifteen year sentence in Cuba for crimes he committed while working as a contractor for U.S. government programs.  But the U.S. has so far been unwilling to entertain the idea of working something out.

Rene has so far complied with the terms of his probation and there is no reason to believe that he is a threat to the United States.  The fact that he is being forced to remain here to complete probation after which he will undoubtedly return to Cuba, makes it seem like a decision based on spite.  But for now, that's besides the point.

The case of Alan Gross.  The U.S. government has not only demanded that Alan Gross be released, but has also stated that he should be released at the very least on humanitarian grounds.  He has two family members who are currently sick and if he were to have to spend the entire fifteen years in prison, there is a good possibility that he would miss the opportunity to be with them ever again.  On a personal level, it's hard to think about the pain that they feel knowing that this possibility exists. 

Now we have an unfortunate situation where Rene's brother is very sick and according to his doctors, is not responding to treatment and his condition continues to worsen.  His prognosis is not good and he has been hospitalized for the past couple of weeks.

Surely there is someone in the court system or administration that is capable of seeing that there are humanitarian grounds for letting Rene Gonzalez travel to be with his brother.  If they are able to see the humanitarian side of the Alan Gross situation, they cannot be blind to the urgent humanitarian response that Mr. Gonzalez should be afforded.  What would be lost by showing goodwill?  Nothing at all.  There is much to be gained. 

Rene Gonzalez can hardly be considered a flight risk.  Sure, it would be easy to stay in Cuba if he were allowed to go.  But keeping in mind that the goal of the Cuban people is to see all five Cubans return, it would be counterproductive to that goal if Rene Gonzalez would decide not to return.  All five have served there time honorably, and Mr. Gonzalez has met every requirement of his probation up to this point.  It can be expected with certainty that he would return as required after the two weeks with his brother.  And there is no doubt that that his family would appreciate the chance to be together during this tough time.

The cases of the Cuban 5 and of Alan Gross are  not at all related.  They were convicted of different crimes, under different circumstances, and in different places and times.  The only thing that those cases have in common is that the governments on both sides would like them to  be returned.  Some people on both sides have conceded that there are humanitarian concerns.  Hopefully the court in Miami sees and agrees with the reasons for allowing Rene Gonzalez the two weeks with his brother.  His plea should be granted and he should be with his brother for at least this small window of time. 

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