News Release

“Going Down to Cuba”

AP reports: “The United States and Cuba will start talks on normalizing full diplomatic relations, marking the most significant shift in U.S. policy toward the communist island in decades, American officials said Wednesday.”

REESE ERLICH, rerlich at, @ReeseErlich
Erlich is an award winning foreign correspondent. His books include “Dateline Havana: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Future of Cuba.”

LARRY BIRNS, coha at, @cohastaff
Birns is the director of Council on Hemispheric Affairs, which today released a statement: “Alan Gross was working in Cuba as a sub­contractor of the United States Agency for International Developments (USAID) in 2009, when Cuban authorities arrested him. A Cuban court convicted Gross for smuggling illegal satellite equipment into the island, which in Cuba is considered a crime against the state.

“Given decades of U.S. deployment of psy­ops and other subversive activity against the Cuban regime, it is not implausible to believe that Gross was likely a player in (intentional or not) a CIA­-USAID plot to weaken Castro’s rule under cover of a human rights project. At the time, Havana was undergoing a transition to normal relations with Washington after decades of a ‘special period’ of economic hardship in Cuba caused by the U.S. economic embargo and exacerbated by the fall of the Soviet Union.

“It was not the first time, nor presumably the last, that the CIA and USAID have been caught in a plot to overthrow Cuba’s government through cultural or human rights projects on the island. For example, the CIA­-USAID partners promoted a ‘Cuba Twitter’ program aiming at overthrowing the government. The latest one to date was a story exposed by The Nation, which reported a USAID-financed cultural project, aimed at promoting certain political behavior among the dynamic Cuban hip ­hop scene. These projects, if not futile, routinely prove to be at the very least completely ‘reckless’ and ‘stupid’ endeavors, as stated by Sen. Patrick Leahy. One can only agree with his reasonable statements.”

The Institute for Policy Studies released a statement today “applauding the just-announced dramatic shifts in U.S.-Cuba policy — shifts that IPS public scholars have been advocating for many years.

“Key to the policy shift, which includes full normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations, was a prisoner swap. U.S. contractor Alan Gross, who was jailed in Cuba for espionage, was released in exchange for the release of three members of the Cuban 5. IPS Fellow Saul Landau had suggested just such a swap in a 2010 commentary.

“Landau devoted his last film ‘Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up?’ to raising awareness of the plight of the Cuban Five, a group of Cuban men sent to Miami to infiltrate right-wing terrorist organizations. When they turned over evidence of U.S.-based terrorism to the FBI, they themselves were arrested and convicted while the anti-Castro terrorists continued to live freely in Florida. Landau, who died in September 2013, made six films about Cuba and wrote countless articles and books criticizing U.S. policies towards the island nation and calling for full normalization of relations.

“For the past three years, IPS has also been an active supporter of the annual advocacy events called ‘Five Days for the Cuban Five,’ led by the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5. These events included rallies at the White House, visits to members of U.S. Congress and Senate, and public and cultural events with well-known personalities from the United States and abroad.”

“The release of the remaining imprisoned Cuban 5 is a long overdue act and we’re hopeful about the possibility of a new relationship between the United States and Cuba,” said Netfa Freeman, IPS Events Coordinator, as well as an organizer in the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5. “We will continue to work in solidarity with the people of Cuba to change over 50 years of unjust U.S. policy toward Cuba.”

The group also noted: “Several times in the last years of his life, Saul Landau joined actor Danny Glover in driving hours across the California desert to visit Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, one of the Cuban 5 prisoners involved in the prisoner swap announced by President Obama today as part of a major shift in U.S. policy towards Cuba.”

Note: Producers might want to use Jackson Browne’s “Going Down to Cuba” as intro music. [Video]