By CNN's Wolf Blitzer
(CNN) – I’ve been receiving some very positive reaction to our coverage in “The Situation Room” of the case of Alan Gross, the American being held in a Cuban prison.
Many viewers and readers thanked me for bringing this case to their attention and putting both sides of the story out there.
The San Francisco Chronicle went further. In an editorial titled “Free Alan Gross,” the newspaper called on the Cuban government to release Gross, who has already served 2 1/2 years of his 15-year prison sentence. A Cuban court found Gross guilty of “acts against the independence or territorial integrity” of Cuba because he brought unauthorized cell phones and laptop computers to members of the island’s tiny Jewish community.
“On the plus side,” the editorial said, “the Castro regime deserves credit for allowing Gross to use his weekly phone call to contact CNN and make his case. On the down side, the news coverage serves to remind the world of the repressive policies of President Raul Castro.”
The editorial added: “Every country has a right to uphold its sovereignty. Havana certainly had a right to sanction Gross for misusing a tourist visa to transport laptops and other devices. Even still, Cuba’s use of Gross as a pawn – for the crime of trying to put Cubans onto the Internet – shows how truly vulnerable Castro’s hold on Cuba must be.”
In an interview with me, a high-ranking official of the Cuban Foreign Ministry said the ball was now in the United States’ court. Josefina Vidal, speaking to me from Havana, said the Cuban government is ready to discuss Gross’ case with the Obama administration.
The Cubans would clearly like to link Gross’ case to the case of five Cubans serving prison sentences in the United States for spying. U.S. officials say that kind of linkage is a nonstarter.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in an interview with CNN, said flatly it’s long past time for the Cubans to release Gross.
Publicly, there may be a diplomatic stalemate between Havana and Washington right now, but I suspect there may also be some movement behind the scenes. We shall see soon enough.
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