The recent swap of five Guantanamo detainees for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the last American prisoner of war in Afghanistan, has clear parallels to the case of imprisoned USAID contractor Alan Gross, whom the Cuban government wants to exchange for the three remaining members of the Cuban Five in United States custody. The Obama administration, however, continues to insist on his unconditional release.
Saturday's prisoner exchange for Bergdahl caught the attention of Fernando Gonzalez, one of the original Cuban Five who returned to Havana in February after 15 years behind bars in the U.S. The AP reports that in a press conference yesterday, Gonzalez claimed the swap set a precedent for trading Gross. “It is obvious that the only thing needed is the will on the part of the U.S. government to bring about that swap or exchange,” he said.
Gonzalez was not the only one to make this comparison. In the State Department's daily press briefing yesterday, spokeswoman Jen Psaki was grilled by one reporter on the similarities between the Bergdahl swap and Cuba's proposal for trading Gross. Despite the overlap, her response confirms that a trade isn't on the administration's horizon. From the transcript:
QUESTION: Right. But this seems to be – especially in the Alan Gross case, the Cubans have made it perfectly clear – not just privately, but I mean, they’re screaming it from the rooftops – that if there can be a resolution to the three remaining of the Cuban Five, that then Alan Gross will be freed.
MS. PSAKI: I – again, every circumstance is different, Matt, and I’m not going to speak to every circumstance from the podium. But this is a case where he was a member – is a member of the military. He was detained during an armed combat – armed combat. These were a unique set of circumstances.
QUESTION: So working for another agency of the government makes a difference? You’re not prepared to trade people for someone who was not serving in uniform?[...]But in the Alan Gross case, the Cubans have made it very clear that if these prisoners are released who have served 15 years in prison already – if these guys are – these three guys, remaining three are released, that they will – that they’ll basically release Gross, who you have similar concerns about his health and safety, as you did with Sergeant Bergdahl. And you wouldn’t actually be breaking the law, or going around the law, in releasing these guys who have served – in releasing these three guys, the Cubans. I just don’t understand --
MS. PSAKI: We look at each case differently, Matt.
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