Aid Worker’s Sentence to Affect Funds for US Democracy Programs in Cuba?

    Cuban flags. Photo by: Indrani Soemardjan / CC BY-NC-ND

    The People’s Supreme Court of Cuba’s decision to reject detained U.S. aid worker Alan P. Gross’s final appeal for release is expected to strain U.S.-Cuba relations further. This comes at a time when U.S. legislators are debating the release of funds for democracy-promotion initiatives in Cuba.

    The supreme court ruling upholds Gross’s 15-year jail sentence imposed in March despite calls from the Obama administration for his immediate and unconditional release. It also effectively ends all judicial recourse for the 62-year-old aid worker, who has been detained since his arrest in December 2009 on allegations of distributing communications equipment illegally while working on a U.S. Agency for International Development program to promote democracy in Cuba. His family is reportedly hoping for a diplomatic resolution to the matter.

    Legislators have already been questioning the annual allocation of funds for U.S. democracy-promotion initiatives in Cuba. On July 29, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chief John Kerry dropped objections to releasing $20 million in funding after a three-month “hold.” However, at least one more hold remains on the Cuba democracy program from Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

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    About the author

    • Che de los Reyes

      As a senior staff writer, Che focuses on international development breaking news coverage as well as interviews and features. Prior to joining Devex, Che handled communications for local and international development NGOs and government institutions in the Philippines.