USAID subcontractor's ordeal in Cuba gets worse

    USAID subcontractor Alan Gross with his wife Judy Gross in 2010. Sentenced to 15 years in Cuba, he filed a lawsuit last November against the United States and DAI which was recently dismissed by a U.S. district court judge. Photo by: Family Photograph/Handout

    A USAID subcontractor behind bars in Cuba for smuggling communications equipment meant for “democracy promotion” has just lost a lawsuit against his employers: The U.S. government and contractor Development Alternatives, Inc.

    Alan Gross was sentenced to 15 years in prison in Cuba in 2009 for supposedly undermining the state’s territorial integrity by allegedly smuggling electronics equipment aimed at boosting the technology access of a small Jewish community in the country to break the Communist regime’s information blockade.

    Internet access in Cuba is largely restricted to select institutions and professionals. The government views it as a powerful tool that could encourage political dissent against the state and endanger public security.

    Gross and his wife filed a lawsuit last November against the United States and DAI, which subcontracted the program to his nonprofit Joint Business Development Center, Inc. They were asking for $60 million for damages incurred in the delivery of the program.

    A U.S. district court judge however dismissed the case, under the ruling that no person can sue the U.S. government for injuries suffered in a foreign land. Gross’ lawyers are planning to file an appeal.

    The decision, including the U.S. government’s failure to secure Gross’ release, is troubling for development contractors, many of them working in countries with tense relationships with the United States, such as Bolivia.

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    About the author

    • Jenny Lei Ravelo

      Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.

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