The restoration of U.S.-Cuban diplomatic ties in mid-December demonstrated the geopolitical relevance of religious institutions. The deal would not have happened without the Catholic Church and Jewish organizations. Jewish groups made Alan Gross, the prisoner at the heart of the reversal, impossible to ignore; and then the Catholic hierarchy provided the trust required to move the negotiations beyond stalemate. U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro will surely benefit from the thaw in different ways, but anti-Castro Catholics resent the Church’s involvement.
Alan Gross was a USAID contractor who specialized in setting up Internet access. His work had been part of a big shift in the United States’ democracy promotion efforts on the island away from traditional political activism. A major setback occurred in 2003, when Cuba jailed some 75 democratic dissidents who had been associated with U.S. programs, which effectively shut down one
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