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Former Cuban prisoner Alan Gross compares Trump to Castro

Former Cuban prisoner Alan Gross had some harsh words for Donald Trump Wednesday, telling Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric that the president-elect is “a megalomaniac of the same ilk as Fidel Castro, only he’s not as well read.”

Gross was a U.S. contractor who was arrested in Cuba in 2009 while working on a project to provide wireless Internet access to the country’s Jewish community, and spent five years in a Cuban prison. He spoke to Couric about his hopes for the future of U.S. relations with the island nation, Castro’s death and Trump.

History will never absolve him. But perhaps now the voices of Cuba will be heard. Speak up, Cuba.

— Alan P. Gross (@AlanPGross) November 26, 2016

Though he said Trump’s statement on the news of Castro’s death last weekend was “absolutely right on target,” Gross said, “I do not think that the president of the United States should make that type of statement.” Trump had condemned the “brutal dictator” for his long history of “fundamental human rights” violations.

In contrast, Gross pointed to President Obama’s far less critical comments as “the statement of a statesman.”

Gross’s release from prison in 2014 was integral to Obama’s effort to reopen U.S. diplomatic relations with Cuba, and he praised the president’s executive action to ease restrictions on Cuban-Americans to travel and send money home to family on the island.

There is a “direct and undeniable correlation between easing in restrictions in remittances … and growth in [Cuba’s] private sector,” Gross said, insisting that the U.S. trade embargo, launched during the Cold War, was “only intended to be applied to government of Cuba,” which at the time had “decimated the private sector.”

He argued that the trade embargo should finally be lifted, and said it would “put enormous pressure on the government of Cuba because they will no longer be able to blame the bad guys in the north on their economic woes.”

During the campaign, Trump had vowed to reverse Obama’s efforts to warm relations between the U.S. and Cuba. But since then, Trump has not repeated that stance, and earlier this week he suggested that there was room for Cuba’s government to negotiate with him:

If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 28, 2016

Gross dismissed the threat from Trump. “It’s not rational for the future head of state to be tweeting unsubstantiated garbage,” he said.

“He’s got to understand that there’s a difference between finance and economics, that there’s a difference between statesmanship and bullying,” he continued. “This isn’t a Trump Hotel. … We’re the leaders of the free world and he’s talking about deals?”

Gross clarified that he has “no fondness at all for the government of Cuba, but I have the highest admiration for the people of Cuba, who sustained me for five years.” Still, two years after his release from prison, Gross said, “I feel like I can say I’ve had the Cuban-American experience.”

“I was in Cuba and I lost everything, everything,” he said. “And now, I came to the United States and I’m rebuilding my life.”

World - Yahoo News