In a dramatic segment on CBS News’ 60 Minutes titled “The Last Prisoner of the Cold War,” former United States Agency for International Development (USAID) subcontractor Alan Gross tells of horrifying experiences in captivity: “They threatened to hang me, they threatened to pull out my fingernails, they said I’d never see the light of day.”
Gross portrays a harrowing ordeal. He purports to have feared for his safety and his life, as if he was chained in a medieval dungeon at the whims of an arbitrary monarch. This description likely sounds credible to many Americans who view the Cuban government as their own government and media have portrayed it for the last 55 years: a totalitarian dictatorship with no respect for human rights or the rule of law.
The opportunistic Gross, who earned more than $500,000 from his work for USAID, undoubtedly understands that he could cash in on the American public’s preconceptions of Cuba by dramatizing his experience there. Perhaps this occurred to Gross during his imprisonment, when he told a second cousin that “when he comes back he’s going to have a big book deal.” One might even venture to guess his “60 Minutes” interview might be an audition for such a pay day.