Published by Mother Jones in October 2015. Written by Peter Kornbluh and William M. Leogrande.

When Gross’ terminally ill, 92-year-old mother, Evelyn, took a severe turn for the worse in late May, negotiations became urgent. Meeting in Ottawa in early June, the Cubans pushed for a quick prisoner trade, expressing their fear that Gross would kill himself when his mother passed away. US officials, meanwhile, worried that if Gross died in a Cuban prison, a change in US policy would become politically impossible.

Kerry reached out to Cuban foreign minister Bruno Rodríguez and proposed a “furlough” to the United States—Gross would wear an electronic bracelet to allow the Cubans to monitor his movements, and he would return to prison after his mother’s death. “Alan promised unequivocally that he would return to incarceration in Cuba after visiting his mother at the hospital in Texas,” his lawyer Scott Gilbert recalls, “and I offered to take his place until he returned. That is how important this was.”

But the Cubans considered the plan too risky. After Evelyn Gross died on June 18, 2014, Kerry warned Rodrí­guez that if any harm came to Gross while in Cuba’s custody, the opportunity for better relations would be lost.

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Cuba needs capital investment to fuel emerging industries and to help build competitive infrastructures. The embargo’s continuing restrictions on partnerships with Cuban entities in many sectors impede such investment and frustrate U.S. policy goals rather than advance them.

Will the Obama Administration’s new rules open the floodgates to Cuba for American business next month or even next year? No. Full and fair free trade with Cuba won’t happen until Congress finally repeals Helms-Burton, the myopic and failed U.S. trade embargo.

To be sure, the new regulatory amendments put forth this month are an important and necessary step in the right direction. Building on the Administration’s historic first round of amendments relaxing embargo restrictions in January, the September changes create the most significant opening in decades for Americans seeking to do business in Cuba.

American business executives contemplating opportunities in the Cuban marketplace would do well to study the regulations in the wake of these revisions. They should understand the full potential breadth of the regulatory windows that have been created, as well as identify for themselves and U.S. policymakers and regulators those issues ripe for further regulatory change.

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