Friday, April 18, 2014

Today in 1961...


If you go to the new Cuban (Exile) Memorial in Sweetwater you will notice a specific series of plaques. Those plaques identify tragic events such as the "Rastra de la Muerte" ("Cargo Container of Death" where nine captured Brigade 2506 soldiers died by asphyxiation) and the 1994 sinking of "El Remolcador 13 de Marzo." But, among those plaques, is the historic tragedy of the Bay of Pigs invasion.

The Bay of Pigs (namely its failure) seems to be one of the origins of the Cuban exile narrative focused on tragedy and suffering.

[Correction: I just recalled that the Cuban Memorial has a plaque for the anti-Castro guerrillas who operated in the Escambray Mountains. This event occurred before the Bay of Pigs and forms the earliest part of the Cuban exile narrative. These guerrillas were formed after the 1959 Cuban Revolution from "disgruntled officers from the revolutionary army" and formed an early potential operating area for the Bay of Pigs invasion. These guerrillas received weapons from the U.S. which were dropped by air. But, the guerrillas suffered from low numbers (around a thousand), lack of support (from nearby residents), and resources (such as food, and weapons would often be intercepted). American William A. Morgan was among the early leaders of the Escambray counter-revolution, but soon arrested and executed on March 11, 1961. Sources: here, here and here.]

[Cuban American Bar Association's 2011 Anniversary Issue on the Bay of Pigs (PDF)]
[ Link to the full April 18, 1961 St. Petersburg Times edition from above]

Monday, April 1, 2013

Yoani Sanchez Live in Miami [Updated Interviews]


If you can't make it in person, here's where you can see Yoani Sanchez in her two public appearances today in Miami.

Her first appearance will be at the Freedom Tower at 2:00 pm and streamed by Miami-Dade College. Click here to view.

Her second appearance will be at Florida International University at 7:30 pm and streamed here.

Locally, some television and radio stations will broadcast her speeches. Any recorded video and audio will later be posted here.

--- [Update] ---

Thanks to The Miami Herald for posting video of Yoani Sanchez at the Freedom Tower [update - thanks to the Generacion Asere blog and Miami Ready Studio, you can view Sanchez receive accolades from local leaders after this event]:

[English translation]


[In Spanish click here]

And, thanks to Florida International University for posting video of Yoani Sanchez later that evening:

[English translation]


[In Spanish click here]

[Additional audio and video interviews with Yoani Sanchez in Miami updated below.]

- Interview with Oscar Haza on Radio Mambi click here.
- Interview with The Miami Herald editorial board click here.
- Sanchez at the Roots of Hope/Knight Foundation "Tweet Up" click here.
- Interview with reporters from Diario Las Americas click here.
- Sanchez on 'A Mano Limpia' (AmericaTeVe) click here.
- Interview with Jaime Bayly on MegaTV click here.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Radio Mambi Attacks Yoani Sanchez, Unknowingly Puts Foot in Mouth


As famed Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez gets closer and closer to her Miami visit, militant and hard-line Cuban exiles are going through an interesting phase of introspection: How much respect or support should they show Sanchez during her internationally publicized trip around the world, while withholding their deep displeasure by her public opposition to the U.S. embargo towards Cuba and the presence of the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo. This is how Radio Mambi responded.

DIVISION

On Monday, the day before Yoani Sanchez's historic visit to Washington D.C., Radio Mambi's Armando Perez-Roura (founder and programming director) decided to make his position clear on the famous Cuban blogger. Some weeks ago, Perez-Roura admitted he thought about it carefully, especially after Sanchez's public comments in Brazil. He debated the issue with his group Unidad Cubana one Saturday, where he described the discussion as very divisive. I recall years ago Perez-Roura showing much admiration for Yoani Sanchez.

But, given her recent comments against U.S. policy, it seems that Perez-Roura can no longer give Yoani Sanchez his full support. Instead, on Monday Perez-Roura invited Tito Rodriguez Oltmans to his two-hour show "Tome Nota" to reflect their displeasure with Sanchez, and cast doubt on her motives.

PARANOIA

Tito Rodriguez Oltmans, former exile militant of the group Salva a Cuba (Save Cuba) and Unidad Revolucionaria (Revolutionary Unity), is the long-time host of Radio Mambi's show "Puntos de Vista" (Points of View) which airs every Saturday at 8pm. In his two-hour show, Rodriguez talks about all sorts of conspiracies related to international communism, the infiltration of communists in the U.S., and his deep distrust of some dissidents inside Cuba. According to Rodriguez, Cuba's Ministry of the Interior has such complete control of communications inside the island that any regular mention of dissident activities in the international media is actually being permitted by the Cuban government. In other words, behind Yoani Sanchez lurks a communist plot in the shadows.

Armando Perez-Roura said he invited Rodriguez to his show because he had heard Rodriguez's previous show on Yoani Sanchez. Clearly, Perez-Roura had approved of those comments, as he approves of most guests who appear on his show, and continues to ban others he disapproves of, namely Democrats.

But, Tito Rodriguez Oltmans unknowingly made a huge error on Monday. As Rodriguez raised several questions about Yoani Sanchez and her blog, calling into question her motives for visiting Miami, and making absurd allegations, he was actually relying on questions being raised by Cuban government supporters who also oppose the famous dissident blogger. In other words, Tito Rodriguez Oltmans on Monday did a huge favor for his long-time enemy, the Cuban government.

If you listen carefully to the audio excerpts above, you'll notice that Rodriguez raised some of the same questions mentioned in Salim Lamrani's recent article titled "40 Questions for Yoani Sanchez" (If you were lucky to hear the entire show, Rodriguez relied heavily on this document). Lamrani is a journalist who writes frequently on several topics related to Cuba. To get an idea where he stands on U.S. policy towards Cuba, then check out his edited volume titled "Superpower Principles: U.S. Terrorism Against Cuba." He's written several other books about U.S. policy towards Cuba, which have been published in Spanish by Editorial Jose Marti, a publisher based in Havana. Lamrani has also been a long-time critic of Yoani Sanchez.]

I find it hard to believe that Tito Rodriguez Oltmans would use this material if he knew the author, especially given Lamrani's political stance on U.S. policy and support of the Cuban government. Most likely, Rodriguez was unconcerned about who wrote these questions, and more interested in his own agenda to defame Yoani Sanchez.

SELF-DESTRUCTION

In their paranoid world, Rodriguez and Perez-Roura believe that Sanchez's message being transmitted throughout the world is another attack against their militant cause. They don't like the division and introspection that Sanchez's messages provoke. They prefer the unity of mind that exile militants are used to, where friend and enemy are easily recognized, and where the right solution for Cuba is clear: a political transition through righteous violence.

For those militants, Yoani Sanchez doesn't fit.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Radio Mambi Says "Celebrate the Death of Chavez"


Radio Mambi host Armando Perez-Roura said this evening people should "celebrate the death of [Hugo] Chavez." Perez-Roura made this comment in response to suggestions that Venezuelans in Miami be respectful in their response to the recent death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Perez-Roura believes celebration is due because Chavez's death means "freedom for Venezuela and possibly for other countries." No doubt Perez Roura is referring to Cuba.

Radio Mambi (WAQI 710 AM), owned by Univision Radio, is the highest-rated AM station in Miami.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Miami Herald Errs Against Yoani Sanchez


In their rush to grab readers, yesterday El Nuevo Herald chose to err against Yoani Sanchez by misinterpreting her recent comments in Brazil. As a result, the Herald not only violated a basic code of journalistic ethics ("Make certain that headlines... do not misrepresent"), but also helped skeptics of Yoani Sanchez in Miami to never trust her again.

MATTER OF ETHICS

Yesterday in Brazil, famous Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez was invited by legislators of the Brazilian Social Democracy party to the Chamber of Deputies. At the event, Sanchez was questioned over her various political positions, including the case of the Cuban Five. Among her comments, she said this:  
"[The Cuban government] cannot continue financing a disproportionate campaign [to free the Cuban Five] going already over 14 years. That is my position as the mother of an adolescent child, as a concerned citizen over the treasury of my country... I would prefer [the Cuban Five] be free to see if [our country] would save more [revenue]. And, there are other matters to deal with."

This was no "call" to release anyone.

No one honestly calls out or takes up a cause out of preference. Imagine someone saying: "I would prefer the cause of human rights, if it would solve our financial problems." Such a comment wouldn't be taken seriously as a motive for defending such an important issue. Just ask anyone who supports freedom for the Cuban Five, or anyone who supports freedom for Cuba. So, the Herald who interviews many Cuban exile activists should've known this, and also been aware of the sensitivity in Miami over political opinion concerning the Cuban Five.

The headline was quickly changed Wednesday evening after Yoani Sanchez directly responded to the Herald article through Facebook. Sanchez clarified by writing she was being ironic and apologized if her "words didn't leave a clear message." But, it was too late. The headline had already spread through the internet, local Spanish-language radio and television, leaving some in Miami shocked, upset or filled with mistrust.

UNCONTROVERSIAL

Yoani Sanchez's comments over the U.S. embargo against Cuba and the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo (which she believes is illegal) actually resemble popular, public and academic opinion. Saying that the U.S. embargo is hegemonic, a failure, or an excuse for the Cuban government's inefficiency is uncontroversial. Even in Miami. Also, notice that her comments regarding the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo being illegal gets little attention. That's because if anyone (not aware of the history of the base) puts themselves in the shoes of a Cuban (like Sanchez), the U.S. Naval Base can be easily viewed as a violation of a nation's sovereignty. It's difficult to justify to a Cuban, so its ignored.

So, the only ones that are bothered by Yoani Sanchez and her comments are hard-liners and militants opposed to the Cuban government. They don't like the media attention her individual and personal comments are receiving because those comments are not sufficiently opposed or against the Cuban government and its policy. They believe her comments so far have been "far from perfect" or "misinformed" or just plain erroneous.

They prefer the blogger whose opinion and bravery is limited to her immediate surroundings in Cuba, but God forbid Yoani Sanchez has a strong opinion about international issues. (I wonder how they would react when they discover she's also pro-choice.) They will praise her if her message is "perfect," but ignore her or distance themselves if it isn't. Or, like the Herald, are comfortable leaving her behind to fend for herself.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Yoani Sanchez in Brazil [Updated]


Above is a short video of famous Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez making her first public appearance yesterday in Brazil. She was at the Museu Parque do Saber in the city of Feira de Santana where a screening of a documentary was planned. Sanchez was welcomed by Brazilian Senator Eduardo Suplicy and also met by a crowd of protesters calling her a "mercenary" and "traitor." The group of protesters seemed to be made up of local members from the Union of Young Socialists and the Jose Marti Cultural Association.

In the video, Yoani Sanchez explains her position on the U.S. embargo against Cuba:

"I don't fear problems. I'm not afraid of problems. I'm not afraid of oppressors. OK? And so, I am against the embargo for various reasons which I want to share with you.

"One, it appears to me 'inherencista' [meaning a policy seen as interventionist and/or hegemonic].

"Two, it appears to me a fossil of the Cold War that makes no sense in the modern world in which we live in.

"And three, it seems to be the best argument the Cuban government has to explain its economic inefficiency. On my plate there's no tomatoes! There's no potatoes!"

Other video of Sanchez in Brazil has her stating that the current economic reforms in Cuba are "on the right path," but still lack "velocity and depth" in their implementation. And, a much longer version of her appearance yesterday in Feira de Santana can be found here and here (in Spanish). In those videos Sanchez attempts to explain her purpose of blogging about everyday life in Cuba, and her dreams about a future Cuba. According to Sanchez, among the Cuban people there is diversity of opinion and political thought which is curtailed by the oppressive institutions of the Cuban government.  "Where's the Cuba they promised me as a small girl?" asked Sanchez out loud.

In her most recent blog post at Generation Y, Sanchez described the protest at this event as "unprecedented" in her life.

"They wanted to lynch me, I talked. They were responding to orders, I am a free soul. At the end of the night I had the same feelings as after a battle against the demons of the same extremism that fueled those acts of repudiation in 1980 in Cuba. The difference is that this time I understood the mechanism that foments these attitudes, I could see the long arm that controls them from the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana."

Yoani Sanchez will be traveling South America, the U.S. and other countries for the next 3 months. The quotes above against the embargo have been censored out by Carlos Santana in his report today for Radio Mambi.

--- [Update] ---

During an appearance with Brazilian legislators on Wednesday, Yoani Sanchez made more headlines with her comments about the U.S. embargo against Cuba, the U.S. military base at Guantanamo, and the Cuban Five.

Juan Carlos Chavez of El Nuevo Herald on Wednesday wrote an article titled "Yoani Sanchez calls for release of Cuban spies and the end to the embargo." (The Herald article follows the reporting of a Spanish journalist who blogs about Cuba at Punt de Vista.) Interestingly, the original Herald article begins with a forwarning:

"In a statement that might not be well-received in the exile community of Miami, the Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez said on Wednesday in Brazil that she is in favor of the liberation of the [Cuban Five]."

Unfortunately, Yoani Sanchez didn't say this. If one views video of her full comments, Sanchez states that she would "prefer" the liberation of the Cuban Five IF their freedom would lead to revenue and attention re-directed back to important educational priorities in Cuba.

The Herald has now attempted to correct their error with a new article titled "Blogger Yoani Sanchez says comment on ‘Cuban Five’ was ironic, misunderstood." This comes after Sanchez posted a response to the Herald article through her facebook account. But, if anyone knows the hard-liners in the exile community (as Juan Carlos Chavez knows), a correction or clarification sometimes isn't good enough. With Yoani Sanchez now scheduled to be at the Miami Freedom Tower in April, many Cuban exiles (especially the hard-liners who never trusted her, and might never trust her now) will most likely protest the event.

Way to go Miami Herald.