Friday, August 31, 2007

Bay of Pigs Museum and Library (Part 1)

Eye on Miami has been keeping its eye (duh) on recent developments of the future Bay of Pigs Museum and Library. Its a project that's been in development since 2005, but has only recently been getting some attention mainly due to the possibility of its future home: downtown by the ever disappearing public waterfront.

The consensus by readers of Eye on Miami seems to be that the museum in downtown is a mismatch, where instead it can have far more historical significance in an area that shares its greater historical message, such as inside the Freedom Tower, in Little Havana, or in the city of Hialeah that also boasts a large Cuban community. Planners of the museum are currently looking at a piece of land (called Parcel B) nestled between a sports arena and a proposed waterfront park that already includes two museums.

Last year, the waterfront park was unveiled to the public showing plenty of green area, public access to the waterfront, and a soccer field (in Parcel B). Now, the soccer field seems to have been replaced by the plans of the Bay of Pigs museum (or as Chisholm Architects titled it: "The Cuban Exile Museum and Library"). Eye on Miami reports that the plans go before the Miami-Dade County Commission on September 4th in preparation for a conceptual study. Blogger "Genius of Despair" describes the plans as "on the track" and "gaining steam."

I'm not opposed to the idea of the Bay of Pigs Museum and Library, but I am concerned about its historical message, aside from concerns about its poor choice of location.

The Bay of Pigs is uncontroversially and historically acknowledged as a US-sponsored "invasion" aimed at the overthrow of the Cuban government in 1961. According to sociology professor Juan Clark (who's on the Board of Advisors to the Bay of Pigs museum), the main goal was "to overthrow the growing communism led by Fidel Castro who was imposing a rigid totalitarian system" on Cuba. Notice that the United States planned an invasion to overthrow a government based on prevention (of "growing communism"), NOT self-defense. In this case, the UN Charter (signed and ratified by the US in 1945) specifically dictates (in Chapter 7) that "[t]he Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42, to maintain or restore international peace and security."

The US not only violated the UN Charter, but also customary international law which had already labeled military acts as aggression if they were not based on self-defense. A "war of aggression" (like the Bay of Pigs invasion) was a definition already agreed upon at the Nuremberg Trials (1945-1949). Benjamin B. Ferencz, one of the chief prosecutors at Nuremberg, summarized it this way:

"[A]s Nuremberg showed, differences of race, religion or ideology cannot be tolerated as valid grounds for destroying those who happen to be different. It is NOT permissible 'self-defense' to slaughter 'the other'—it is the crime of murder. Aggression, according to the Nuremberg judges and other precedents, is 'the supreme international crime' since it includes all the other crimes. There can be no war without atrocities, and unauthorized warfare in violation of the UN Charter is the biggest atrocity of all."

But, according to those who are on the Board of Advisors, it seems very likely that this important lesson will go ignored.

[Part 2]

He Said What?! (Part 2)

Val Prieto, editor of the Babalu blog, responded to Miguel Cossio's column yesterday. The response was very revealing in my opinion.

First, Cossio's column, which is 787 words, only mentions the Babalu blog in ONE sentence (posted in Part 1). Cossio actually criticizes "many blogs" as "irresponsible." And, the column only spends ONE paragraph on blogs (92 words mostly about PerezHilton.Com, NOT Babalu blog), and the rest speaks about ethical considerations for mostly journalists (and even some bloggers) in his profession.

It seems that Val Prieto DID NOT read the entire column. (Prieto even made an error initially describing Cossio as an employee of El Nuevo Herald, but corrected almost 4 hours later after a commenter [Adela] points it out.)

Prieto writes: "I would think that a more apt use of [Cossio's] expertise and valuable time would be not to call out some "lowly blog" [Prieto's words not Cossio's] for actually telling its readers what is going on at some precise moment in time, but, say, for maybe exposing how his colleagues at the [Mainstream Media] tailor their coverage of Cuba to suit the Cuban regime, all to be able to remain on the island for the "big story."

But, Cossio doesn't waste him time with "lowly blogs", instead Cossio is mainly speaking to the news stations who decided to report about the rumors of Fidel Castro's death, some in front of Versailles as Cossio points out. The brief mention about bloggers reveals that Cossio is (and perhaps other news editors are) using blogs as a source of information, of course with great caution, but nevertheless with some kind of confidence in their reporting. Cossio was obviously let down by some, including the Babalu blog.

And, Cossio's comments also address issues that journalists (and some bloggers) in or out of Cuba obviously face: state secrecy. He clearly states:

"Rumor about [Fidel] Castro's state of health is a complex situation to manage, because it lacks reliable information, product of the secrecy that guards the regime in Havana. However, the media [which now includes some blogs that report news] should not echo rumors, although neither totally ignore them. But they should adhere to the rules and foundations of their trade."

I posted links to where those rules and foundations can be found in Part 1, and they are ethical guides that serve all people who wish to report the news, professionally or not, in or out of Cuba. But, it seems that Val Prieto doesn't care for these standards, and neither does El Gusano from La Contra Revolución blog who continues to post about the latest rumors from Cuba.

Instead, Prieto, like many others, have assumed the very convenient position of the null hypothesis. Prieto writes to Cossio:

"And for the record, I, editor in chief of Babalu Blog, speaking only for myself, stand by the statement 'fidel castro is dead.' Unless, of course, one of your colleagues, or yourself, decides to grow some balls, throw 'the bureau' caution to the wind and go to Cuba, do some real investigative reporting and prove me wrong."

Very convenient indeed. But, Cossio does have an explanation for Prieto's behavior in this case. Cossio wrote in his column that rumors "have attraction and respond more to desire than the truth." In my opinion, the writers of Babalu blog have prioritized their self-gratification in much of their writings about Cuba. Their main purpose is to present an extremely negative view of Cuba (dismissing several facts on the contrary) in promotion of a traditional doctrine that supports and justifies an overthrow of the Cuban government.

No doubt that many wish Fidel Castro were dead already (part of the hoped destabilization of Cuba), but that doesn't permit us to present it as truth. Neither should we blindly succumb to old doctrines, or long forgotten desires for violence.

[Part 1]

Thursday, August 30, 2007

He Said What?! (Part 1)

I was reading La Contra Revolución blog (as I usually do because he actually tolerates comments in opposition, unlike Babalu blog where my comments are reviewed and never posted) and blogger Gusano writes about his thoughts on the recent rumors that spread about Fidel Castro being dead and all. A recent article by Miguel Cossio, news editor at channel 41, America TeVe, prompted Gusano to respond to some very important points about the ethics of reporting news.

Journalistic ethics, of course, do not apply to blogs, but nevertheless provide sound arguments about the responsibility bloggers have to their readers (and bloggers who report news should assume they have a readership).

The website of the Society of Professional Journalists provides their Code of Ethics which summarizes very well what the goals of critical bloggers should be. That is of course if bloggers wish to be the "critical eye" for their readers.

Those ethics do not rule out the use of rumors, or "unofficial sources of information [that] can be equally valid." But, ethical standards do compel reporters to "[i]dentify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources' reliability." And, that is a responsibility (if a blogger chooses to accept it) that readers are entitled to.

Miguel Cossio also makes excellent points about the responsibility reporters (or bloggers) have to their readers:

"When the media substitute news for rumor they violate the premise that makes them the critical eyes of society and could lose the confidence entrusted in them by its citizens."

But, that only refers to those who write blogs based on that opportune premise. In my opinion, I suspect some blogs do not care much for their readers, but instead prioritize their self-interests.

Cossio also criticizes blogs for the recent rumors of Fidel's "death", but points out two. He writes: " and were perhaps the ones who most fueled the collective hysteria." He describes PerezHilton.Com as a "factory of rumors", but doesn't extend that descriptor to the people of Babalu blog, who have repeatedly posted rumors of Fidel Castro being near death or dead already since August of last year (with many more rumors to come I'm sure).

According to a May 29th poll, 61% of Babalu blog readers (from 318 voters) believe Fidel Castro is already dead.

[Part 2]

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Dear Crew-Haters...

Earlier this month, Radio Mambi became a very loud and condemning voice against Rudy Crew. Rudy Crew is the Miami-Dade School Board Superintendent who last month was refused a bonus, but later received it (as a reduced bonus) in a second school board vote, even after a much criticized performance review.

One of the more startling facts about his performance was the news that 26 Miami-Dade schools had received an "F" grade from the FCAT tests, an alarming increase from last year's 5 "F" schools. Upon this news, Radio Mambi quickly became a source of severe condemnation against Rudy Crew, especially from its callers.

Among the most vocal in condemning Crew was Lourdes Bertot (aka Lourdes D'Kendall) on Radio Mambi's show called "En Mi Opinion" (In My Opinion). Bertot was very critical of the FCAT scores and several other allegations that were being raised by school board member Marta Perez against Crew. Bertot also gave Perez as much airtime as possible before the second vote on Crew's bonus, and allowed callers to vent their frustrations about Crew. Perez was also provided airtime on other shows of Radio Mambi.

Radio Mambi and its hosts never entertained or invited a voice in opposition, it was an endless condemnation of Crew that sought to propose his immediate removal from the school board. Members of a group called the Spanish American League Against Discrimination (SALAD) were allowed to voice their very serious allegations on Radio Mambi unquestioned.

These controversial allegations include testimony by a former deputy Superintendent,
Sonia Díaz, stating that Crew once said: "The Cubans represented the enemy." Rudy Crew has publicly denounced these allegations saying: "I can assure the [school] board that the statements made are completely false." But, since these comments were aired and reported by other local Spanish news outlets, Rudy Crew has become the target of death threats. It is not known by whom.

The death threats also came about a week after the Miami New Times published a lengthy and very critical report on Rudy Crew titled "Bad Apple" by Francisco Alvarado. The report was an endless personal critique of Rudy Crew based mostly on individual accusations, and with hardly a voice in opposition.

But, just last week a reply was published in the Miami New Times by Joseph Garcia, former spokesman for Crew. Garcia presents a very different view of Rudy Crew by presenting many enlightening facts about improvements in the Miami-Dade School system. The points are sobering and a valuable commentary that compels us and many others to again examine the record of Superintendent Rudy Crew.

Below, the entire reply is posted, But, before I end, I wanted to comment on how, in my opinion, the reporting by the Miami New Times and Radio Mambi MAY have led to a very distorted view about the performance of Rudy Crew, and then led to the climate where death threat were acceptable. There's no question that Crew's record was open to criticism after the FCAT scores, even Crew himself was critical of his performance and accepted his critical review without opposition. But, these facts should've never led to condemnation by Radio Mambi, SALAD, or a one-sided portrait by Francisco Alvarado.

Being critical means not only looking at current standards of review, but also to reevaluate those standards and provide fair recommendations, and solutions based on objective observation. Not condemnation. Radio Mambi, once again, failed to be objective by providing a one-sided argument, and so was Alvarado. It is even more irresponsible given that Radio Mambi is the highest rated Spanish AM station in Miami.

Here's how Joseph Garcia replied:

I have two problems with your August 9 story, "Bad Apple," by Francisco Alvarado. First Miami New Times never attempted to contact me or my lawyer to determine that I was — as the article stated — "unavailable for comment."

Second, the story describes a guy named Rudy Crew who bears no resemblance to the superintendent for whom I worked. While I was chief communications officer, Crew reassigned more than 100 bureaucrats to classrooms so that troubled schools opened with certified teachers. He ordered his cabinet, the district's top executives, to personally contact the families of a list of potential high school truants. He asked why his predecessors planned to add only 5000 new student seats when 40,000 were needed, and then told his staff to add 15,000 that year. (They actually built more than 18,000 and another 20,000 the next year.)

But rather than continue the battle of opinions, let's stick to facts. Fact: Miami-Dade's FCAT passing rate has never been higher; that's true district-wide and in most grades. Fact: The percentage of students at the worst FCAT level reached its lowest point under Crew. Fact: In most grades, Miami-Dade's FCAT scores are at their highest, meaning students pass knowing more than ever. Fact: Passing rates in the two schools the story cited, Allapattah Middle and Hialeah Senior, are higher than ever in most grades, and are far higher than in 2004 B.C. (Before Crew). Fact: For the first time, more than half of Miami-Dade's students read proficiently and the district's median reading score beats the national median.

How could the number of F schools have risen? Fact: Miami-Dade, and the state as a whole, had more of these because the state raised the grading bar in reading and math and added a new science test. Crew nonetheless listed raising school grades in his annual performance goals. Without the science test, only six schools would have earned an F, only one more than in 2006. Fact: Miami-Dade had its highest passing rate and actual scores in science in 2007. Fact: More black and Hispanic high school students enrolled in advanced courses than ever before in 2007, and school crime and truancy were down.

As to Mr. Cousins and others with allegations to peddle, I hope New Times will be as diligent in reporting the outcome of their days in court as it was in reporting their untested accusations. Regarding his allegations against me, they are groundless and unsubstantiated by the public record.

As to Dr. Marta Perez, she neglected to mention that her Versailles dinner with Crew came six months into his administration, that it took place at 10:30 p.m., following a joint radio appearance on a show with a hostile host, and that Crew's day began at 8:00 a.m. and included back-to-back school board committee meetings.

Was he disinterested or just half-asleep?

- Joseph Garcia, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

[The Miami Herald recently interviewed Crew, who himself had criticisms of the school board.]

Monday, August 27, 2007

Elian Redux

It's disappointing to see this case, of the four-year old girl, going down the same troubled path of the 1999-2000 Elian Gonzalez case.

This evening (Aug. 27), the Spanish TV program Polos Opuestos had on two attorneys discussing this new case. One of the guest was Isabel Bombino, and the other was Jose Garcia-Pedrosa. You might remember Garcia-Pedrosa because he was one of the many attorneys that fought for Elian Gonzalez to stay in the US in 2000, contrary to the biological father's wishes and federal rulings.

Now, it seems (but I'm not certain) that Garcia-Pedrosa works for the legal team trying to keep this four-year old girl in the US, again contrary to the wishes of the biological father and legal standards.

On Polos Opuestos, Garcia Pedrosa repeated one of the same failed arguments used in 2000 to keep Elian Gonzalez away from his father: that the child's separation from his current place of custody would be severely traumatic to bear and constituted abuse.

According to AP's Laura Wides-Munoz, the presiding Judge, Jeri Cohen, today was shocked at such an argument saying: "What you're trying to do is say that if a father wants to remove his child from placement....that if a father does that or a mother, that constitutes prospective abuse?... I have never seen anything like this in all of my years of doing dependency [hearings]."

The other guest, Isabel Bombino, also thought the argument was weak, but instead believed that arguing the father had abandoned his child had a better chance. According to this argument, the biological father should have known that the mother, who lost child custody in the US, was unfit to care for her daughter and thus "failed to protect" the child when he allowed her to leave for the US. Wides-Munoz reports that this argument allowed the case to move forward for tomorrow, but "[Judge Cohen] warned state officials, however, that their evidence seems flimsy." According to video by CBS4 news, before she heard the abandonment argument, Judge Cohen tells state officials: "I'm ready to dismiss it, convince me not to."

Some details about this argument are in the Wides-Munoz article, and there are similarities with the Elian Gonzalez case too. In 2000, Elian's father was also accused of being unfit, and abandoning his child when he earlier separated with Elian's biological mother.

Columnist Michelle Malkin, in 2000, pointed out how Garcia-Pedrosa was insinuating that Elian's father was abusive by suggesting the need for "psychological experts to do what we do anytime a child in this country makes allegations of sexual molestation, child abuse or any kind of misconduct by an adult." Malkin called it a "defamatory charge," and describe the tactic as the "dirtiest card."

According to Jeffrey M. Leving, child custody expert, "[t]his is a very simple case in juvenile court... If the father's attorney cooperates and continues with the visitation between the dad and the child, the father will end up getting custody." Leving suggests keeping the case at a "low profile" and "under the radar."

It's important to note that the Elian Gonzalez case was also a simple immigration case that blew up into a custody case, which it wasn't. Allowing attorneys to present failed arguments on television, like Polos Opuestos allowed, will certainly create another public circus to surround this case, and obviate from its simple legal procedure.

According to a poll conducted this evening by Telelmundo51 (whose results were revealed in the 11pm news), 44% of voters thought the four-year old girl should stay in Miami, while 56% thought she should return to Cuba with her father. More than 200 voters participated. Here's a screen shot by 11:30pm.

The only obstacle in this case seems to be the fact that old and failed arguments have been resurrected from 2000. Garcia-Pedrosa, on Polos Opuestos, again attempted to make this a political issue, where the Cuban government has ultimate custody of Cuban children. A similar argument from January 2000, saying: "that the irony of this situation is that the custody of the father has been taken over by the Cuban government... So the nature of the consent or the nature of the wishes of the father is very much an issue until what is in Cuba a highly ideological totalitarian rigid state."

Hopefully, Garcia-Pedrosa has abandoned his 2000 position when he said: "The boy will not be surrendered, period... They either have to take him by force, which would be scandalous, or they have to go to federal court, which is what they should do."

A child's options should not include such faulty, limited and drastic alternatives.

[Update - Aug. 28: Latest Telemundo51 poll results show increased support for the girl to go back to Cuba with her father, 57%.]

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Coast to Coast Support for Obama Today (Updated)

As Barack Obama prepares to make his appearance today at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium, two editorials from the Sun-Sentinel and the LA Times are published in support of his recently publicized Cuba policy. Both editorials are posted on the Cuba Journal Blog, in full.

Also, a protest opposed to Obama's Cuba policy is planned for 2pm, organized by Vigilia Mambisa.
[Updated - Aug. 27, 2007]

So, I drove by on Saturday, around 2:30 pm, to see how the Vigilia Mambisa protest was going. And, I was honestly surprised by what I saw: Ron Paul supporters!

The demonstration by Ron Paul supporters definitely took me by surprise, especially by the fact that they were as much present as the Vigilia Mambisa protesters (both across the street from the Miami-Dade County Auditorium). According to Beth Reinhard and AP's Brendan Farrington, there must've been from 25 to 35 members of Vigilia Mambisa.

Since there was hardly any coverage of the Ron Paul demonstration, according to their own reports there were possibly around 50 demonstrators for Ron Paul. By my estimate (from ONCE driving by) there were as many Ron Paul demonstrators as Vigilia Mambisa.

While I do not support the political positions of Ron Paul, I do want to commend the activism displayed by his supporters on Saturday, and their admirable commitment to the democratic political process. According to their page, Ron Paul supporters have been organizing meetings throughout Miami, even at the well-known Versailles Restaurant this past Aug. 6 where they seem to have had a decent turn out.

What is also interesting is the fact that the Ron Paul demonstrators this past Saturday got very little notice by the local media, despite their equal presence next to Vigilia Mambisa. Reinhard from the Herald never mentions them in her report or blog, CBS4 news does not mention them, and neither does NBC6 or Local10 news.

On the other hand, the Spanish local news (Univision and Telemundo) did mention the Ron Paul demonstration, but both gave more coverage to Vigilia Mambisa. One Ron Paul supporter has already posted the coverage of the local Spanish networks on YouTube, you can see for yourself how fair the TV coverage was.

In my opinion, the Ron Paul supporters deserved a lot more attention by the local news, especially since they took the effort to organize themselves and demonstrate out in the hot Miami afternoon, just like Vigilia Mambisa.

Ron Paul supporters are scheduling another demonstration for September 3 at a Miami-Dade Democratic Party picnic, and another meeting at the Versailles Restaurant on September 10. Since Ron Paul also believes that the US Embargo on Cuba should be lifted, and that we should have talks with official enemies, will Vigilia Mambisa protest Ron Paul?

[CBS4 News has the unedited video of Barack Obama's speech this past Saturday.]

Friday, August 24, 2007

Another View of Obama's Cuba Policy

Circles Robinson, blogger from Cuba, has a very different view about Obama's editorial this week. Robinson rewrites Obama's column in the way he interpreted Obama's Cuba policy. It indicates how some Cubans have received the news, which seems to be more of the same.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Obama Hits the Nail on the Head (Part 2)

Barack Obama's harshest opponents have reached a clear consensus on his Cuba policy: he's naive. Specifically, it seems that Obama is not aware of the basic principle that many hard-liners follow: the US does not talk with "rogue states" because it "rewards or legitimates them, demonstrates appeasement, and therefore sets back US security interests."

That's how Laura Rozen summarizes it, and then shows how it applies to other difficult international conflicts. But, also notice that this hard-line principle is not supported by the general American population. According to several polls, Americans prefer that the US government use diplomacy, not isolation, on differences with so-called "rogue states" or enemies (Iran for example). In the case of Cuba, polls have repeatedly shown that the majority of Americans support diplomatic relations with Cuba. These attitudes counter the beliefs of many of our political leaders, but, nevertheless, political hard-liners generally dismiss polls that reveal American attitudes anyway, and instead rely on other self-interests.

Here's how Radio Mambi responded.

On the same day that Obama's Cuba policy was published in the Miami Herald, Ninoska Pérez Castellón was already warmed-up for her 3pm show where she invited Al Cardenas, former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida (1999-2003) and a current advisor to the Mitt Romney campaign, to analyze Obama's comments. Cardenas mentioned some interesting technical stuff (e.g. the unprecedented editorial in the Herald by a potential Presidential candidate on Cuba policy), but mainly reiterated some things that have already been said by the Republican candidates, and Hillary Clinton. What he failed to mention is the fact that other Democratic Presidential candidates like Bill Richardson, Dennis Kucinich and Chris Dodd have similar or more radical views on US policy towards Cuba.

(Note that on the SAME DAY that the Herald published the Obama column, Sen. Chris Dodd issued a press release repeating his calls for "unrestricted travel" to Cuba. Legislation that Obama has not called for, and may not support.)

And, like many of Obama's critics, Cardenas seized the opportunity to exaggerate some points saying that Obama favored "unilateral concessions" and will "open the doors of discussion and conversation" with official enemies (such as Cuba and Venezuela), never mind the fact that Obama never said those things, but instead supports talks AFTER "democratic change" in Cuba, which is current policy. And, also told Andres Oppenheimer that talks with Venezuela were conditional.

Cardenas also used broad brush strokes to describe all Democrats as "these people" who are either totally ignorant or hypocritical. He mentioned recent Democrat opposition to free-trade deals with Peru, Colombia and Panama (which he describes as "closing the economic doors") as a clear contradiction in principle when "they" call for trade with Cuba. Yet, he doesn't mention the fact that Democrats are really pushing for "tougher labor and environmental standards" with those nations (a demand that the US can make with more Cuban trade), and that those agreements are soon to be approved by the efforts of Democrats themselves. Cardenas is obviously trying to deceive Radio Mambi listeners.

The hard-line principle was summarized eloquently by Cardenas when he said that "[t]his [naive] attitude that 'these people' (Democrats) have is very dangerous" because they are engaging in a "historical repetition... of throwing bonds of friendship to the scourge of the hemisphere, and turning their backs to those who have the courage to stand on the side of the US in these difficult times." Who would have talks with "the scourge of the hemisphere," right?

Anyway, the most important point made by Pérez-Castellón and Cardenas was their view that Obama's future appearance at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium would be considered an insult to the Cuban-American community. Both recalled that Ronald Reagan gave a famous speech in 1983 in that same auditorium, where Cardenas himself was in attendance, and where many Cubans were "celebrating the anti-Castro speeches" that Reagan gave. And, according to Cardenas, "now this man (Obama) has the audacity to reserve the same space, the same platform of Ronald Reagan, to give a speech on integration here in the heart of OUR community."

Pérez-Castellón added that Obama's actions are "truly insolent." And, Cardenas agreed.

Since Obama's editorial, callers on Radio Mambi have been announcing a protest for this Saturday during Obama's appearance at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium. The protest has been organized by Vigilia Mambisa. You can count on Miguel Saavedra's megaphone to be there.

[Part 1]

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Obama Hits the Nail on the Head (Part 1)

I recall Val Prieto once saying that if there's a response (seen more as "damage control") to a comment made, then that means that the original comment "hit the nail on the head." Following such logic, that means Barack Obama must have really "hit the nail on the head."

Since his column appeared yesterday in the Miami Herald, Obama's Cuba policy has gotten responses from the leading presidential candidates, the Cuban-American political leadership, and the leaders of the hard-line Cuban community.

Today's article in the Herald, by Beth Reinhard and Lesley Clark, summarizes the various positions by the Democratic and Republican candidates and how they either partially agree or fully disagree with Barack Obama. Democratic Presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton disagreed fully with Obama's Cuba policy, as some expected. Political blogger Tom Bevan believes that "Clinton took the bait, giving Obama exactly the line he wanted: she would continue the Bush administration's hard-line stance." Which also happens to be the stance of most Republicans.

According to John King from CNN, "[Republican Presidential candidate] Gov. Mitt Romney was quick to pounce" on Obama's comments saying that "unilateral concessions to a dictatorial regime are counterproductive" and that Obama "does not have the strength to confront America's enemies or defend our values." Ouch. One of Mitt Romney's advisors is Al Cardenas, a hard-line Cuban exile.

And, "Rudy Giuliani [the other leading Republican candidate] believes America must stand ready to help the Cuban people reclaim their freedom, but decreasing sanctions on Cuba will only serve to boost the Castro regime.''

Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said that Obama's comments showed "that he either didn't think it through very well or simply hasn't had enough experience on these tough foreign policy problems."

But, Tim Padgett from Time Magazine believes that Obama is making a brave strategic move based on "a new conventional wisdom [that] may well be taking shape in the state [of Florida]." A "wisdom" that the Babalu Blog fully rejects by simply looking at voter registration numbers of Cuban-Americans. Padgett cites the FIU Cuba Poll from this year that showed support for reversing the Cuban family travel restrictions of 2004. And, he also mentions the influence of the non-Cuban Hispanic vote, which according to a Miami Herald article from last week revealed that "about 37 percent of the Hispanics in Florida are registered as Republicans, compared with about 33 percent registered as Democrats. The remaining 30 percent are independent or belong to minor parties, according to the Florida Division of Elections." Furthermore, the 37% of Republicans is a drop from 59% less than a decade ago.

These are significant factors to consider, whose influences Padgett believes will be revealed soon when Obama appears in Miami this Saturday and in a Miami "forum" with Hillary Clinton and John Edwards on September 9th.

But, the hard-liners dismiss such possibilities. And, they fully reject the lifting of the 2004 restrictions based on a moral principle, which also reveals that hard-liners may really be wishing for a full embargo, perhaps a naval blockade like Armando Perez-Roura once suggested to John McCain.

But, the response that Obama got from Radio Mambi today, and yesterday, must surely mean he hit on something really big.

[Part 2]

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Obama's Cuban Policy

Today, the Miami Herald published Barack Obama's position on Cuba, in preparation for his upcoming Miami visit.

Obama argues for lifting Cuban family travel and remittance restrictions enacted by the Bush II administration. He feels that family remittances and travel to Cuba are "a basic right in humanitarian terms, but also our best tool for helping to foster the beginnings of grass-roots democracy on the island."

But, in my opinion, these two proposals are the only clear offerings Obama provides to potential voters. His comments about potential "bilateral talks", described as "aggressive and principled diplomacy," are conditional. "If a post-Fidel government begins opening Cuba to democratic change," then Obama will take steps towards normalization with Cuba. "Democratic change" (whatever it is) as a condition towards negotiations and normalization with Cuba is unfortunately destined for another era of US isolationism. The Cuban government is not likely to undertake democratic reforms, especially when suggested by the US as a precondition. If this message was aimed towards the Cuban population, then it may also be rejected or ignored. This proposal, in some respects, contradicts what Obama said last month suggesting bilateral talks with Cuba "without precondition[s]."

Political blogger Marc Ambinder pointed out this more nuanced position by Obama. He writes: "The contours of Obama's preconditionless diplomatic posture are becoming clear: 'Without preconditions' does not mean without prior assumptions or bargaining positions." Ambinder rightly connects on another comment Obama made about "important inducements we can use in dealing with a post-Fidel government." Obama, in my opinion, is talking about the US embargo, and its several economic restrictions. The position of using the US embargo as a "bargaining chip" in future US/Cuba relations also belongs to Jaime Suchlicki, committed academic to current US policy.

According to Suchlicki, unilaterally lifting the US embargo "without any changes in Cuba, [will leave us with] no bargaining chips with a future [Cuban] government." While I think a fair trade can be made with the embargo (e.g. political prisoners), it will be very difficult, since the Cuban government has been oppose to the US embargo since the 60's, and has ever since called for its abolishment without conditions. Furthermore, bargaining for "democratic change" with Cuba seems highly unlikely to be accepted, given our hostile US/Cuba history.

But, Obama may be making a smart move. Focusing only on the Cuban family travel and remittance restrictions, Obama is placing trust with recent polling data that shows disapproval with those restrictions enacted in 2004 by the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba. Earlier this year, the FIU Cuba poll showed that about 60 percent of Cubans in Miami-Dade County supported a reversal of the 2004 restrictions on travel and remittances. A year earlier, another poll [PDF] showed that Cubans in Miami were still kinda split on the issue: 49% supporting the restrictions, and 45% opposed. But, in that poll, registered Cuban voters (72% Republican) supported the restrictions with 54%, versus 40% opposed.

Yet, the picture is more complex. Last week, Miami Herald's Beth Reinhard described an evolving Hispanic electorate in Miami that may push Democratic candidates forward. Among the important factors are the increasing numbers of registered independent voters, decreasing levels of registered Republican voters (almost a 10% decrease in Hialeah since 1998), and more important issues like immigration, healthcare, education and the Iraq War. On one poll, the question of Cuba was ranked sixth among main concerns in Miami. The various changes in attitudes on the question of Cuba, over many years, was best summarized by the recent FIU Cuba poll of about 1000 Cubans in Miami-Dade County. And, recent changes in Cuba's political leadership have also altered some views about a future approach to Cuba, even supporting negotiations.

Obama will surely be addressing these potential voters on Saturday.

Here are more thoughts from Stuck on the Palmetto, The Cuban Triangle and the Babalu Blog.

Friday, August 17, 2007

What's Behind US Policy Towards Cuba

Today, Phil Peters from the Cuban Triangle blog makes very good points after examining a recent essay published by UM's ICCAS. In the essay, titled "When Should the US Change Policy Towards Cuba?" [PDF], Jaime Suchlicki, director of ICCAS, and Jason Poblete provide arguments on how future policy with Cuba should continue, but suggest that in the meantime we just "stay the course." It's a very disturbing essay in my opinion, which I'm sure will be followed strictly by the Bush II administration.

The past work of Jaime Suchlicki, under ICCAS, has in fact been a very important part of current US policy towards Cuba. In fact, it is very likely that the US administration is relying heavily on the work of ICCAS.

Since 2002, ICCAS has received several millions of dollars from the US through USAID, who repeatedly renewed their grants in 2004. It's from this money that ICCAS created and extended the Cuba Transition Project (CTP).

By January 2004, and approaching the release of the first report by the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba (CAFC), Roger Noriega, former Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, was praising the work of ICCAS. He said: "I applaud the efforts of Jaime Suchlicki and the CTP collaborators, who have devoted considerable energy to examining a number of these issues [for the CAFC]." The administrator of USAID was one of the official members of the first CAFC report.

One clear example that reveals how dependent the current administration is on the work of Suchlicki and ICCAS is shown in a US State Department Fact Sheet from 2003. The US Fact Sheet titled "Cuba's Foreign Debt" has a portion that is plagiarized from a 2000 report written by Jaime Suchlicki titled "The U.S. Embargo of Cuba" [PDF].

The 2000 report by Suchlicki outlines several arguments opposed to lifting the US Embargo "without meaningful changes in Cuba." Six specific arguments are plagiarized and presented in the 2003 US Fact Sheet.

- If U.S. tourists were allowed to visit Cuba, the Castro government will follow the same practices of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. American tourists will have limited contact with Cubans, thus their influence would be limited. Travel would be controlled and channeled into the tourist resorts built in the island away from the major centers of population. (Cubans cannot stay at resort hotels or patronize them.) Tourists will be screened carefully to prevent “subversive propaganda” from entering the island.

Lifting the Embargo will:

- Strengthen the state enterprises because the money would flow into the businesses owned by the Cuban Government. (Most businesses are owned in Cuba by the state, and in all foreign investment the Cuban Government retains a partnership interest.)

- Lead to greater repression and control since Castro and the rest of the leadership would fear that U.S. influence would subvert the revolution and weaken the Communist Party’s hold on the Cuban people.

- Delay instead of accelerate a transition to democracy in Cuba.

-Guarantee the continuation of the current totalitarian structure.

- Send the wrong message to the enemies of the United States: that a foreign leader can seize U.S. properties without compensation; allow the use of his territory for the introduction of nuclear missiles aimed at the United States; execute thousands of his political enemies, including U.S. citizens; espouse terrorism and anti-U.S. causes throughout the world; and eventually, the United States will “forget and forgive” and reward the regime with tourism and investment.

But, I'm sure Suchlicki doesn't mind.

[Photo by the University of Miami]

The Work of Robin Eley

This funny painting of Fidel Castro appeared on the cover of this week's Miami New Times. The artist is Robin Eley, an artist from Australia, who has several other funny portraits and illustrations on his website:

According to his blog, this is his first commissioned work using oil-based paints, instead of his regular acrylics. The difference really shows, if you happen to be familiar with the medium.

Inside, the Miami New Times has a very funny article comparing the personal histories of Fidel Castro and Hugh Hefner. The subtitle is: El Jefe and Hef turn 81. (Both men were born in August and April 1926, respectively.)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Related News about Luis Posada Carriles


Radio Mambi is, of course, reporting the recent release of Osvaldo Mitat, who was arrested in 2005, along with Santiago Alvarez, for possession of illegal weapons. Both also had suspected ties to Luis Posada Carriles.

In November 2005, after a federal raid of a Broward County apartment complex owned by Alvarez, ATF agents found "
a thousand rounds of ammunition," several automatic weapons and explosives. According to the Miami Herald, "Judge Andrea Simonton refused to release the pair because their mere possession of automatic weapons, grenades and rounds of ammunition amounted to a 'crime of violence' and posed a danger to the community."

According to the arrest affidavit: "Following his arrest, Mitat made a spontaneous statement to a uniformed police officer... He told the officer... 'Unfortunately, you guys are doing your jobs and we got caught with a bunch of guns. I love the United States and would never do anything to hurt this country. These guns were not meant to be used against this country."*

Mitat and Alvarez were eventually sentenced to serve 37 and 46 month in prison respectively, but their sentences were then reduced two months ago after more illegal weapons were surrendered to the federal authorities. The June arms surrender included "over 14 pounds of plastic explosives, 200 pounds of dynamite, 4,000 feet of detonator cord, 30 semiautomatic and automatic weapons, one grenade launcher, and two handmade grenades, among other items." According to one report, it was "several grenades."

A related story also revealed that the US Coast Guard found weapons in the Bahamas connected to Alvarez. "Documents say Santiago Alvarez allegedly helped plan and pay for an 'armed incursion' in 2001 against the Cuban government."

Today, Armando Perez-Roura said that all the weapons found were aimed "para combatir ese régimen" (to combat that regime). Ziva from Babalu Blog believes Mitat and Alvarez were "brave patriots" who were furthering the "declared goal of spreading democracy."

Santiago Alvarez is scheduled to be released by the end of this year.


Cuban news outlets are reporting that "three officials includ[ing] ex Minister of Government and Justice Arnulfo Escalona, ex National Police Director Carlos Bares and ex assistant director of Migration Javier Tapia" are being charged in Panama "for breaking the law in releasing international terrorist of Cuban origin Luis Posada Carriles [in 2004]." Specifically, charges of "abuse of authority."

Luis Posada Carriles and three other men were pardoned in 2004 by Panamanian President
Mireya Moscoso (who now has a home in Key Biscayne, Florida). She believed that "if they stayed [in Panama], they would be extradited to Cuba and Venezuela, and there they were surely going to kill them there." Posada was serving a sentence in connection to a thwarted assassination plot against Fidel Castro in 2000. The US denies having any influence over President Moscoso's decision. But in Panama, "speculation was rampant that the Bush administration, indirectly or not, had pressured [the] Panamanian President." The current President of Panama, Martin Torrijos, at the time "said he disagrees with the pardons."

Cuban American National Foundation President, Francisco Hernandez, said that the 2004 pardon was "a victory for all those in exile, and a triumph of justice, beyond the strategy adopted to bring democracy to Cuba."

[*]Miami Herald, November 22, 2005, "Posada Allies Denied Release" by Oscar Corral and Jay Weaver.

Bloggin' from Cuba

Circles Robinson, who blogs from Cuba, has posted his thoughts on the controversial story of the two Cuban Boxers (Guillermo Rigondeaux and Erislandy Lara). Very interesting insights and relevant facts directly from the island.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A New Brand for Struggle (Part 3)

In a story that was little reported when it occurred, three top Cuban boxers defected last December in Venezuela while training for the recent Pan-American Games in Rio. Odlanier Solis (heavyweight), Yan Barthelemy (light-flyweight) and Yuriorkis Gamboa (flyweight) were all Gold medalist from the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. These were among the best Cuban boxers at the time, especially Solis who already had THREE gold medals from the World Boxing Amateur Championships. Predictably, the Cuban government called it a "theft of talent" when they did not return.

The three boxers eventually made it to the US, but immediately thereafter flew to Germany where they now plan to begin their professional boxing careers. The latest news on these three athletes is they each are undefeated in three professional bouts. Also, this week it was reported that
Yuriorkis Gamboa has moved to Miami and planning to fight this month at the Miccosukee Indian Gaming on the 24th. His promoter, Ahmet Öner, believes Gamboa will become a world champion by the end of next year.

But, the road to becoming professionals in the West wasn't easy.

In the film Victory is Your Duty, last year's defection of these three prize fighters was included. One young Cuban boxer described them as traitors, a descriptor which suggests the prevailing attitude on the island where revolutionary indoctrination is prevalent. One scene in the film reveals that each youth boxing academy competing in the Havana national finals also competes for additional points by decorating their designated rooms with revolutionary symbols. The best show of nationalistic pride by the regional academy brings it closer to the national title.

All three fighters knew of the possible consequences of leaving those revolutionary roots, but it still seemed difficult to anticipate in reality. "It was a hard decision," said Odlanier Solis, who like Gamboa left children in Cuba. "It may be months or years before we see them... But I believe in the end it will be best for them." Solis couldn't hold back his tears when he made these comments in a Miami Beach press conference last March. Long separated families are part of the Cuban exile tragedy. But, all three fighters supported each others dreams of becoming professional world champs. "My family can now rest [because] they, like me, will now have a much better life starting from this moment... I can't wait to get in the ring and give it my best," declared Solis to Diario Las Americas.

It was a relief to Solis, and the others I'm sure, because just weeks prior to his South Beach appearance the three boxers were denied visas to enter the US. Antonio "Tony" Gonzalez, lawyer and manager of the three boxers called the denials "a very sad day for liberty and international sports." Gonzalez helped the three boxers sign their first contracts into professional boxing with Arena Box Promotion in Germany, which gave the best offer and signed each fighter to three-year, seven-figure contracts. According to Gonzalez, the three boxers, who crossed into Colombia through Venezuela's porous border, had all the necessary paperwork to enter the US: temporary visas in Colombia, work visas from the US, "bank accounts in Hamburg, Germany," and, of course, three-year contracts to fight in Europe.

The three boxers were very lucky to have eventually made it out of Colombia, a luck that other Cubans did not have that same month. This past February, news outlets were reporting about several Cuban doctors who were stranded in Colombia, some of whom were definitely denied entry by the US despite a recent policy (Parole for Cuban Medical Personnel [PDF]) that allowed their exclusive entrance. The news shocked many in Miami because some of the Cuban doctors, who were originally sent to Venezuela and then illegally crossed into Colombia, had been waiting for several months (some up to six months!) for a reply by the US embassy and Homeland Security. Solidaridad Sin Fronteras (Solidarity Without Borders), a local humanitarian group from Miami, helped in providing legal assistance to these stranded Cuban doctors. Julio Cesar Alfonso, president of Solidarity Without Borders, said that these parole applications shouldn't have taken more than three months.

By early March, about three months since defecting, Odlanier Solis, Yan Barthelemy and Yuriorkis Gamboa were already in the US, and soon on their way to Germany. By the end of April, Solis already had his first knockout on record.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Public Bashings in Miami

Radio Mambi today didn't fail to harshly criticize José Pardo Llada for his recent appearance on Mano Limpia yesterday. Mano Limpia is a local political Spanish TV program (which spends plenty of time on Cuban issues), hosted by Oscar Haza (a man who last month called OAS secretary general José Miguel Insulza a "coward" for not supporting an "intervention" policy in Venezuela).

Jose Pardo Llada is a Cuban exile who left the island in 1961 (bashed by Fidel Castro at the time), became a Colombian politician and returned to Cuba in 2004, at the age of 80. Traveling as a tourist, and seeking medical attention for his increasingly deteriorating vision, he described his trip in 2004 as being very emotional. It seems that yesterday on Mano Limpia (I did not see the show) Pardo Llada spoke positively of Raul Castro as a reformist, and this kind of talk is not tolerated by hard-liners in Miami. Just ask Brian Latell. Pardo Llada has been called a "disgrace" to the Cuban exile community.

Antonio Rafael De la Cova also appeared today for a full hour on WQBA's 4pm radio program called "Contra Punto" (WQBA, like Radio Mambi, is also owned by Univision). De la Cova was given air time to criticize a new book titled "The Americano" by author Aran Shetterly. He made excellent points about factual errors in the book, but couldn't help himself from AGAIN accusing Marfeli Perez-Stable of possibly being a Cuban agent, an accusation he also levied against other professors at Florida International University. Neither Shetterly or any of the accused were present to confront De la Cova's accusations. How brave.

A New Brand for Struggle (Part 2)

In other words, are sacrifices being made fairly by the collective group?

Last month, I caught a great documentary on the local PBS station called "Victory is Your Duty." It is perhaps the best documentary that focuses on Cuba's youth boxing academies and provides a very rare and intimate glimpse into what many boxing fans have been dying to know: how does Cuba train champions?

In 2002, BBC reporter Daniel Schweimler went to Cuba to answer this question. He found out what many had suspected about the effective Cuban sports system: state priorities to provide athletic facilities throughout Cuba, a rich sports history, attention to young athletes, a competitive system between regional academies, a coach's good eye for talent, and a mixture of national pride and sacrifice.

In 1996, a Canadian sports psychologist (and accomplished athlete herself), Susan Butt, believed that Cuba's many athletic accomplishments were mainly due to "feelings of competence and co-operation" that were promoted within the Cuban sports system, instead of emphasis in "aggression and competition" as seen in other developed nations. Cuba, at the time, had achieved more medals in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta than other developed nations, such as Britain, Japan and Canada. Furthermore, Cubans were still suffering the economic hardships of the Special Period, and 1996 only saw a recovery that Carmelo Mesa-Lago [PDF] described as "extremely weak."

But, Cubans still live in desperate times, and are still making sacrifices.

Andrew Lang, director of Victory is Your Duty, captures these elements and more in his film. Lang, in his production notes comments: "To train for five hours a day, be constantly hungry, and live in poor conditions is a lot to ask of anyone, let alone a ten-year-old child." It is a great responsibility that Cuban children learn to carry, sometimes by force. In one scene in Victory is Your Duty, a father bluntly tells his child in training that his failure in boxing academy will have a negative impact on the entire family. Its the same father that earlier in the film cries for not having enough to feed his family a decent meal each day.

Sports fans agree: Cuba is a boxing powerhouse (at least in the amateurs). But behind it all, as Lang points out: "despite this warmth and joy, there's often sadness behind the smile."

Hans De Salas-del Valle, a research associate at UM's Cuba Transition Project, believes that Cuba's youth have given up on the Revolution. According to Salas-del Valle, "Cuba is really losing its future, its young generation, which either [is] opting to try to hustle to make a dollar from tourists on the island, instead of pursuing higher education, or willing to risk their lives by venturing out into the Florida straits to reach the United States."

The latest news about the two Cuban boxers,
Guillermo Rigondeaux and Erislandy Lara, seems to indicate that they did in fact try to defect, despite their several comments on Cuban state media to the contrary.

[Photo by Errol Daniels]

[Part 3]

A New Brand for Struggle (Part 1)

"If the young people fail, everything will fail."
- Fidel Castro

ince 2000, the Cuban government has acknowledged that they have a big challenge in their hands: "to instill in young people a communist conscience and rejection of capitalism." Those were the words of Cabinet Secretary Carlos Lage last April in front of a group of communist youth leaders, those young enough to not have lived or known of the "moral damage" that Lage attributes to capitalism, and known no other head of government than Fidel Castro.

In 2005, Cuba's Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque further clarified that "[Cuba's youth] have more information and more consumer expectations than those at the start of the revolution." He's referring to nearly 5 million Cubans who are now below the age of 30, of which about two million were born after the beginning of the Special Period, and that means there's trouble ahead.

The Cuban government has fears that it's younger population will not tolerate any more sacrifices on their part to sustain the beliefs of the Revolution. Yet, this past June, Fidel Castro addressed the Communist Youth Union and attempted to convince them about how "[the Revolution's] roots were sustained in every act of sacrifice and heroism of an admirable people, who knew how to confront all obstacles." But, the question remains, I'm sure, if any more sacrifice in Cuba has any value.

"What are you going to do with $10 [a month]," asks Ahmed Rodriguez, 21 years old.

As a reply, the Cuban government launched a campaign called "The Battle of Ideas" (whose origins belong to another historical affair). A brand that encapsulates a broad strategy of propaganda and restructuring of battered infrastructure and increased social services. The Cuban government has boasted "the restoration of 84 hospitals, the expansion of 498 small medical clinics and the installation of 155 high-tech medical machines," as well as training 34,877 new social workers. Only time will tell if such improvements have a positive impact.

But, it seems that the real Battle of Ideas is happening outside of Cuba, where real "fighters" have been placed on the front lines of the ideological war between nations. Recent defections by top Cuban boxers last December, and the recent (and continuing) dispute over two fighters in Brazil has once again brought attention to the main opponents of the Battle of Ideas: Cuba versus the free markets.

Unfortunately, like in most conflicts, it is the soldier who makes the first sacrifice before the leader.

[Part 2]

Friday, August 10, 2007

Great Post Phil!

Couldn't post about the Cuban boxers today, but I've definitely done the research. Hopefully tomorrow.

In the mean time, check out the Cuban Triangle blog and Phil Peters' thoughts on travel rights to Cuba. Plenty of commentary to read too.

What about Cuba Obama?

Last month I wrote about what Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama said concerning possible unconditional talks with US-designated "rogue states," including Cuba. Obama's comment set off a "firestorm" in many news headlines. I, among other sources, felt that his comments showed possible positive signs of change in US foreign policy, especially towards Cuba.

But, last week, in a possible attempt to counter the criticism, Obama showed his hawkish side in foreign policy saying that he would mobilize US troops into Pakistan "[i]f we [the US] have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf [of Pakistan] won't act." This comment set off another firestorm in the papers, and also, ironically, among supporters of the "War on Terror." I actually heard Sean Hannity criticize Obama's proposal because it would "destabilize" the region. This is coming from a man who supports a US strike of Iran's nuclear facilities, never mind the consequences of "instability" that action would generate in the region, not to mention the already "destabilized" region of Iraq.

Well, this week, at another debate of Presidential candidates, Sen. Barack Obama pointed out this hypocrisy among his Democratic opponents, who initially supported the Iraq War and have now leveled harsh criticisms against him. Here's his reply on You Tube. His reply is met with plenty of applause from the audience, while Hillary Clinton's rebuttal against Obama is met with boos. Obama's foreign policy position seems to be welcomed so far, mainly due to the fact that he initially opposed the Iraq War.

But, is this really Obama's position? Andres Oppenheimer wrote that Obama's position is more nuanced. This belief is based on a past interview that Oppenheimer had with Obama, where the Senator "had been a bit more cautious" in supporting unconditional talks with President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela for example. Oppenheimer believes Obama is just "playing politics."

But, author and commentator Paul Street believes Barack Obama is much more hawkish than he lets on. In his blog, Street replies to a Foreign Affairs article written by Obama titled "Renewing America's Leadership" where Obama writes: "We must also consider using military force in circumstances beyond self-defense." Street concludes that Obama intends to continue current US policy overseas with "noxious imperialism," and that Americans should have "salient reasons to fear the prospect of an Obama Nation."

Sen. Barack Obama is scheduled to appear in Miami later this month. The question of Cuba will no doubt be raised. According to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Obama's position on Cuba is still unknown. But, they do mention that Obama has voted twice in opposition to funding of TV Marti.

I'm sure many are looking forward to his comments, especially pertaining to the US embargo towards Cuba. Both Democratic Presidential front-runners Hillary Clinton and John Edwards support the embargo, according to the CFR list.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Cuban Boxers Strike Back

I've been keeping my eye on the story about the two Cuban boxers, from their supposed defection to recent repatriation.

I think its a very intriguing story how these athletes have become pawns caught in between the exploitative powers of professional sports and the powerful state control of the Cuban government. To me, it seems that both sides have little empathy for these fighters' welfare. I'll clarify more tomorrow.

In the meantime, the Cuban government released the full transcript of an interview with both boxers upon their return. They provide a very strange recount of what occurred. Read for yourself (in Spanish only). I'll try to summarize tomorrow.

Ninoska Perez-Castellon, today on her afternoon show, read out some parts. Of course, she didn't believe a single word. But, they can't be making it all up. Can they?

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Showdown in Miami

Joe Garcia appeared this morning on the Jim Defede Radio Show and said that Raul Martinez, former Hialeah mayor, might possibly run against Lincoln Diaz-Balart's seat in District 21. Defede asked his audience what they thought, and they responded positively.

If this happens it could be quite a big political showdown. Raul Martinez has very different views about Cuba in comparison to Diaz-Balart's tired rhetoric.

This news from Garcia lends more support to the rumor that was first posted on the Naked Politics blog one week ago, which Beth Reinhard from the Miami Herald predicts "would be a monster of a race."

But, the Cuba Journal blog believes that if Martinez wins (which he argues might happen under one scenario) "nothing much will change, same anti-Cuba votes, different face."

Looking forward to more news when Barack Obama makes his August 25th visit to Miami.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

What's Eating Antonio Rafael De La Cova? (Part 2)

I feel that Antonio Rafael De la Cova, as a Ph.D., should concern himself more with academic pursuits, not responding to some obscure AM radio host. The many years of academic research and study that De la Cova has attained should serve further inquiry into important issues, and should be used at such high educational capacities. I believe the public, who funds our academic institutions, deserves this from a Ph.D. But, it seems that De la Cova has a hard time understanding this value.

Recently, De la Cova continued his unrelenting attack on Marifeli Perez-Stable, another academic, whom De la Cova accuses of possibly being a Cuban spy. De la Cova's accusations are based on ONE allegation from 1983, and no hard evidence. A Ph.D. should know better. But, recently De la Cova found another piece of the puzzle for his attacks: clothes owned by Perez-Stable. This kind of investigation does not represent someone with years of academic work, and is quite embarassing. Let's examine what "El Duende" accuses Del la Cova of.

The personal attacks by "El Duende" are based on De la Cova's arrest by the FBI in 1976. He was convicted and sentenced to 65 years in prison for attempting to bomb an establishment in Little Havana. De la Cova was released and paroled after serving five years.*

These events have nothing to do with De la Cova's many years of academic work and the contents of his recent book. Those who wish to portray De la Cova in this manner seek to obviate readers from the relevant and important facts found in De la Cova's recent book, The Moncada Attack, now being praised for its scholarship.

But, it's also relevant to know who "El Duende" is and understand why he would level these attacks on De la Cova.

"El Duende" is none other than Max Lesnik. During the seventies (and into the eighties), Max Lesnik's Miami office became the target of a bombing campaign because he published a magazine called Replica. The violence that became rampant in Miami at the time is the basis of a recent documentary titled "The Man of Two Havanas." The movie was directed by Vivien Lesnik Weisman, daughter of Max Lesnik, who in a recent interview recalled those days as living "in a constant state of siege, like a war zone." The seventies in Miami saw the murder of influential Cubans like José Elias de la Torriente, Rolando Masferrer Rojas, Ramon Donestevez Dominguez, and Juan José Peruyero. Emilio Milian, a Cuban radio host, lost both his legs in a car bomb in 1976, and Lesnik's offices were repeatedly attacked.

These are the memories that come back when Lesnik hears the name of Antonio Rafael De la Cova. When De la Cova was arrested in 1976, it was a year that saw 19 bombings in Miami, the second highest after the year before with 37 bombings.

These are years that Lesnik cannot forget, but that De la Cova wishes to put behind him. And, unfortunately, may be negatively affecting his academic pursuits.

The release of The Moncada Attack should not suffer this personal pain. Instead, this sad history should be appropriately discussed at the future release of The Man of Two Havanas, a movie that deserves to be embraced by Miami, even if only a fraction as De la Cova's book was. Hopefully, this city will be brave enough to do so.

[*] Miami Herald, August 4, 1982, "Exile in Bomb Case Free 59 Years Early" by Herald Staff.

[Part 1]