Thursday, January 31, 2008

Joe García vs. Mario Díaz-Balart

It was almost made official last night on Maria Elvira Live with guest Joe García, director of the Hispanic Program at the New Democrat Network and Chairman of the Democratic Party of Miami-Dade County.

Days before Raúl Martínez officially announced his candidacy challenging Rep. Lincoln Díaz-Balart last week, Martínez also appeared on Maria Elvira Live and almost confirmed his intentions then. Last night, García did the same thing.

Maria Elvira let
García know that she had very reliable information indicating that Joe García would make an official announcement next week to run against Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart of District 25 in Miami. García, like Martínez before him, neither confirmed or denied the rumor. It is very likely that Joe García will make an official announcement soon, which may also point to another announcement to challenge Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for District 18.

Last week NBC6 reported (through local political analyst Nick Bogert) that "
Democrats hope to take on all three long-time Cuban-American congressional Republicans... Miami-Dade County party chair Joe Garcia said he will challenge Mario Diaz-Balart, and businesswoman Annette Taddeo will take on [Rep.] Ileana Ros-Lehtinen."

Annette Taddeo is founder and CEO of LanguageSpeak, "a comprehensive language services company offering translations, conference interpretation and private tutoring in over 100 languages." Taddeo has a strong political record locally, and very active within the local Democratic party. Yet, no public announcements have been made by Taddeo to run against Rep. Ros-Lehtinen.

Earlier this month, Larry Luxner of CubaNews interviewed some of the main organizers behind this Democratic push in South Florida. Luxner quoted
Alvaro Fernández, president of the Cuban American Commission for Family Rights, saying: "As important as Washington, D.C., is, if we want real change, it has to come from South Florida. Once we knock off one or both of these guys [Diaz-Balart brothers], things will start changing... right now, there’s a search for somebody to run against [Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen]. Trust me, all three will be challenged."

Luxner also quoted Tony Zamora, former Bay of Pigs veteran and director of the Foundation for the Normalization of US-Cuba Relations, saying: "We’re going to do battle in Miami... This embargo thing started in South Florida, and we’re going to end it in South Florida. I’m extremely confident that not only is there an energized Democratic Party, but also a very strong change in the community. I’ve lived here for 40 years, I was the [Cuban American National Foundation]’s general counsel and I know the politics of Miami very well. And I find total unity, which is very surprising to me."

According to the potential Democrat candidates and supporters, polls show weak support for the Diaz-Balart Brothers, Cuba is no longer a central issue allowing for a multi-directional political campaign, and November may be a good time to be a Democrat.

When I mentioned the news last night to my father that both Diaz-Balart Brothers may be challenged in November, he revealed his frustration and relief. "It's time for them to go."

[Photo above courtesy of the Democratic Party of Miami-Dade County]

Monday, January 28, 2008

Florida, Oil and Cuba

Phil Peters from the Cuban Triangle Blog gives us an update on how Florida politicians are reacting to oil exploration off Cuba's coast.

News last March of possible new Cuban oil exports due to "anticipated production growth" by Canadian energy firm Sherritt International saw Florida politicians react, namely Sen. Mel Martinez, who immediately sought to place sanctions on "foreign companies and investors who help Cuba drill for oil and natural gas near the shores of Key West" (meaning Cuba). Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen had already shown her opposition since 2006 to oil exploration off Cuba's (which happens to be near Florida's) coast. "[Cuba is] not a friendly country. It's a terrorist state but even if it was a great ally we should not allow drilling 45 miles off of our coast," said Rep. Ros-Lehtinen. Both have concerns about the "maritime habitat" off Florida's coast being vulnerable to "unnecessary drilling."

As I wrote back then, both Rep. Ros-Lehtinen and Sen. Martinez don't exactly have the environmental record to be taken seriously. But, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida does (according to the League of Conservation Voters).

A bill introduced in the Senate last month by Sen. Nelson calls for the nullification of the 1977 US-Cuba Maritime Boundary Agreement [PDF]. It also:

"Amends the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996 to exclude from U.S. entry an alien who: (1) is an officer or principal of an entity, or a shareholder who owns a controlling interest in an entity that makes an investment of $1 million or more (or any combination of investments that equals or exceeds $1 million in any 12-month period) that significantly contributes to Cuba's ability to develop petroleum and natural gas resources off its north coast; or (2) is a spouse, minor child, or agent of such person."

Sen. Nelson is the only sponsor on the bill so far, and has been leading the push since Brazil and Cuba signed an agreement allowing Brazil to explore for oil off Cuba's coast (just like many other nations have done so far).

A bi-partisan bill by Senators Larry Craig and Byron Dorgan (both supporters of increased trade with Cuba) counters the Martinez and Nelson bills and supports "the exploration for and extraction of hydrocarbon resources from any portion of any foreign exclusive economic zone contiguous to the exclusive economic zone of the United States [which includes Cuba]; and (2) export without license authority all equipment necessary for the exploration for or extraction of such hydrocarbon resources."

Friday, January 25, 2008

Code Pink in Little Havana (Epilogue)

An article published in this week's Miami New Times about Code Pink's demonstration two weeks ago provides another perspective of the events, of which I'd also like to share mine.

According to Chuck Strouse, the Code Pink clash with counter-protesters at the Versailles Restaurant "showed not only titanic ugliness on both sides," but also "astounding insensitivity" by Code Pink in targeting Luis Posada Carriles. Strouse spent some time with members of Code Pink in recalling events prior to the demonstration, even recalling some other Code Pink activities (described by Strouse as having a "yippy-dippy style") around Capitol Hill, such as the time when one member of Code Pink directly confronted Sec. of State Condoleeza Rice causing a ruckus.

During his interviews with Code Pink members, in three separate occasions Strouse asks if Code Pink had any thoughts to stop their planned demonstrations in Little Havana (even a future demonstration for February). The answers were no surprise if one is aware of the several past arrests of some of the Code Pink members.

But, there seems to be a reason why Strouse kept asking the same question. At one point in the article, Strouse reveals: "[t]his is where I get angry." Strouse's indignation seems to arise from the fact that on the same day of the Little Havana demonstration (Jan. 12th) a City of Miami police officer was being buried. Detective James Walker, 30, was killed off duty on Jan. 8th by gunfire (which coincidentally, according to Strouse, was also the day Code Pink "began their Miami odyssey"). The funeral for Detective Walker was attended by hundreds of officers and city officials (except the Mayor). Understandably, while Code Pink was complaining of the low police protection for their demonstration, "[t]he cops protecting [Code Pink] could have been paying their respects to a fallen comrade."

Strouse then concludes: "Yet [Code Pink] seems unashamed of its behavior."

Strouse's comments are very confusing. It's not clear if he believes that Code Pink was "insensitive" for targeting Posada, which Strouse first describes as a "rare South Florida hero," and then later an "80-year-old Cuban wacko." Or, if Code Pink was "insensitive" for demonstrating "at the most Cuban of local sites" (Versailles Restaurant), despite repeated warnings and threats of possible violence. Or, if Code Pink was "insensitive" for complaining about police protection when hundreds of Miami police officers ("in this crime-ridden metropolis") were burying one of their comrades that same day.

Well, the first example collapses because Strouse contradicts himself in describing Luis Posada Carriles as both a hero and wacko for his readers. The following example I agree with, since demonstrating in Little Havana against one of the Cuban hard-line's militant heroes is very confrontational (not to mention the long hostile history of Miami hard-line militants). But, getting angry because Code Pink's complaints coincided with a fallen officer's funeral makes no sense. All planned demonstrations in Miami are approved by the Police Department and coordinated with city officials. The Police Department (specifically the Chief of Police) has the power to deny an assembly application if there is a good reason to do so (maybe to allow officers to pay their respects to a fallen comrade), and set a different date for the demonstration. Obviously, Code Pink was given the permission by the Police Department to demonstrate, and the Department thus has the duty to fulfill any obligation to that assembly application. Additionally, describing Miami as a "crime-ridden metropolis" doesn't mean that Police should cut back from their general services to the community, or sacrifice their commitments to it.

Also, according to Code Pink's personal account of events, "[Code Pink] called Detective Jorge Gonzalez who had committed to being at Versailles and ensuring us police protection. He intimated that everything was under control and set up for our press conference across the street from the Versailles restaurant."

Code Pink had the right to complain to the police for having not completed their demonstration at the Versailles Restaurant, and for having been threatened by counter-protesters with long flagpoles (which are most likely prohibited during demonstrations in other cities).

While I agree with Strouse that some of Code Pink's activities are very radical and confrontational, this fact does not justify that groups in opposition react the same way, or go further with threats and aggression. Even if violence was anticipated if Code Pink showed up at the Versailles Restaurant, this still does not justify violence or having Code Pink be chased away and saying Code Pink deserved it.

While I agree with Val Prieto from the Babalu Blog that Code Pink could've picked a better location to demonstrate against Posada, I disagree with their comparisons of Code Pink's action being similar to "provocateurs like a KKK group burning a cross in a mostly black town." Facts alone should render that comparison as pure ignorance. But, one comment (by Ray) on the Babalu Blog described what could've been the best response to Code Pink that day on Jan. 12th.

"Anyway, perhaps a good way to deal with Code Pink could have been to have a silent group of Cuban Americans standing in front of El Versailles Restaurant holding up posters with pictures of political prisoners who are currently serving time [in] Castro's jails."

Another commenter later agreed with such an action. I agree too, and these comments provide hope for the future. This would've been the best way to confront Code Pink.

I had responded earlier to Robert that Code Pink, aside from its general opposition to US policy, has a campaign on the dire situation in Darfur, so why not on Cuba? Since, both Code Pink and some Cuban exiles won't see eye-to-eye on Luis Posada Carriles, maybe they will agree on the human rights situation of Cuba's political prisoners. But, that requires that Code Pink and exile organizations cooperate. That might take a lot of effort on both sides, but the results could be extremely beneficial for everyone.

Back to our central issue, Luis Posada Carriles will continue to be a figure that shall divide sections of this South Florida community, and larger populations in the Western Hemisphere. It's important that people inform themselves and each other about their views of this militant and his controversial past. The silence of the City of Miami, and Spanish-language media outlets about the divisions created by this man's actions will surely one day hurt this community.

Just like they were silent a year ago when a similar incident occurred.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

In the Anatomy of a Shoot Down

Tomorrow (Friday), Cristina Khuly's documentary, The Shoot Down, will debut in several theaters across Florida. One film reviewer described it as "a powerful, moving and beautifully made piece of cinematic art." And even though this film is about one tragic episode, I think anyone who's interested in the history of US/Cuba relations will benefit in seeing this film. According to the official website, "10 years of research, government documents, transcripts and never-before seen news footage" have been reviewed and collected for the execution of this documentary. I'm certainly looking forward to it. Select theaters from Los Angeles to Chicago will also be screening this film.

The shoot-down of the Brothers to the Rescue (BTTR) planes on February 24, 1996 has been written about extensively. So I will attempt to be brief in providing a summary of the escalation and subsequent events of this tragedy.

Founded in 1991, BTTR sought to use Cessna aircrafts to provide humanitarian relief to stranded Cuban rafters in the Florida Straits. They flew hundreds of rescue missions due to the increase of Cuban rafters fleeing the economic collapse of Cuba's Special Period. The exodus of rafters soon decreased after 1994 when Cuba and the US agreed on terms to stem the flow. The mission of BTTR soon changed from a humanitarian one to a strictly political one.

Thereafter, José Basulto, co-founder of BTTR, decided to exercise civil disobedience with his Cessna by flying into Cuban airspace and over Havana, which he did on two separate occasions (in defiance of internationally agreed standards). By January 1996, after several official warnings by the Cuban government to the US State Department, it was clear that a shoot down of the BTTR planes was eminent. Communication between liaisons of the State Department and the Miami Federal Aviation Administration office revealed increasing concern that the "latest overflight can only be seen as further taunting of the Cuban Government" and that the "[w]orst case scenario is that one of these days the Cubans will shoot down one of these planes."

In coordination and solidarity with a planned dissident conference (by Concilio Cubano) in Cuba , three BTTR planes headed for Cuban airspace on February 24, 1996, but were confronted by Cuban military jets which shot down two of the three Cessnas over international waters. Immediately, the late Jorge Mas Canosa, former chairman of the powerful Cuban American National Foundation, called it an "act of war." Recalling events of that day, Richard Nuccio, President Clinton's "special adviser for Cuba" at the time, said that the President "had considered a memo from the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the options for attacking Cuban air force units and defense structures" as a response. Instead, the President sought to tighten the US embargo.

But, it also became clear that the US was now going to stop any future activity by Miami exile organizations that could be seen as a provocation by the Cuban government. The US was on high alert to stop subsequent exile demonstrations in 1997 and in 1999, even seizing property from one organization that threatened to cause a possible provocation. The US also lessened any hostile rhetoric between the two nations with a 1998 Pentagon report declaring that Cuba does "not pose a significant military threat to the U.S. or to other countries in the region."

Families of the four men who were killed on Feb. 24, 1996 soon won lawsuits and indictments against the Cuban government and those involved with the shoot-down. Millions of dollars were awarded to the families from Cuba's frozen assets, and the indictments were a symbolic victory for the hard-line, who now call for further indictments of Cuba's leaders.

Cristina Khuly, director of The Shoot Down, appeared on Radio Mambi last Tuesday evening (Martha Flores show) and mentioned how important this film is. She felt that this story had to be told to counter other films like The Motorcycle Diaries and other future films about the life of Che Guevara. Khuly appeared on the show with Rep. David Rivera of the Florida House who reminded everyone to see the film and remember why we have an embargo on Cuba. Rep. Rivera sponsored legislation in 2006 that banned state and private dollars being used for academic travel to Cuba by State universities. But, the universities are now fighting back.

But, Khuly hopes the film and its story will lead to constructive negotiations between the U.S. and Cuba in a post-Fidel era.

"I wanted to tell the story, essentially to have a record of what really occurred and have it be a window into our relationship with Cuba, and hopefully we can learn from mistakes that we've made."

[Photo above of Cristina Khuly by Frank Franklin II/AP]

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Covering Code Pink in Little Havana (Part 3)

There are three television news reports about the last Code Pink demonstration available for review. One from CBS4 news (English) and two Spanish-language reports by Telemundo51 and Noticias23 (Univision). I will use the same methodology used to examine the printed reports: 1) Mention of the Code Pink mission; 2) accurate description of actions directed at Code Pink in Little Havana; and 3) mention of the background and debate over Luis Posada Carriles.


The CBS4 report (by Cristina Puig) offers a very good summary of events that occurred that day (Jan. 12th). Puig says that Code Pink had the "proper permits" to demonstrate, "but were quickly chased away" when they arrived at the Versailles Restaurant, where they "didn't stand a chance" against "some 300 angry counter-protesters."

Puig mentioned that Code Pink "wants the FBI to add Posada to their list of 'Most Wanted'" and that they had other demonstrations planned, such as the one last week at the office of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. The description of events was captured on video with some counter-protesters charging at the Code Pink truck and one individual ripping some fabric from their display. Puig also reports on the controversial background of Luis Posada Carriles by mentioning his immigration case, his being "sought after by Cuba and Venezuela for allegedly downing a Cuban jetliner in 1976, killing 73 passengers," and mentioning that he is an "ex-CIA agent."

Puig's report also includes good quotes by Code Pink members describing their main grievance with the inconsistency of the US on terrorism. Medea Benjamin is quoted saying: "the US government is harboring a terrorist and [Pres.] George Bush has said any country that harbors a terrorist is guilty of terrorism." Puig also includes a quote by Code Pink member Tighe Barry making a complaint directly to a Miami police officer:

"They [counter-protesters] do not have permits to carry ten foot polls and with points on the end. That I know is a fact. Now why you don't, you do not follow the rule of law. When the rule of law breaks down, Democracy breaks down. When Democracy breaks down, Anarchy takes place. And what we saw in the streets of Miami was Anarchy."

Video from different sources shows several counter-protesters carrying large Cuban flags, with the flagpole made of unknown material and of unknown length. Before the Miami FTAA protests of 2003, the City of Miami made several strict changes to the City Charter in order to regulate materials used for public demonstrations. One regulation was aimed at prohibiting "any length of metal, plastic or other similar hard of stiff material, whether hollow or solid." These regulations had several conditions for these materials, especially one stating that they "be blunt, and not pointed." But, these strict revisions to the City Charter were eventually repealed the following year after protests from several local activists (mostly citing restrictions to number of persons allowed to assemble). But, other cities today regulate certain materials, such as those used for flagpoles, for public demonstration. A Public Assembly application [PDF] from Concord, North Carolina, for example, regulates wood or plastic poles (including flagpoles) used in demonstrations demanding they be "blunt at both ends" and "less than 41 inches in length."


The reports by the local Spanish -language Univision and Telemundo networks both have glaring omissions in their reporting. Both do not meet the basic journalistic tasks that have set to review. Looking at these Spanish-language television reports, in comparison to the CBS4 report (and the print articles), reveals some interesting biases.

The Noticias23 report begins with video of the Code Pink truck arriving at the Versailles Restaurant, and counter-demonstrators charging at the truck and one individual ripping fabric from the Code Pink display. The reporter does not say that Code Pink was "chased away" like Puig from CBS4, or anything similar to being chased away, but instead simply reports that the police had to "intervene" in the protest (no other mention of aggression is mentioned). Even though there is video of counter-protesters walking into other streets nearby the Versailles Restaurant looking for the pursued Code Pink truck, the Noticias23 reporter still doesn't mention that Code Pink was chased away by the crowd. Instead, one sound bite includes a counter-protester saying: "The streets of Miami belong to us Cuban patriots!"

The Noticias23 report never mentions the mission of the Code Pink demonstration, and never mentions the controversial history of Luis Posada Carriles. I suppose Univision assumes that its viewers are already aware of the controversy, or decided that it was not important. Instead, the report questions the history of Code Pink. The reporter poses the question to its viewers:

"The real question is: who makes up and what ideas are brought by the group Code Pink?"

The reporter asks, of ALL people, Miguel Saavedra for an answer. Saavedra was caught attacking counter-protesters last January on the streets of Calle Ocho. Saavedra says that Code Pink "represents" the government of Venezuela and Cuba. This is followed by a short interview with Medea Benjamin of Code Pink saying that "we are a group of women for peace, and we're here to say that our government has a 'War on Terror,' and we're looking for terrorist all over the world." Benjamin is then cut off, leaving one with an incomplete picture of their official mission. No mention of gathering signatures for the FBI, no mention the FBI billboards, no mention of Posada's past. Instead, time is given to a counter-protester extolling Posada as a "fighter for Cuba's freedom," and estimates the counter-protest crowd at more than 500, instead of the much reported 200-300.

Interestingly, the Noticias23 report includes a brief interview with Ada Rojas, Community Relations Coordinator for the City of Miami. Rojas is shown trying to control some of the crowd (with little success), along with city police. Rojas is quoted saying: "The Cuban community like always there's lots of emotions." It's not clear what the City of Miami's Community Relations Board(CRB) mission is, but if it's anything like Miami-Dade County's CRB, then they have a lot of work to do, mainly in creating an atmosphere "free from sectarianism and prejudice." According to one report, Ada Rojas was once "in charge of a permitted event at the Miami Arena where approximately 200 people demonstrated peacefully." How lucky for them, but not for Code Pink.

Let Ada Rojas know how you feel about Code Pink's demonstration in Little Havana.


Anyway, the Telemundo51 report was much better than the Univision report. Despite not showing the video of the Code Pink truck being charged at by some counter-protesters, the reporter (Ana Cuervo) does make it up by including important facts.

Cuervo interviews Medea Benjamin accurately stating the mission of the Code Pink demonstration, which included the handing out and gathering of signatures asking the FBI to detain Luis Posada Carriles to be extradited. The postcards would then be delivered to the FBI by Code Pink. But, Cuervo doesn't mention the controversy behind Posada's militant past, and instead includes an interview with a counter-protester (former political prisoner Miguel Pardo) saying that Posada has been acquitted of his crimes.

Later, Benjamin is quoted saying that Code Pink was "attacked" and denied their "rights of free expression" by counter-protesters at the Versailles Restaurant. But, by not including the video of Code Pink being chased away, Telemundo51 viewers are left guessing about what EXACTLY happened, and perhaps thinking that if it wasn't serious, then Code Pink maybe deserved what they got.

The report begins with Cuervo describing the counter-protest crowd as "more than ready" in confronting Code Pink, but ends saying that Code Pink later went to the police department to make a complaint on the large counter-protest crowd for impeding their planned demonstration. Without knowing EXACTLY what had occurred, co-anchor Ivan Taylor in the end responds saying: "Surely they left with a big surprise."

I would call it more than just a "big surprise."

[Part 1]

[Photo above by Danny Hamontree]

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Meanwhile in Politics (Part 2) [Updated]


And then there's what the Miami Herald has described as the "Battle of the Titans: Martínez vs. Díaz-Balart."

As far back as August of last year, the rumors of former Hialeah Mayor Raúl Martínez running against Rep. Lincoln Díaz-Balart had been circling. But, finally, this morning in front of Hialeah City Hall, renamed in 2006 as the "Raúl L. Martínez Government Center," Raúl Martínez (Democrat) made it official. And, it will most certainly be one of the most contentious and most watched political races that Miami has ever seen.

Back in October, it was reported in The Hill (Ian Swanson) that Raúl Martínez's main opponents would concentrate on two issues: Martínez's opposition to the Cuban family travel restrictions, and his 1991 conviction of federal extortion charges (which he later appealed and was exonerated from after hung juries). Swanson quoted one of Rep. Diaz-Balart's long-time campaign managers, Carlos Curbelo, saying: "I don’t know what would hurt [Martínez] more in an election — the criminal conviction or opposition to key elements of the embargo... His being on the ballot would end up hurting Democrats statewide." Curbelo seemed to look forward to campaigning against Martínez saying: "How often do you get a chance to race against a guy convicted of a felony?"

But, Martínez has his supporters, such as former Florida Sen. Bob Graham and other current leaders in the Democratic Party. At Hialeah City Hall this morning, Martínez stood with three city council members (all Republicans), and expects more Republicans to join him soon, especially Hialeah's current mayor, Julio Robaina. In 2006, these same Republicans renamed Hialeah City Hall in honor of Raúl Martínez, and had many praises for him, as articulated in the official resolution [PDF]:

"... in honor of Raúl L. Martínez and in commemoration of his 28 years of distinguished and exemplary public service to the City of Hialeah in elected office, representing the city for 4 years as a City Council member and leading the city for 24 years as Mayor with inspiration and extraordinary vision, and whose dynamism and direction transformed the city of Hialeah during his tenure, leaving a legacy of a leader who guided the city to a firm and secure financial standing, who enhanced municipal services that surpass all other cities, who utilized financing and revenues to repair and rebuild miles of roadway and drainage facilities throughout the city and to rehabilitate the water and sewer distribution network for the benefit of present and future generations... all within the confines of annual balanced budgets, while reducing municipal taxes, and who gave his heart and soul to the city of Hialeah as his first priority, dedicating his prodigious energy and intellect to each and every citizen of the City of Hialeah, each day of every year, for the enhancement of the community and for the significant improvement of their lives."

And, Raúl Martínez doesn't shy away from his opponents who continuously bring up his prior conviction. He told Diario Las Americas earlier this month that (former lawyer) Rep. Diaz-Balart "apparently didn't take the course that says that if you go for an appeal and win, you are exonerated... The day he wants to discuss it... I'm in the best mood to do it, hand-to-hand, face-to-face, like men."

Several other political organizations are supporting Martínez because of his opposition to the Cuban family restrictions. Plans to unseat the Diaz-Balart brothers are part of a larger plan (including the formation of a PAC) for those who are advocating normalization of US/Cuba relations. Larry Luxner of CubaNews covered this angle earlier this month, and interviewed Cuban-Americans like Tony Zamora (Bay of Pigs veteran and President of the Cuban American Commission of Family Rights), Alvaro F. Fernandez and Joe García who want an alternative to the hard-line. These same men, along with Alfredo Duran (another Bay of Pigs Veteran), participated last year in a conference entitled "Imperatives for a New Cuba Policy, highlighting the discontent with US policy towards Cuba in the congressional districts of both Diaz-Balart brothers.

Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart has told El Nuevo Herald that he has about $900,000 behind his campaign. There's no indication how much money Raúl Martínez has behind his. While it was rumored that Joe García would possibly run against Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, no official announcement has been made yet. Such a coordinated challenge was reported to possibly cost $1.5 million.

According to Joe García: "The ability to raise money isn’t something that troubles me greatly... It’s going to require a great deal of money to run for a congressional seat. I assume that people of conscience will want to make a difference."


Actually, I forgot to mention that an online poll conducted by earlier this month asked viewers who they would vote for in this "Battle of the Titans." Rep. Lincoln Díaz-Balart won with a strong majority of 67% over Raúl Martínez with 33%. These results were from a total of 3369 online votes.

And, according to Rui Ferreira from El Nuevo Herald, maybe in two weeks we will see a challenger for Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart. (Which will most likely be Joe García.)

[Part 1]

Meanwhile in Politics (Part 1)

There's plenty of political news to digest. I'll highlight two Cuba-related stories: Sen. John McCain's phone call to Radio Mambi and Raul Martinez's official announcement to challenge Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart.


Yesterday, Arizona Sen. John McCain visited Miami and stopped at the famous Versailles Restaurant. But, before making his way over there, he made a quick call to Radio Mambi (morning show "En Caliente") where Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart were waiting for him. The radio studio was packed as the three representatives (with other McCain supporters, such as Ana Navarro) lauded Sen. McCain as the best Republican candidate to run for the US Presidency. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart was very clear on why voters should stick with Sen. McCain: several polls have shown that Sen. McCain is the ONLY candidate with the possibility to beat the leading Democrat candidates. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart made sure to give praise to the other Republican candidates, but was adamant that voters not supporting Sen. McCain were throwing away their vote. The polls that Rep. Diaz-Balart referred to were not named.

After some waiting, Sen. McCain finally called in to Radio Mambi, where he was welcomed by the three Cuban-American representatives and the hosts of "En Caliente," with less than ten minutes left on the program. Last time (March 2007), Sen. McCain made it to the studio and was interviewed by a very passionate Armando Perez-Roura. This time, McCain was spared, but has now realized what Cuban exile hard-liners want to hear. A militant candidate.

One political reporter (Jill Zuckman) accurately described Sen. McCain in Miami as "a warrior of the Cold War, who understands the importance of keeping up the fight against Communism in nearby Cuba." Zuckman further quotes Sen. McCain:

"I'm proud to have fought for and defended freedom for the people of Cuba, consistently calling for continuing the embargo until there are free elections, human right organizations and a free and independent media... Then and only then will the United States of America extend the aid and assistance because we don't want American tax dollars to go to a corrupt government headed either by Fidel or Raul Castro or anyone else who has denied freedom from the Cuban people."

Sen. McCain has been reminding the public in Miami that he was stationed on the USS Enterprise during the Cuban Missile Crisis. This nuclear-powered air-craft carrier was among the American fleet that formed a blockade around Cuba during the Crisis. "I understand Cuba... I am proud to have sat on a flight deck of a United States Navy aircraft during the Cuban missile crisis," said McCain at the Versailles Restaurant.

But Sen. McCain wasn't always such a hard-liner. It was just one year ago that Sen. McCain supported a different position with respect to a Cuba in transition. In a January 2007 interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Sen. McCain had offered "a package of trade, of assistance, of economic development, of assistance in democratization" once Fidel Castro would die and a date for free and fair elections was set. Now, several conditions have been added, regardless of the state of Fidel Castro.

Also, recently Sen. McCain has supported renewed investigations and indictments of the Cuban government for the shooting down of the Brothers to the Rescue planes. McCain has also recently been highlighting his status as a former POW and mentioning a Cuba Program in Vietnam where torture of American POW's during the Vietnam war has been confirmed.

In 1999, POW survivors alleged they had been brutally tortured by Cuban agents in a Vietnamese prison. Reports in the Miami Herald at the time revealed the cruelty of the events and the possible identification of some of the Cuban agents. Committee hearings in the House and Senate were also held that same year. Since then one Cuban agent has been allegedly identified by a POW survivor, but the Cuban government has rejected these allegations and "U.S. officials said the evidence remains inconclusive and contradictory."

Sen. McCain arrived into Miami yesterday with a warrior mentality, and made sure to let the hard-liners in Miami know it. On the phone with Radio Mambi, Sen. McCain reminded everyone that he was a pilot on the USS Enterprise during the Cuban Missile Crisis and a POW in Vietnam:

"And I also remember a fella from Cuba who came and tortured and killed some of my friends and I look forward very much to seeing him again in Havana after the Cuban people are free."

Ninoska Pérez-Castellón: "And I suppose in a court of law."

Sen. McCain: "Yeah, I guess if necessary."

Everyone in the Radio Mambi studio laughed. They were amused at Sen. McCain's attempt to be a militant, just like militants in exile. But, McCain now understands that this is what hard-liners want to hear. The talk of revenge, hidden within the talk of justice.

[Audio of Sen. McCain's comments to Radio Mambi in MP3]
[Photo above of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Sen. John McCain by AP/J. Pat Carter]

[Part 2]

Monday, January 21, 2008

Covering Code Pink in Little Havana (Part 2)


The day after the protest, the Sun-Sentinel published a 456-word article (by Ruth Morris) which I thought was pretty good. Following our methodology, Morris briefly described the mission of Code Pink as "plans to distribute postcards in Miami and Miami Beach, [and] asking the FBI to put Posada Carriles on its most-wanted list. Codepink is also offering to pay for billboards with the same message." (Morris failed to include Code Pink's other activities.) Morris also included a quote by Medea Benjamin which described well the main motivation behind the campaign against Posada: "He's a known terrorist. This man should be behind bars... We feel our government should be consistent. We go looking for terrorists all over the world."

Morris described the counter-protest crowd as "mostly older men" numbering "about 200," some of which "charged at the [Code Pink] truck as they arrived, tearing at its pink fringe, while others jeered and shouted insults... Supporters of Posada Carriles ran through the streets of Little Havana looking for the [Code Pink] truck while bystanders shouted, 'Prostitutes!' at the small group." Morris also detailed the controversial past of Luis Posada Carriles by describing him as "former CIA operative wanted in Venezuela in connection with the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner." She also mentioned his immigration case, his connection to hotel bombings in Cuba, and his arrest in Panama from which he was later (strangely) pardoned.

Morris also captured well the basic counter-argument from some of Posada's supporters by including this quote: "Posada Carriles is no terrorist. The terrorist is Fidel Castro." This sentence alone illustrates well how supporters of Posada 1) attempt to obviate certain facts surrounding the controversial militancy of Luis Posada Carriles, 2) justify Posada's violent crusade against the Cuban government, and 3) ignore the central concern in regards to the inconsistency of US principles applied in the "War on Terror."


Diario Las Americas published an almost 700-word EFE Spanish News Agency article (by Sonia Osorio) two days after the Code Pink demonstration. Of the articles already mentioned (and despite its tardiness) it includes plenty of good quotes and descriptions of the events of January 12th. It is also available in English.

It should be noted that Diario Las Americas also published an announcement to its readers one day before the anticipated Code Pink demonstration in Little Havana. According to the announcement (published in the Local section), groups in support of Luis Posada Carriles were scheduled to meet at the Versailles Restaurant at 10:30 AM (30 minutes before the Code Pink demonstration in the same location), and with the understanding that "those who defend the Castro regime [whom we must assume to be Code Pink], also defend the traitorous assassinations committed by the communist regime, the sinking of the '13 de Marzo' tugboat, the shooting down of the Brothers to the Rescue planes, the invasions of Angola, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia [and] Grenada." But I'm sure they could've added many more incidents to mischaracterize those whom they feel "defend the Castro regime."

Anyway, the EFE report was originally published the same day of the demonstration (Jan 12th), but published online on the 14th for Diario Las Americas. Sonia Osorio described the Code Pink campaign as a demonstration to "distribute post cards showing Posada Carriles' face and the telephone number of the FBI... to get the FBI to arrest Posada Carriles, 73, and extradite him to Venezuela where the authorities accuse him of blowing up a Cubana de Aviacion airliner in 1976, killing 73 people... Code Pink also plans to hold a vigil on Sunday, a protest demonstration Monday in front of the office of Cuban American congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and present a list of signatures to the FBI office in Miami."

Osorio also quoted Medea Benjamin describing the inconsistency of the "War on Terror": "It is known throughout Latin America that this man, Posada Carriles, is responsible for the death of civilians. The failure of the Bush administration to arrest and extradite him makes the war on terror ridiculous." This statement is supported by the fact that the extradition of Luis Posada Carriles has been supported by the majority of Latin nations at the last three Ibero-American Summits (2005, 2006, 2007) and also supported by the Secretary General of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza.

Osorio described the actions of counter-protesters: "When a van with pink decorations drove in front of the [Versailles] restaurant with a huge banner showing the face of the anti-Castro militant [Luis Posada Carriles], several Cubans chased the vehicle to try to rip the banner down... The threat of violence was halted when police took up positions in the middle of the street... The members of Code Pink... left the scene quickly with some of the Cubans hurling insults after them." In the Spanish version of the EFE article the "intent of aggression" is added to "threat of violence" in the same line.

Finally, the EFE article briefly mentioned the background of Posada with mention to the 1976 bombing and his current immigration case. (No mention of his involvement with the CIA, connection to hotel bombings in Cuba, and his arrest in Panama.) Osorio also estimated the counter-protest crowd at "some 300" and included a jaw-dropping quote by Miguel Saavedra from Vigilia Mambisa, the same man caught chasing and assaulting a counter-protester last year in Little Havana. Osorio quotes Saavedra: "We are very democratic, this is a free country. We are on our side of the street. No one has prohibited anything. We're pluralists."

BS. Let's look at some video.

[Part 3]

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Covering Code Pink in Little Havana (Part 1)

What troubles me most about the interrupted Code Pink demonstration from this past Saturday is how some people have acquiesced to or explicitly approved of the hostile actions by counter-demonstrators.

Some comments on websites and blogs have been quite repulsive in support of the aggression, such as this comment from the Gateway Pundit: "Don't you just LOVE the Cuban-American community." The Gateway Pundit is not being sarcastic. At the end of his/her post is a link to the Babalu blog that continues the fulminations against the members of Code Pink.

One revealing post comes from Mark Falcoff, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and who has written extensively on Cuba. Despite his romantic description of Luis Posada Carriles as "one of those soldiers of fortune who worked with the CIA cowboys in Central America during the Cold War," Falcoff believes that Code Pink got what they deserved:

" [Code Pink] decided to make a big fuss in Miami knowing perfectly well the kind of hot reception they would get."

This is no surprise to me coming from someone who works with AEI, but very disappointing coming from a man with a Ph.D in political science from Princeton University. And, to top it off, "Doctor" Falcoff comes to the same conclusions as Henry Gomez, a blogger.

According to Gomez and Falcoff, the Code Pink demonstration was "to make sure the 'Posada Carriles/plane bomb/terrorist/US complicity' meme landed once again on the front pages of our papers"(Falcoff), or simply a "stunt created solely for media consumption"(Gomez). That's right, all Code Pink wanted was to see their faces in the paper, or TV. If we follow such logic, maybe all people who protest and demonstrate publicly (in the face of potential opposition and media coverage) could be labeled compulsive narcissists. Like Martin Luther King Jr., or perhaps Darsi Ferrer from this past December. Yeah, maybe Ferrer is doing it just to appear on Marti TV.

OR, perhaps these demonstrations are about honest grievances. But, that is a conclusion we must each make individually. In the case of Code Pink, one need only look at their many political campaigns, read the official goal of last Saturday's demonstration, and read the various news reports that followed. After doing that, it should be clear what Code Pink sought to bring to the public's attention: "to highlight the need to stop the U.S.’s selective enforcement of terrorism."

Now, there's plenty to read on the debate over Luis Posada Carriles, and his label as "terrorist" or "hero. But, this post is about how the local news reported on Saturday's events and the mission of Code Pink. Let's review.

There's a methodology I chose in reviewing the media coverage following the Code Pink demonstration. It's fairly simple. The most informative and accurate report would fulfill these basic journalistic duties: 1) Mention the mission of Code Pink; 2) accurately describe the actions directed at Code Pink in Little Havana; and 3) mention the background of and debate over Luis Posada Carriles. These requirements I think are easy to achieve (in varying degrees), but there were some reports that failed to do so.


The Herald published a 440 word article (by David Quinones) that was pretty good, but very brief. The article mentioned that Code Pink "came to Miami for the week to get signatures on postcards advocating Posada's imprisonment." (It was actually less than a week that included other activities.) Quinones described the hostile actions by writing that "[t]he pro-Posada group... tried to rip down [Code Pink's] two-sided billboard. That prompted the CodePink protesters to abandon their demonstration." (There were several other hostile actions directed at Code Pink that day.) And, Quinones briefly described the controversial background of Posada, mentioning the CIA, the 1976 bombing, and his escape from prison. Also included for balance were quotes from Posada's lawyer, Arturo Hernandez. But, today the Herald published some corrections to this article, such as the fact that the US is still pursuing an appeal to Posada's recently dismissed immigration case, and Posada's initial acquittal in a Venezuelan military court. The Herald ignores the fact that Posada's military trial blocked crucial evidence in the case, lacked jurisdiction, and was eventually annulled. Quinones also reports that the crowd of counter-protesters numbered "more than 500," instead of the 200-300 count observed by most reports. Finally, the Herald also included an AP piece that was also very brief and similar, but numbered the counter-protest crowd at around 200, mentioned that "the Posada supporters charged at the [Code Pink] truck," and mentioned that Posada "is wanted by the Cuban and Venezuelan government on charges that he plotted the deadly 1976 bombing."


Nuevo Herald actually published two articles BEFORE the Saturday demonstration and one afterwards. Wilfredo Cancio Isla wrote two article before the demonstration, one of which was very informative and the other which was very brief. The first one (Jan. 10) accurately describes the mission of Code Pink (and their many scheduled activities) and included a very good quote by Medea Benjamin articulating the inconsistency of terrorism enforcement by the US. But, the article very briefly mentions Posada's controversial background, and interestingly mentions that Code Pink made an effort to visit Luis Posada Carriles' wife, Nieves González. The following article (Jan. 12) briefly reports on how some exile organizations had planned to meet one hour before the Code Pink demonstration, and that these groups belong to the "Committee in Support of Luis Posada Carriles." The article briefly describes the mission of the Code Pink campaign, and provides several quotes by exile supporters calling Posada a "great patriot" and promising to act "without violating peaceful conduct." And, I found this article to be the ONLY ONE that mentions last year's attack on the Bolivarian Youth. Wilfredo Cancio Isla writes: "January of last year, a demonstration of exile groups supporting freedom for Posada provoked a violent incident in the middle of Calle Ocho."

AFTER the Code Pink demonstration, El Nuevo Herald published a very brief article of events (a little less than 400 words). Juan Carlos Chavez, in a few words, quickly describes the Code Pink mission, Posada's controversial background and mentions that counter-protesters "prevented" and "blocked" Code Pink from accomplishing their campaign. The article includes a decent quote from Medea Benjamin, and from Miguel Saavedra of Vigilia Mambisa (the same man caught attacking members of the Bolivarian Youth last year).

[Part 2]

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Great Article by Korten and Nielsen

Over at, Tristam Korten and Kirk Nielsen have a great article about Cuban exile militants in Miami and how the US government fails to apply anti-terrorism laws against these men, despite other similar cases that receive severe penalties.


"The 1994 Violent Crime and Control and Law Enforcement Act, an anti-terrorism measure passed after the first attack on New York's World Trade Center, made it illegal to knowingly provide material assistance for terrorist activity. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 was also intended to deter terrorism. The section titled 'Conspiracy to Harm People and Property Overseas' states that anyone within the jurisdiction of the U.S. who conspires to commit 'an act that would constitute the offense of murder, kidnapping, or maiming' abroad faces punishment up to life in prison. During the Clinton administration, no anti-Castro militants were prosecuted under those laws."


"In 2005 federal agents searched an apartment [Santiago Alvarez] kept north of Miami in Broward County and found a store of military hardware including an M-11 A1 machine gun, two Colt AR-15 assault rifles, a silencer, and a Heckler & Koch grenade launcher. Agents arrested Alvarez and his assistant, Osvaldo Mitat. According to Peter Margulies, prosecutors could have considered charging Alvarez with providing material support for terrorist activity, which carries a sentence of 15 years to life. Instead, they charged Alvarez and Mitat with seven counts of illegal weapons possession. Both pleaded guilty to one of the counts. The judge sentenced Mitat to about three years and Alvarez to just under four years."

The article includes plenty of pictures from Alpha 66's hidden camp called Rumbo Sur, and an audio report by Tristam Korten that identifies some of the members training at the camp.

I've noticed that only one blog (Review of Cuban-American Blogs) has harshly criticized the article stating that Korten and Nielsen have managed "to libel these men and the community which acclaims them as freedom fighters and upholders of the dignity of the Cuban people."

According to Manuel A. Tellechea:

"But, of course, no effort is made by the authors [Korten and Nielsen] to compare the provocation to the reaction. The provocation, 50 years of terrorist rule by the world's oldest terrorist state, which was built on terrorism and has maintained itself through terrorism to this day, would make what is imputed against its enemies seem a moderate reaction by any measure."

Despite the fact that a 2004 conference which included members of the Center for Defense Information and the Center for National Policy concluded that "there is no credible evidence to prove the accusation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism" and that a 2000 bi-partisan task force concluded that "the United States move quickly to clear away the policy underbrush and prepare for the next stage in U.S.-Cuban relations," the hard-line exile identity depends on the Cuban government being nothing more than a force of pure evil. Only such an extreme degree of viciousness would justify a similar "reaction."

In which case, violence towards Cuba is justified, and the consequences of a cycle of violence are only secondary.

[Photo above of Alpha 66 by Dando Valle]

Déjà Vu

It was just about a year ago that the Bolivarian Youth was attacked in Little Havana in a counter-demonstration against the release of Luis Posada Carriles. Now, another group (Code Pink) opposed to the release of Luis Posada Carriles gets chased away in the streets of Little Havana.

So what have we learned?

The events of past Saturday only reaffirm the fact that some Cuban exiles depend on Luis Posada Carriles (the imagined and remembered hero) as an important component of their (personal) exile identity, ready to be defended at whatever costs (against any perceived threat), especially since he represents personal and community integrity to some in exile. Code Pink, in this case, was seen by some exiles as a direct personal threat to their self-identity (regardless of what Luis Posada Carriles personally thinks of Code Pink), and also seen as a threat to a protective unified Cuban community that supposedly supports Posada.

Reading the posts on the Babalu blog was also enlightening because it confirmed some of my thoughts about hard-line exiles. Both Val Prieto and Henry Gomez (co-editors of the Babalu blog), after Saturday's demonstration, were most concerned about "the Cuban-American community once again look[ing] like intransigent extremists in the eyes of the [mainstream media]" and their "painting Cuban-Americans as intolerant." But, Prieto and Gomez felt no need to separate themselves in any way from those who did act as "intolerant" or "extremists." To say so would mean that there are differences or divisions in the unified exiled community. Instead, both Prieto and Gomez (and others) APPROVED of the actions that would be perceived (by any neutral person) as "intolerant" or "extremist" by saying:

Gomez: "As far as those old men go, in my mind they've earned the right to tell those [Code Pink] bitches exactly what they did and more. Don't come into the lions den with a stick, you might just walk out with it impaled in an an orifice."

Prieto: "Those treasonous Code Pinkos got what exactly they deserved... Those Cuban-Americans that took Code Pink to task the other day displayed good, old fashioned, American backbone. There will be no quarter for traitors and haters. Period. End of fucking story."

These overt comments of approval for hostility certainly mark the hard-liner who must rid any threat that may reveal gaps in the "monolithic" Cuba exile community that is militant, victim of and defender against communism, victim of US betrayal, and shares ONE memory of a "lost" Cuba. Any, misinterpretation of that kind of exile is a perceived attack, and intolerable.

We all should understand that identity (individual or collective) is crucial to our well-being, but we should also understand that it is mutable. One can accept a hostile or militant exile identity and also refuse it. But, in Miami, as long as very influential people support militancy (or violence) without any other alternative, acquiesce to such hostility, or just look the other way, there is little hope that the hard-line Cuban exile will change. And that only portends further rifts within the greater Miami community (and with general American attitudes) that will make future efforts of reconciliation a greater task.

The case of Luis Posada Carriles is one issue (of many) that needs to be debated and discussed urgently (within Miami and the US) with the hope to reach some common ground, and avoid other spectacles like past Saturday's. Unfortunately, there's lots of work to do, but I think it is possible.

The local news reports that followed Saturday's demonstration reveals some differences that exist when it comes to reporting about the Cuban exile community. Pointing out theses differences allows us to address specific issues.

[Covering Code Pink...]

[Photo above by Danny Hamontree]

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Posada: "Recognized Anti-Castro Activist"

Over on the Radio Mambi website (part of the larger Univision website), there's a poll on Luis Posada Carriles. It asks:

"Do you support freedom for Luis Posada Carriles, recognized anti-Castro activist?"

No kidding. See the screen shot here. As far as I know, and according to the latest reports, Luis Posada Carriles is already free. He's even appeared publicly in some places here in Miami recently. Sure, the US Justice Department has appealed the latest ruling that freed him, but that was a while ago and Posada is not behind bars now or in any form of detention (as far as I know).

So what's up with the poll? (A response to the Code Pink demonstrations perhaps?)

And, if anyone knows about the declassified government documents on Posada Carriles, and his interviews with Ann Louise Bardach, then one should easily recognize that Posada is more than just an "activist."

Not surprisingly, the results of the Radio Mambi poll are 80% in favor of "freedom" for Luis Posada Carriles. But, the site does not reveal how many votes have been counted.

[Photo above of Luis Posada Carriles from the Robert Alonso documentary "The Trial of the Century"]

Friday, January 11, 2008

Code Pink in Little Havana

Just this morning on Radio Mambi, Ernesto Díaz Rodríguez, secretary general of Alpha 66 and a vice-president of Unidad Cubana, called in to announce plans for a counter-protest at Versailles Restaurant on Saturday (tomorrow). Díaz Rodríguez was soon followed by another caller, a member of another Cuban exile organization (La Casa del Presídio Politico), to encourage all exile organizations to meet on Saturday at 10 am at Versailles, one hour before the Code Pink demonstration.

Díaz Rodríguez told Radio Mambi listeners that Code Pink has "defamed" Luis Posada Carriles with their campaign, and that they must protest tomorrow to show the Cuban exile community is "united in support for Posada." The other caller described Code Pink as "a group of communists," and that a demonstration tomorrow by exiles will be "a meeting of honor."

Most likely, the same individuals who demonstrated last year on January 19th in support for Luis Posada Carriles will be at the Versailles tomorrow. And, given that some of those members already demonstrated an audacity for violence, Code Pink should be prepared for similar acts.

On their campaign website, Code Pink responds to the "militant right-wing Cuban community":

"Yes, those who live in Miami know that there are elements of the Cuban community who are very violent. They have bombed and beaten people who dared to criticize their positions. But if the US. is going to have moral standing in the world, we must be consistent in opposing all violence against civilians and holding all terrorists accountable. It’s up to us to force our government to stop holding a double standard of condemning some acts of terrorism and supporting others."

The Babalu blog yesterday responded to the Code Pink campaign against Posada. Unsurprisingly, they target Medea Benjamin, who's quoted in El Nuevo Herald. Robert M, for Babalu, tries to explain why he perceives "blatant hypocrisy" on the part of Code Pink. He answers:

"It's quite easy to explain. Medea Benjamin loves Cuba, especially those in charge of the gulag."

Robert M provides ONE link to support this conclusion: a profile page on Medea Benjamin from the Discover the Networks website, a website that dedicates itself as a watchdog or "Guide to the Political Left." According to their mission statement, Discover the Networks "identifies the individuals and organizations that make up the left and also the institutions that fund and sustain it; it maps the paths through which the left exerts its influence on the larger body politic; it defines the left's (often hidden) programmatic agendas and it provides an understanding of its history and ideas."

But, Robert M and Discover the Networks are wrong.

It seems that in the excitement of identifying Medea Benjamin, both Robert M and Discover the Networks have made ONE simple reporting error: they forgot to cite their sources. But, of course it must've been a mistake, I'm sure they'll correct it. Here's what happened:

According to the Discover the Networks profile on Medea Benjamin: "Ms. Benjamin then lived for some time in Fidel Castro's Communist Cuba with her first husband, who was the coach of that country's national basketball team. (Reflecting later on her years in Cuba, she said she had felt "like I died and went to heaven.") Cuban authorities deported Ms. Benjamin, however, after she wrote an anti-government article in the government-run newspaper for which she worked."

Robert M, forgot to add the part of Benjamin's deportation from Cuba (the country "she loves"). But, Robert M and Discover the Networks forgot to cite the ORIGINAL article from where this biography originates.

On October 26, 2002, the San Francisco Chronicle published a story on Medea Benjamin and her long history as a political activist. The author, Joe Garofoli, writes:

"Yet at first, Cuba's comparative social equality 'made it seem like I died and went to heaven.' Then she bumped into the limitations of free speech while working at a Communist-run newspaper; she was deported after daring to write an anti-government article."

Benjamin's biography also reveals that she is well aware of the complexities and difficulties of Cuban society, since she has written several books on related subjects to Cuba. To say that she "loves Cuba, especially those in charge of the gulag" is baseless and deceiving. And, I'm sure Robert M didn't intend to deceive his readers, or mischaracterize Benjamin's real attitudes towards Cuba. But I'm not so sure about the Discover the Networks website.

Also yesterday, Luis Posada Carriles' lawyer Arturo Hernández appeared on Spanish television in defense of his client. Maria Elvira Live allowed Arturo Hernández to defend Posada's current case on the air, and also to defend his client from charges of the 1976 bombing.

To some exiles here in Miami, Luis Posada Carriles embodies the highest qualities of the militant exile ("el intransigente"). To oppose him, is to oppose the exile community (if you imagine it as a unified and/or militant front). Tomorrow, this confrontation on the exile identity may result in some hostile behavior against Code Pink. But, the demonstration is also an opportunity for individuals, of whatever background, to reject a militant identity, and instead identify with efforts that lead to peace.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Code Pink v. Posada Carriles

Whoa! Code Pink is coming to Little Havana, and to target Luis Posada Carriles? That's brave.

Just when you thought that everyone forgot about the Posada case, last month the Sun-Sentinel ran an editorial making excellent comments:

"...the poor handling of the Luis Posada Carriles case makes America look like a country talking out of both sides of its mouth, and that looking the other way is counterproductive to the goal of a democratic Cuba... [US] Federal prosecutors don't appear to be building a case. In fact, the Bush administration has not shown much interest in the issue... In not aggressively pursuing the truth in this case, the message sent is that it is only terrorism when people do bad things to governments we like... BOTTOM LINE: Get to the bottom of the airliner bombing."

There's also news that a Spanish organization called The Friendship with Cuba Federation of Valencia is organizing a mock trial, just like Cuba's last year, to symbolically charge Posada for conspiracy in the 1976 Cubana airline explosion. And, in Panama, three former government official have been charged with abuse of authority for their collaboration in the release of Luis Posada Carriles after he was pardoned by former President Mireya Moscoso in 2004. According to one source, the three former officials "
violated the law by acting before Moscoso's decision [to pardon] was recognized as lawful." The Moscoso pardon was delivered just days before she left office. The current President of Panama has publicly disagreed with the Moscoso pardons.

So here comes Code Pink.

According to El Nuevo Herald, and the Code Pink website, members of the US anti-war organization are headed to Miami for a weekend-long campaign demanding that Luis Posada Carriles be included on a FBI list of wanted terrorists, and to honor the International Day to Shut Down Guantanamo. Code Pink has several activities scheduled for Friday until Monday, which can be viewed at the Code Pink Florida Blog.

The most courageous of the scheduled events seems to be the meeting at the famous Versailles Cuban Restaurant on Saturday. According to El Nuevo Herald, Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin explained that Saturday's event will focus on "talk[ing] to the people," and collecting signatures for postcards that they will be handing out. They are planning to collect 5000 signed postcards that demand the arrest of Luis Posada Carriles, which will later be delivered to the Miami FBI office headquarters on Monday. Code Pink will be at Versailles from 11am until 6pm.

The campaign is also a response to recent news that the FBI will be unveiling digital billboards in several major US cities "to highlight those who we're looking for the most in a given area: violent criminals, kidnap victims, missing kids, bank robbers, even terrorists." According to their website, Code Pink is planning to have their own billboards in Miami saying "Wanted for Terrorism" with Posada's picture on it. They are planning that for February.

No doubt that there will be a counter-protest. But, if people are aware of the activism by Code Pink and their members, they won't let opposition stop them. Just last month, Medea Benjamin was in Pakistan protesting against the Musharraf government. She was held for four hours and deported, this just to name just a few times she's been detained.

But, the counter-attacks by the hard-line have already begun.