Friday, September 5, 2008

The Planes Are Ready. Now What?

Local Spanish-language news station Telemundo51 interviewed Ramon Saul Sanchez earlier today. Sanchez is the leader of the organization "Democracy Movement" (Movimiento Democracia) here in Miami.

According to the report, Sanchez's organization has prepared 6 planes ready to make humanitarian flights into Cuba. Sanchez estimates the planes can make 3 to 4 flights daily into Cuba, carrying approximately 500,000 lbs. of aid.

Sanchez says his organization is awaiting permission from the US government to begin the flights, and comments...

"What we are asking of both governments [US and Cuba] is [to] lay down your barriers that divide Cubans [and] that impede Cubans from helping each other mutually."


Ramon Saul Sanchez has a very interesting history in his struggle for a free Cuba, which in this case might affect his humanitarian mission. He arrived as a teenager to the US during the Freedom Flights from Cuba, and soon joined Alpha 66 back when it was actively organizing covert attacks on Cuba.

Sanchez's luck finally ran out in the eighties when he was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison for failing to testify before a grand jury related to an investigation of Omega 7. During his time in prison Sanchez changed his ways and began a non-violent struggle.

By 1999 Sanchez had become a prominent leader of the Cuban exile community mainly because of his acts of protest. And, by 2000, his organization gained further notoriety through its efforts to keep Elian Gonzalez in Miami. Yet, his non-violent struggle in exile was not well-received by all.

In 2002, Sanchez extended an olive branch to Radio Mambi director Armando Perez-Roura after he heard "vicious" insults directed at him on the air. Sanchez wrote that he had had enough.

"For Pérez Roura and company, the search for the truth is no longer important, and democracy is a one-way street. They're not interested in persuading others, not as long as they have the power to defeat them. They censure coarsely if someone points out their inconsistencies. When someone deviates from their narrow vision, they destructively brand him 'traitor' and start the machinery of slander that has ostracized so many people who might have benefited Cuba."

Radio Mambi had derided Sanchez for seeking a non-violent path (just as Radio Mambi calls Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya a 'traitor') in the struggle for a free Cuba. Sanchez at the time had run into problems with the US government for sailing into Cuban waters during a demonstration in the Florida Straits. Sanchez and two other men were charged, facing years in jail, but eventually freed after all charges were dropped.

More recently, Sanchez made headlines in 2006 after he initiated a hunger strike on behalf of 15 Cuban migrants who had been repatriated after landing on disputed American soil near Key West. Many Cuban exiles had become angry at the decision, and Sanchez sought to bring attention to the controversial "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy for Cubans, and pressure the US to make changes.

Ramon Saul Sanchez had received support from the Babalu Blog for his hunger strike in 2006, but now there is silence towards the Democracy Movement. It was just today that Babalu finally wrote something about aid relief to Cuba after hurricane Gustav. But, no mention of Sanchez or his organization.

According to the Democracy Movement's philosophy, "violence breeds more violence" and we must free ourselves from the "brutal manner of opression found in hate, jealousy, ambition, arrogance, vengeance, intolerance or indifference" to make our world a better place.

But, I don't know if the Cuban government will buy it.