Thursday, December 31, 2009

Welcome 2010

With the start of 2010 just a few hours away, I thought I would end this year writing about a few things I learned in 2009.

Probably the most important thing I learned this year about U.S.-Cuba relations is that it is going to be a slow process towards the goal of normalization, which happens to be what most Americans want. And, also what most academic researchers recommend for policy makers. So, why has it been so difficult to reach normalization? Because of South Florida hardliners and militants that support economic sanctions towards and oppose diplomatic agreements with Cuba.

As you may have read about recently, Florida's leading Senatorial candidates gave speeches at a U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC meeting last week and all publicly gave their support for current U.S. policy towards Cuba, in direct conflict with what most Americans want and what most U.S. experts on the subject suggest.

What occurred last week at the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC meeting is what is called "elitism." You should have seen the photos of the audience because it was basically made up of the most politically influential people in Miami, local media personalities, and (of course) militants like Armando Perez Roura and Ninoska Perez Castellon from Radio Mambi (Univision Radio). But, together they shared one thing: their belief that they (and only they) know what is best for everyone else when it comes to Cuba.

Militants believe that the Cuban government is pure evil, and its destroys everything it touches, and therefore it must be isolated and eventually cut off (overthrown). Hardliners see the Cuban government as untrustworthy and deceptive, therefore its must be dealt with extreme caution and little patience. Agreements can be reached with hardliners, but hardliners are not willing to make any concessions, and are prepared to accept diplomatic stalemates.

In between the spectrum of militancy and the hard-line is where Florida politics currently stands when it comes to U.S. policy towards Cuba. And, I don't think we should expect a change soon.

If 2009 taught me anything, it was that militant and hard-line ideology in South Florida is encouraged and accepted widely in the local Spanish media. From the small Spanish-language newspapers to the various television broadcasts of news and gossip (better defined as propaganda). Militant and hard-line ideology expresses itself daily through these sources and are encouraged by local businesses through their advertising, and sometimes public support of such ideology.

So, does this mean that 2010 will bring the same results of 2009? I doubt it. Small changes within the Cuban exile community have already occurred that conflicted with hard-line and militant ideology, such as the community support given to the Peace Concert in Cuba, and the lifting of travel restrictions. And, more changes are destined to come in 2010. The enclave of the Cuban exile will change, not as a detachment from its painful past, but rather from its attachment to world changes in the future.

But, it will be a slow process. May 2010 bring us closer to what is fair, moral and just.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Enjoy the Holidays

Happy Holidays to all, and to those that will be spending their Christmas in Cuba.

A TV report yesterday by local news station WPLG described the "biggest crowd" at Miami International Airport being those passengers on an "overbooked Cuba flight."

May everyone have safe travels, and happy celebrations.

[Funny post on the Export Law Blog: Santa Claus versus the Embargo.]

"If Santa delivers toys for U.S. children first, there will be toys destined for Cuba in the sleigh in violation of 31 C.F.R. § 515.207(b). That rule prohibits Santa’s sleigh from entering the United States with “goods in which Cuba or a Cuban national has an interest."

[Photo: man decorates a Christmas tree outside the San Francisco convent in Havana, Cuba by AP/Javier Galeano]

Friday, December 4, 2009

"A Dangerous President"

Those were the exact words that Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen used to describe President Barack Obama when she appear on Radio Mambi last month.

Rep. Ros-Lehtinen occasionally appears on Radio Mambi to provide updates for listeners on her activities. She represents Florida's 18th Congressional District, which includes parts that most people recognize as "Miami," such as Coral Gables, Downtown Miami, Key Biscayne, Brickell and Miami Beach.

On November 13th, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen appeared on "La Mesa Redonda" (The Roundtable) with Armando Perez-Roura, programming director of Radio Mambi. I believe other issues were discussed, but the main issue seemed to be the decision that day by the U.S. Justice Department to federally prosecute five men accused of conspiring in the attacks of September 11. Rep. Ros-Lehtinen was outraged, as were many in the Republican party that day.

But, near the end of the radio show, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen summed it up for listeners. She not only felt that the decision from the Obama administration was misguided, and that the decision put U.S. security at risk (as other Republicans asserted), but she also felt that we had "a dangerous President" in the White House.

So I wonder what kind of decision a Radio Mambi listener might come to after that interview.

Here's an indication. Yesterday it was reported by El Nuevo Herald (Wilfredo Cancio Isla) that the U.S. Secret Service is investigating a call to Radio Mambi of someone who made an on-air threat to Pres. Obama saying someone should "shoot him in the head."

Now, some of you might think that maybe this was just some crazy person who called in one day, and said something stupid. Not likely. The Herald reports that the voice was from a regular caller to Radio Mambi (which is the case with most callers to Radio Mambi), and quotes an anonymous employee at the radio station saying that "what is heard there [on Radio Mambi] everyday against Obama and against any other is outrageous."

There is also a larger context here. Ever since Barack Obama became President, Radio Mambi has reached a new level of radicalism that I had never heard before. I will try to post about that soon, and with some audio samples.

[Another thing. The Herald article by Wilfredo Cancio Isla is not easily accessible to regular users of The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald websites. Doing a search for the article is useless. It doesn't even appear on Google News. Wierd.]

[Background on the recent decision by the U.S. Justice Department to prosecute 9-11 conspirators.]

[Photo by Getty Images]

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Prize for Yoani's Bruises

Alex, from A Grand Illusion blog, has a great post about how Cuban exile hard-liners may be "deadly scared" about the moderate political views of Yoani Sanchez, the famous Cuban blogger. In his post, Alex highlights Yoani's past moderate viewpoints and mainly responds to Mauricio Claver-Carone, from Capitol Hill Cubans, who earlier this week tried to convince Yoani that those 178 U.S. Representatives who support the lifting of travel restrictions to Cuba are really trying "to take advantage of our [Cuban] family's diversity, in the hopes of hindering our united purpose."

This desperate attempt to deceive Yoani with a tale of Congressional conspiracy absolutely reveals that hard-liners, like Claver-Carone, ARE afraid of Yoani's moderate views, and the global attention they may generate.

So how are hard-liners going to deal with Yoani? Very carefully. This means they will emphasize Yoani's criticism against the Cuban government, acts of repression against her, but when it comes to her views on U.S. policy towards Cuba, she will have no voice. This has been the pattern with all other dissidents, many of whom do not support many aspects of U.S. policy.

If you don't believe me, here's a good example. The Cuban Liberty Council (CLC), one of Miami's most powerful Cuban exile organization, awarded Yoani Sanchez their "Heroes of Freedom" prize last Saturday. The award comes after Yoani has been blogging for about two years, has already gained worldwide attention, and her blog recognized with several international awards.

Why did it take so long for the CLC to award Yoani?

Simple, she's not hard-line enough. Like Alex showed in his post, in the past Yoani has not shown to be a hard-liner or militant. At least not as hard-lined as previous winners of the "Heroes of Freedom" prize, such as Roger Noriega, Mel Martinez or Carlos Gutierrez [full list of previous winners, PDF]. So, the CLC, like other organizations, kept their distance, suspicious of her authenticity.

So what made the CLC change it's mind? Answer: Yoani got beat up by Cuban state agents on November 6th.

After being violently attacked by Cuba's repressive machinery, Yoani recieved her bona fides for the CLC. You see, Yoani's writings were not enough, it took bruises and trauma for the hard-line to embrace Yoani because she now shared their pain. But, most of all, now the CLC had good propaganda: Yoani's traumatic experience would be used as proof of the evil Cuban government.

So why do I think this is what ultimately convinced the CLC?

After the violent incident on Nov. 6th, hard-liners on Radio Mambi (and other media outlets) seemed vindicated. Armando Perez-Roura, programming director of Radio Mambi, gave increased attention to Yoani Sanchez, reading her account of the incident on Radio Mambi, even quoting her entire blog post about the incident in his weekly column for Libre magazine. A rare move.

It was finally reported on November 17th that the CLC would award Yoani Sanchez the "Heroes of Freedom" prize for "her valor, her defense for the civil liberties of the Cuban people, and for the violent attacks she fell victim to, she deserves [the prize], but mostly for knowing how to get the attention of the world with her novel cybernetic struggle." The day of the award ceremony would fall on November 21st, the same day CLC would hold their annual fundraising dinner originally titled "A Cuban Evening with Albita" (Note that this post of the event from Nov. 11th had no mention yet of the award to Yoani, possibly meaning that CLC had not yet reached a consensus to award her).

On November 19th, CLC President Diego Suarez explained to Diario Las Americas (Ena Curnow) that they contacted Yoani "close to about 15 days" ago regarding giving her the prize. That estimate falls very close to the day Yoani was violently assaulted. According to Suarez, Yoani responded by saying it would be "a great honor."

On November 21st, the CLC fundraiser and award ceremony was attended by Diego Suarez, Ninoska Perez-Castellon, Luis Zuniga, Manuel Alzugaray, the new Mayor of the City of Miami, Tomas Regalado, and (of course) Reps. Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart.

All names above support U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba.

Yoani Sanchez does not support U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba.

But the CLC does not care.

[Photo by Sergio Alsina. (Left to right) Ninoska Perez-Castellon, Alberto Hernandez, Diego Suarez]

Friday, November 20, 2009

Ileana Still Needs to Apologize

So I was watching online yesterday's hearing at the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The Committee met to hear witnesses and discuss (and sometimes debate) current U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba, which currently prohibits American tourism. I haven't yet finished watching the entire three hour meeting, but had to comment on something I saw that bothered me.

When I have more time I will try to summarize and comment on the other speeches given yesterday. But, if you haven't heard or read by now, yesterday's hearing had one moment that became "highly-charged" as they say [video excerpt above]. This happened when Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen [FL-18] directed some controversial comments towards one of the invited witnesses, retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey. It should be noted that Gen. McCaffrey is a highly decorated 32-year U.S. Army veteran (three times wounded in action) who also served as "Drug Czar" during the Clinton administration. But, this didn't stop Rep. Ros-Lehtinen from mocking his title, repeatedly interrupting him, and completely misquoting him.

Rep. Ros-Lehtinen began by indicating that she would be quoting from Gen. McCaffrey's statements from an April hearing at the House Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs. After first deriding with a sarcastic "woo" cheer Gen. McCaffrey's mention that he met Mr. Castro, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen posed several questions aimed to cast doubt on Gen. McCaffrey's professional assessment that Cuba does not pose a serious threat to U.S. national security. At the April hearing, Gen. McCaffery argued strongly that Cuba and the U.S. should be cooperating in matters to combat drug and human trafficking, and terrorist threats. He even mentioned peacebuilding efforts that would consider the training of Cuban officers in order to carry out these cooperative efforts.

But, of course, cooperation with the Cuban government in any fashion (even to protect U.S. interests) is considered heresy to militants like Rep. Ros-Lehtinen. Therefore, yesterday Rep. Ros-Lehtinen had all intentions to ridicule Gen. McCaffrey and his comments from April. But, in the end, just makes a total fool of herself. Lets review.


Rep. Ros-Lehtinen misquotes Gen. McCaffrey from the April hearing where he asserts that the Cuban government is not directly involved in drug-trafficking and drugs that wash up on the shores of the island. She reads a quote that goes:

"... but it was clear to me that they [drugs] were not on a government basis, but part of an international conspiracy to threaten the regime and to threaten their sense of communist morality."

This is what Gen. McCaffrey REALLY said:

"... but it was clear to me that they were not on a governmental basis and part of an international conspiracy. It would threaten the regime, and it'd threaten their sense of communist morality."

[Extended audio excerpt from April, MP3]

Rep. Ros-Lehtinen's inaccurate quote makes Gen. McCaffrey appear to make a defensive argument. But instead he is making an assessment based on his professional review of the intelligence (mentioned in the April hearing), followed by a description based on his several meetings with Cuban officials.


Aside from the several attempts to disparage Gen. McCaffrey's professional expertise, and the reported disrespect by addressing him as "sir" instead of "general," Rep. Ros-Lehtinen displayed a complete lack of respect towards an invited committee witness with repeated interruptions, and making mockery of his title. Below is the heated exchange (Gen. McCaffrey in italics):

- I'm offended by your deliberate marginalization of my viewpoints. And let me go on to say that it is clear in my mind...

- Just quoting you sir.

- It is clear ...

- Are those not quotes sir? Are those quotes, yes or no?

- I'm offended by your language.

- You're offended by your quotes?

- Let me go on to continue to respond by telling you...

- What part of the quotes offend you? Your quotes offend me.

- Are you going to let me answer or you gonna...

- I have my five minutes. I can do with my five minutes what I wish "general."

The lack of respect is shocking. There is no question that Gen. McCaffrey as an invited witness still deserves an apology from Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Her show of contempt yesterday was a poor example of how an elected U.S. Representative should act, and she should take immediate steps to apologize for her behavior, if she hasn't already.

(Speaking of apologies, has she ever apologized to Dollan Cannell, the filmmaker who caught her saying something on camera that she later denied and accused Cannell of manipulating?)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"Have You No Conscience?"

That's Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart [FL-21] from last Monday. It seems that our favorite Congressman from Miami took the time on the House floor to remind everyone of Cuba's oppressed Cuban dissident movement, and comparing their repression to Jewish persecution, and shaming members of the American press for not doing enough to shed light on this genocide.

Rep. Diaz-Balart centered his speech on the health of political dissident Martha Beatriz Roque, who last week was described as gravely ill due to a hunger strike. But, Rep. Diaz-Balart on Monday declared that Roque was "close to death." Yesterday, Roque revealed herself to reporters in Havana who instead described her as "unsteady but far from death."

Huh? This is what happened...

Late last week, Miami Herald reporter Juan O. Tamayo reported about the deteriorating health of Martha Beatriz Roque during a hunger strike which began around Tuesday. (Local Spanish-language news stations America Teve and Telemundo51 also reported on the health of Roque.) The reports described Roque's condition jumping from extremely grave to stable based on examinations by an ambulance crew and one doctor. Tamayo's only source seemed to be political dissident Vladimiro Roca, who was also protesting alongside Roque. Then, on Sunday Roca reported [audio by Radio Marti] on Roque's latest diagnosis by one doctor. The diagnosis included a "sudden case of decompensation" (heart dysfunction by overload), "tachycardia" (abnormal rapid beating of the heart), paleness, sweating, and loss of consciousness.

By Monday morning, Marc Masferrer from the Uncommon Sense blog was convinced that "Cuban Dissident Martha Beatriz Roque is Dying." Masferrer wrote to his readers that this was "not a dramatic exaggeration" but "an accurate assessment of facts on the ground." By Monday evening on the House floor, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart was also convinced that this was the case. (Rep. Diaz-Balart also clearly exaggerated the number of dissidents on a hunger strike with Roque as "dozens" when all reports indicate less than ten) Therefore, he wondered why there was no media coverage about the dying Roque and asked:

"Members of the press, have you no conscience? Do not continue to treat the suffering, oppressed people of Cuba, and their heroes, as non-persons. Please do your duty."

I agree, the press must do its duty. Yesterday, after appearing before reporters Martha Beatriz Roque refused to answer specific questions about her health. Reporters must not allow the rumors of her health go unaccounted for. Did she, Vladimiro Roca, or any doctor exaggerate her condition for increased media coverage? Did their hunger strike end because of Rep. Diaz-Balart's inaccurate public statements?

Cuba's dissidents cannot allow their credibility to be tainted. Their actions must be transparent and without doubt about their goals advocating human rights. Neither should their actions be concerned with politicians who exploit their suffering for selfish gain.

... And Still the Same U.S. Policy [Updated]

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has just released an new 123-page report on Cuba focused on its systematic (and often violent) repression of dissent inside the island. In sum, the report calls for a multilateral policy towards Cuba, rejecting the U.S. embargo, and placing maximum pressure on the Cuban government for the release of political prisoners and a change to its repressive laws.

This new report is based on "more than 60 in-depth interviews [from June and July 2009] with human rights defenders, journalists, former political prisoners, family members of current political prisoners, members of the clergy, trade unionists, and other Cuban citizens." It is an impressive report [summary and full report], here's a sample:

"Raúl Castro’s government has relied in particular on a provision of the Cuban Criminal Code that allows the state to imprison individuals before they have committed a crime, on the suspicion that they might commit an offense in the future. This “dangerousness” provision is overtly political, defining as “dangerous” any behavior that contradicts socialist norms. The most Orwellian of Cuba’s laws, it captures the essence of the Cuban government’s repressive mindset, which views anyone who acts out of step with the government as a potential threat and thus worthy of punishment."

"Imprisonment is only one of the many tactics the Cuban government uses to repress fundamental freedoms. Dissidents who try to express their views are often beaten, arbitrarily arrested, and subjected to public acts of repudiation. The government monitors, intimidates, and threatens those it perceives as its enemies. It isolates them from their friends and neighbors and discriminates against their families."

I also noticed that some bloggers have already mentioned some points like the above, but have not yet gotten to the other important part of the report: the recommendations.

It should be first noted that a multilateral policy towards Cuba has been dismissed for years by hard-liners and militants who instead desire an overthrow of the Cuban government through unilateral pressure (or intervention) from the U.S. government. So, some are going to ignore or reject the recommendations by HRW.

According to HRW: "The embargo imposes indiscriminate hardship on the Cuban population as a whole, and has done nothing to improve the situation of human rights in Cuba. Rather than isolating Cuba, the policy has isolated the United States, enabling the Castro government to garner sympathy abroad while simultaneously alienating Washington’s potential allies."

Therefore: "To remedy this continuing failure, the US must end its failed embargo policy. It should shift the goal of its Cuba strategy away from regime change and toward promoting human rights. In particular, it should replace its sweeping bans on travel and trade with Cuba with more effective forms of pressure."

HRW recommends a multilateral policy that includes 1) a firm committment from "[the European Union], Canada and Latin American allies" to demand the "immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners" inside Cuba; 2) the commitment must include an agreement on the definition of "political prisoner"; 3) provide a six-month deadline that includes punitive measures (such as targeted sanctions) if the Cuban government does not comply; and 4) once this committment is secured, the U.S. must end its embargo towards Cuba

If the Cuban government does not release its political prisoners, the multilateral coalition must impose its targeted sanctions policy. If all political prisoners are released then the coalition should continue with a strategy to pressure Cuba to change its repressive laws on dissent.

The recommendations are bold and its application a moral imperative. I see no reason to ignore or dismiss the recommendations, given the facts of the report.

--- [Update] ---

The Cuban Interest Section in Washington D.C. has already responded to the HRW report saying:

"HRW is an organization that analyzes this issue from a discriminatory, selective and above all politicized perspective. Its evaluation of human rights in Cuba is illegitimate and illegal."

"The presentation of this report in a news conference precisely today has no other intention than to divert the public's attention from the hearing by the international relations committee of Congress on the elimination of restrictions on Americans' travel to Cuba. That audience will be tomorrow. No doubt, a strange coincidence!"

It should be reiterated that HRW, along with Amnesty International and other human rights organizations, has called for the end of the U.S. embargo repeatedly and consistently, including U.S. restrictions on travel to Cuba.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Mark Your Calendars!

What better way to take a break from blogging about Cuba than to mark one's calendar with a host of activities about books on Cuba.

The Miami Book Fair International is coming soon next month, with its wonderful street fair just two weeks away. There are several book presentations concerning Cuba (as usual) that look interesting:

- Kenneth Treister will present his new photography book Havana Forever on Nov. 14 (more info), and, in case you miss him, he will also appear at Books and Books in Coral Gables on Nov. 28 (more info).

- Ann Louise Bardach will present her new book Without Fidel on Nov. 15 (more info), as well as Lars Schoultz the same day (more info) with his new (and remarkable) book That Infernal Little Cuban Republic.

[You can view previous book presentations by Bardach here, and Schoultz here. Also, Schoultz recently appeared on C-Span here.]

Spanish-speaking readers will also have some interesting presentations to attend:

- Nov. 14 (more info) a roundtable discussion on "Democracy in Latin America" will present author Alvaro Vargas Llosa (who recently changed his mind about the U.S. embargo towards Cuba) among others, and moderated by local television personality Maria Elvira Salazar. No doubt that Cuba will be among the topics.

- And, Juanita Castro, along with co-author Maria Antonieta Collins will present their new book My Brothers, Fidel and Raul on Nov. 15 (more info).

After the book fair, one can also attend a book presentation by Cuban historian and political analyst Julia Sweig for her new book Cuba: What Everyone Needs to Know on Nov. 18 at Books and Books in Coral Gables (more info). Here's a book review by the L.A. Times.

And, I cannot end this post without mentioning the newest book by the prolific Cuban historian Louis A. Perez Jr., Cuba in the American Imagination. To my knowledge, he is not making any presentations, but make sure to pick up this book at your local bookstore or library. Here's an excellent summary of the book.

See you in a month or so.

[Photo by David Gallo]

A Man of Secrets

Since the last post had to do with early CIA activities against the Cuban government, I though I'd add a few things about former CIA Director Richard Helms, the man who became the CIA official in charge of Cuban operations in 1962.

The video excerpt above shows Helms, at the Church Committee in 1975, publicly admitting CIA operations against the Cuban government. He told the committee that the activity "was a government-wide operation supported by the Defense Department, supported by the National Security Council, supported by almost everybody in high position in the government."

Helms mentions various attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro, as well as "task forces striking at Cuba constantly," targeting power plants and sugar mills.

Today we would call that terrorism.

In 1962, Richard Helms was assigned to lead Mongoose, the CIA operation against Cuba. Assessing those activities, Don Bohning quotes from Helms' memoirs:

"Despite our maximum effort we had not inspired any resistance activity worth the name in Cuba; the, in my opinion, ill-advised sabotage operations were but pinpricks."

Nevertheless, Helms described Mongoose as "the largest peacetime secret intelligence operation in history." Juanita Castro, sister of Fidel Castro, formed part of this intelligence community.

Juanita's World

In this photo (courtesy of Libre magazine) Salvador Lew holds up a picture of a young Juanita Castro, sister of Cuban leaders Fidel and Raul Castro. I'm sure you've heard the news by now: two years after the Cuban Revolution of 1959, Juanita Castro worked with the CIA helping opponents of the Revolution. Juanita soon went into exile in 1964 after her brother Raul revealed that the Cuban government already knew about her secret activities.

Once exiled in Miami, Juanita Castro and Salvador Lew*, began a propaganda campaign against the Castro government. According to historian Don Bohning, the campaign tour was "secretly arranged by JMWAVE," the CIA headquarters in Miami. Juanita was mostly driven by a sense of betrayal against her brother Fidel Castro:

"He betrayed the thousands of us who suffered and fought for the revolution that he had offered, one that was generous and just and would bring peace and democracy to Cuba, and which, as he himself had promised, would be as 'Cuban as palm trees.'"

Before her departure to Miami Juanita wrote "various letters" to Salvador Lew asking him to head her public relations once she arrived. According to Ann Louise Bardach, Lew was a fellow classmate and student activist with Fidel Castro before the Revolution. Lew also became disillusioned with Fidel Castro and was exiled in 1961. Both Lew and Juanita met for the first time in 1964 when Juanita arrived in Miami.

According to Lew, both he and Juanita traveled to many cities and universities in the U.S. where Juanita would give speeches (in Spanish) against the Cuban government. Lew recalls how Juanita "amazed audiences" with her "extraordinary" oratory. Lew and Juanita even made it to Capitol Hill.


June 11, 1965, Juanita Castro and Salvador Lew appeared before the controversial House Committee on Un-American Activities. In her submitted statement to the sub-committee, Juanita emphasized the dangers of communism:

"Communism is, and will always be, aggressive by its very nature. So are those who act as its tools... For this reason we affirm that no one can be a revolutionary, a democrat, a liberal, a pacifist, and a believer in progress if one is not an anti-Communist also. Communism is the exact opposite of a progressive democracy. By the same token, one cannot be good if one is not against evil and those who represent evil."


"I want to make a humanitarian appeal to save my people and the other endangered nations. Communist imperialism and its instrument in the Americas, Fidel Castro, are planning to take over this entire hemisphere. This is no secret."

During this period, with the help of the CIA, Juanita Castro was given a radio program that aired on shortwave inside Cuba and founded the Marta Abreu Foundation. After Juanita ended her relationship with the CIA, the agency cut all funding to both activities. According to her revelations for Univision, Juanita gave whatever money was left from the Marta Abreu Foundation to Alpha 66, the militant Cuban exile organization that was heading terrorist operations against Cuba. After the death of Vicente Mendez in 1970, one of Alpha 66's most admired leaders, Juanita Castro says she stopped supporting such operations.


But, Juanita's militancy was more nuanced than others in Miami. Where most wished death upon her brother Fidel Castro as the only solution, Juanita only wanted an overthrow.

This nuanced position became apparent in 2006 when the news of Fidel Castro's surgery made headlines. Amongst the celebration in Miami at the possibility of Fidel Castro's death, Juanita stressed that "[t]his is a spectacle, all this happiness." She seemed to disapprove of how people took joy at the suffering of her brother. "The ties of blood are strong," she told the Herald. More specifically:

"To me, Fidel has always been two distinct persons. On one hand, the oldest brother that I love, and suffer knowing that he is sick and, on the other hand, the political Castro with whom I want nothing to do with and would be happy if he hadn't assumed power."

Juanita got a lot of negative criticism for these comments, especially from Radio Mambi. But, Juanita didn't care. She told the Herald: "I never listen to the radio. There is so much hatred in this community. And they will say that all Castro's are the same... And that is a lie."


Because of her more nuanced opposition against the Cuban government Juanita was never accepted by the larger Cuban exile community. Furthermore, Juanita sees her brother, Raul Castro, more favorably than Fidel and believes that Raul can bring about democratic changes in Cuba. This is a position that is also viewed poorly by hard-line Cuban exiles, and generally ignored by the local media.

The story of Juanita Castro and the CIA shows how drastically Miami and the U.S. government have changed in its opposition to the Cuban government. Ironically, the militancy that Juanita once supported, is now her most vocal critic. It's been an interesting half-century of hostilities, but more changes are still required from both governments if we are all to finally live in peace. One should wonder though, how many more secrets are still out there to reveal.

*[Salvador Lew, was former general manager of WRHC-Cadena Azul, founded in 1973 and one of Miami's most anti-communist Spanish-language radio stations. In 1984, the radio station told listeners to boycott Burdines for selling sports clothing by Jane Fonda. Lew at the time called Fonda a "leftist communist." Burdines conceded after receiving several calls from angry customers, including bomb threats.

Salvador Lew was also appointed director of Radio and TV Marti in 2001 (he beat out Radio Mambi's Ninoska Perez-Castellon), until he resigned in 2003 after tensions with employees and a critical U.S. government report. In 2008, he described working at Radio Marti like working in a "branch of hell here on earth."

In a 2008 radio interview, Lew stated: "We have to do away with all the labels. All Cubans are equal. We have all made errors and we all have to fight to free Cuba and so that freedom arrives without blood, without hate and to rebuild the country."]

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Go Get 'em Mel!

Mel Martinez is a very interesting person. And things just keep getting more interesting with this man.

Last August, rumors of his early resignation were finally confirmed, and by early September the first Cuban-American to serve the U.S. Senate was saying farewell more than a year before the official end of his term. Martinez had stressed the care of his family being the reason for his early departure, but Radio Mambi hosts expressed their disappointment with the decision nonetheless. The people elected him to serve his term, and he let them down they would say. "I'm sorry if I disappointed," he told readers of El Sentinel.

But, just two weeks after his Senate farewell speech, he had found another job. A job where he could fulfill one of his lifelong passions:

"Even though I will no longer hold public office, my passion to work and devote myself to seeing a day when the people of Cuba can live in freedom will continue."

Martinez now works for DLA Piper, one of Washington's major lobbying firms. And, also one of the biggest at hiring former government employees.

But, most importantly, Martinez joins DLA Piper partner Ignacio Sanchez, a strong supporter of economic sanctions towards Cuba since the 90s, and one of the authors of the controversial Title III of the Helms-Burton Act. Sanchez has also been a long-time active member of hard-line Cuban exile organizations, such as the Bridge of Young Professional Cubans (whose goal was to "contribute to the overthrow of the Fidel Castro government and the reconstruction of Cuba"[1]), the Cuban American National Foundation and the Cuban Liberty Council (CLC).

Some may recall the name Ignacio Sanchez when in 2007 he was pressured to resign from the CLC due to revelations from Miami Herald columnist Ana Menendez. It was revealed that Sanchez provided legal representation to a foreign company with links to the Cuban government (the ultimate taboo for exile hard-liners and militants).

But, since the 1990s Ignacio Sanchez has been providing his legal expertise to several foreign companies that want to know more about the extraterritorial obstacles of the U.S. embargo (which he coincidentally helped design). What first began as providing legal advise at the law firm Kelley Drye & Warren, Sanchez now works with the mega-law firm DLA Piper and also lobbies for some of the largest global companies that stand to win or lose big once U.S. policy toward Cuba changes.

For example, Sanchez lobbies for the General Cigar Company, "the largest manufacturer and marketer of premium, imported, hand-made or hand-rolled cigars" in the U.S. and the company in a trademark dispute with the Cuban government over the Cohiba brand. Sanchez also lobbies for Diageo PLC, the "largest multinational beer, wine and spirit company in the world" that recently lost a bid to buy the makers of Absolut vodka. Diageo lost to Pernod Ricard, the French spirits consortium that has a joint partnership with the Cuban government and in a trademark dispute with Bacardi USA over the Havana Club brand.

So, Mel Martinez and Ignacio Sanchez will make a great team. Both in fact supported the now-defunct Cuban family travel restrictions back in 2004. At the time, Sanchez described the restrictions as necessary to "achieve freedom and liberty." And, Mel Martinez, then running for the Senate seat, was reported to have "helped craft"[2] the travel measures. But, when Pres. Obama took steps to repeal the travel restrictions earlier this year Martinez had a change of attitude and replied warmly with "some suggestions" [PDF], and even said that the President was "approaching it the right way."

(These remarks made Martinez a target on Radio Mambi, with one regular guest calling them "infantile and among the stupidest." [@3:37])

Anway, despite the fact that DLA Piper has a whole history of problems already (related to former House Majority Leader and DLA Piper member Dick Armey, and controversy over lobbying for a government that was violating human rights in Africa), I wish the best for Mel Martinez.

Even though his wisdom in the past has not been the best.

[Related articles]
- "A Deal Martinez Couldn't Resist" by Daniel Ruth
- "Martinez, His New Boss Aren't Strangers" by William March

[1] January 17, 1993. El Nuevo Herald. "Jovenes tienden puente de ideas entre Cuba y Miami" by Ana Santiago.
[2] October 19, 2004. The Miami Herald. "Castor, Martinez get testy on issues in debate" by Beth Reinhard and Marc Caputo.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mercenaries for Hire

So what have our local Cuban exile militants F-4 Commandos been up too lately? Well, according to the local Spanish news magazine Libre, commando leader Rodolfo Frometa was in Honduras this past August distributing important information to the country's security forces.

The article, written by Frometa himself, reports that he was on a mission, called "Mission Liberty," providing proof to the Honduran security forces of "communist infiltration paid by [Hugo] Chavez, and operated by Nicaraguans, Salvadorans, Ecuadorians, and Cubans who operate in Honduran streets to destabilize the next elections in that country."

The article also provides two photos of Frometa talking to Honduran security officials. One of the officials (photo above) shows Jose Danilo Orellana, the National Police Chief (also described as the "chief of the peace and democracy program for the National Police").

What is interesting is that Frometa states "that [the F-4 Commandos] are prepared to participate militarily in defense of the Honduran people if it is requested in case of any foreign invasion."

That's right. Libre magazine is helping to promote a local mercenary force.

It should be noted that a UN Working Group recently "voiced concern... over the influx of foreign mercenaries in Honduras since the Central American nation’s President was deposed in a military coup... the Working Group said that other sources report an armed group of 120 mercenaries originating from several countries in the region was formed to support the coup in Honduras."

It looks like the F-4 Commandos are looking for a piece of the pie in Honduras.

Last July, Frometa advised loyal readers of Libre that the F-4 Commandos have "changed some tactics... to continue working without calling too much the attention of traitors who are waiting for a single error to destroy our organization."

You can rest assured that whatever tactical changes a militant group makes, they will always be a militant group, whose errors will be due to its very nature.

[Photo by F-4 Commandos, published by Libre magazine.]

Thursday, October 8, 2009

"Now They Call it Terrorism" [Updated]

Newly declassified CIA documents concerning alleged terrorist Luis Posada Carriles has provoked some interesting reactions.

Blogging for the Miami New Times, Tim Elfrink is finally relieved to say that "[Jorge] Mas Canosa [the late Cuban exile leader] believed in terrorism." Elfrink seems relieved for two reasons: 1) the newly declassified documents prove Mas Canosa funded terrorist operations during the mid-60s; and 2) therefore, Elfrink can't be sued for making such a statement.

But, are the new CIA documents really proof that Mas Canosa "believed in terrorism"? You might have to dig a bit deeper to make such a statement.

These CIA documents only confirm FBI documents declassified in 2005 revealing that Jorge Mas Canosa, working for an organization called RECE (Representacion Cubana en el Exilio/Cuban Representation in Exile), paid Luis Posada Carriles $5000 on June 25, 1965, to complete a "demolition operation in Mexico" involving "100 pounds of C-4 explosives." The new CIA documents shockingly reveal that Luis Posada Carriles was the actual informant that the FBI documents gives credit to. But, the documents, which solely rely on Posada's word, don't say that Posada carried out the operation.

Yet, if we consider other facts that have been revealed over the years, we get a better picture of the Posada/Mas Canosa relationship.

In the early 60s, Posada and Mas Canosa met at Fort Benning, Georgia. Stationed there, Posada "received instruction in demolition, propaganda and intelligence," while Mas Canosa "graduated as a Second Army Lieutenant." The FBI and CIA documents, based on Posada's own admissions, reveal the early partnership of both men in organizing terrorist operations aimed at Cuba.

In interviews published by the New York Times in 1998, Luis Posada Carriles revealed that the CIA trained him along with other Cuban exiles: "The C.I.A. taught us everything... [t]hey taught us explosives, how to kill, bomb, trained us in acts of sabotage. When the Cubans were working for the C.I.A. they were called patriots... Now they call it terrorism."

Concerning Jorge Mas Canosa, Posada also admitted that "leaders of the [Cuban American National Foundation (CANF)] discreetly financed his [bombing] operations. [Jorge Mas Canosa] personally supervised the flow of money and logistical support."

"Jorge controlled everything... Whenever I needed money, he said to give me $5,000, give me $10,000, give me $15,000, and they sent it to me."

Posada estimated that Mas Canosa had over the years provided him a total of $200,000.

Other links between Jorge Mas Canosa and terrorism were alleged by a former CANF board member in 2006. According to Jose Antonio Llama, Mas Canosa helped organize a "paramilitary group" within CANF beginning in 1992 to overthrow Fidel Castro. Francisco J. Hernandez, CANF's current President, was also alleged to have been involved.

Antonio Llama was arrested, among others, in 1997 on charges of conspiracy to assassinate Fidel Castro. Among the weapons found in that criminal investigation were two .50 caliber Barrett assault rifles. One of the rifles was registered to Francisco J. Hernandez.

The AP (Laura Wides-Munoz) recently interviewed Francisco J. Hernandez to respond to these recently declassified CIA documents implicating Jorge Mas Canosa. He said:

"The fact of the matter is that Jorge was never a man who believed in terrorism... Yes, in those years, he believed in taking the war of liberation to Cuba, but not to kill innocent people."

But, Mas Canosa, through RECE in the 60s, did target property, and such attacks are considered acts of terrorism. Also, his relationship with the notorious Luis Posada Carriles, based on Posada's own statements throughout the years, seems to describe a man who couldn't stay away from what they now call terrorism.

--- [Update] ---

The Cuban Colada blog has more about Luis Posada Carriles' activities as an informant for the CIA.

[Photo by Steve Satterwhite/Miami New Times]

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

R.I.P. Mercedes Sosa

Some people in Miami believed that the Peace without Borders concert failed because the very next day Cubans weren't protesting in the streets as a result. That was an absurd argument. Musicians only have the power to present different views and feelings about life, and therefore can only create gradual changes within a larger culture.

The famous Argentinian folk singer Mercedes Sosa [photo above] died this past Sunday, and while she alone was an influential figure, she was only one part of a larger movement in Latin America: music for peace. As a result, this larger movement was able to generate real social and political change which we see today throughout the Latin region. Sosa's life is being remembered by governments throughout Central and South America, even in Europe.

In my youth I recall my parents listening to Mercedes Sosa. My parents are not interested in politics, but they listened because it was good music and had a good (religious) message. It was only a few years ago that I myself gained a small interest in Sosa, and I found her voice and lyrics to be very powerful too.

Sosa was a very religious person whose concern was for the poor and helpless, and gave her voice to them and the world. May she rest in peace.

Below is one of her best known songs (written by Leon Gieco) , and one of my favorites: "Solo le Pido a Dios (I Only Ask of God)."

This song was also covered in English by the famous Danish band Outlandish, and with a music video filmed in Cuba.

I only ask of god
not to make me indifferent to the future.
Helpless are the ones who are forced to leave
and live in a foreign land

[Photo by AP/file]

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Credibility You Say?

Not much time to post nowadays. But, here goes. Also, thanks to all those who share their comments. I will try to respond to all, and attempt to interact more with readers since I will be posting less.

Now where was I? Oh, yes. So, there was a new poll taken concerning last month's Peace without Borders concert in Cuba [PDF]. According to the new numbers, the majority of Cuban-Americans interviewed (53%) had a favorable opinion of the concert (a stark change from a previous poll showing a majority opposed to the planned concert [PDF]). I had commented elsewhere that perhaps Cubans in Miami had changed their minds about the concert after it aired live on several local channels in Miami. Indications in the local media proved accurate.

What I found most interesting in the new poll (conducted by the Cuba Study Group and Bendixen and Associates), aside from the significant change in general opinion about the concert, was the data from the 50 and over category.

According to the new poll, Cuban-Americans over 49 years old were the largest group who watched the concert, and also the group that most changed their minds about the concert (about 10% more than younger Cubans). And, the most popular response given for the favorable views about the concert was: it "uplifted Cuban people" (51%).

So how did hard-liners in the media respond? As usual, they totally dismissed the poll. Aside from the fact that Radio Mambi generally ignores all facts that conflict with their propaganda goals, they sometimes have some reasons behind their behavior.

1) Radio Mambi hosts have concluded that the Peace without Borders concert was a secretly planned effort by the Obama administration to normalize relations with Cuba. Therefore, it should be viewed as a failed attempt at doing so, and condemned for trying. The new poll is merely another part of the conspiracy to normalize relations.

2) The new poll was conducted by Bendixen and Associates, a polling firm that has no credibility according to the hosts of Radio Mambi. Earlier this week, host Ninoska Perez-Castellon [photo above] cited two reasons: Bendixen polling was inaccurate in one Nicaraguan election, and inaccurate in the 2004 U.S. Presidential election.

She's correct in one example, but lying in the other.

According to Perez-Castellon, Bendixen polling totally missed the mark in 1990 (that's right, almost 20 years ago!) when it predicted an election victory for Daniel Ortega over Violeta Chamorro by 53% to 35%. Chamorro instead won with 55%.

What Perez-Castellon doesn't say is that Bendixen polling, by 1990, had several accurate predictions throughout Latin America. Also, Bendixen was not alone in its flawed data concerning Nicaragua, several other surveys had Ortega as the winner over Chamorro, with only a few polls reporting accurately.* Here's an explanation of what really happened.

Next, Perez-Castellon says that Bendixen polling predicted that John Kerry would win over George W. Bush in the 2004 elections. That's a lie. A review of Florida newspaper articles (via Newsbank) during the 2004 campaign shows that Bendixen polling never predicted a Kerry win (nationally or in Florida), but instead consistently revealed important data about hispanic and Cuban voting [article "Cuban Americans Split on Kerry"]. While Bendixen and Associates worked diligently with Democrats, providing information about changing attitudes within hispanic and Cuban voters, it never predicted a victory for John Kerry.

The only one whose credibility is suspect is Radio Mambi's.

*[Feb. 27, 1990, The Miami Herald, "For Pollsters, Upset Carries a Bitter Sting" by Tom Fiedler.]

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"It's Time for Change"

After the Peace without Borders concert in Cuba, Olga Tañon was back in Miami the next day and made a television appearance on Maria Elvira Live!, MegaTVs popular Spanish-language political talk show program (Tañon also appeared on another MegaTV program).

The picture above shows an emotional Maria Elvira after handing Olga Tañon a bouquet of flowers and thanking her for Sunday's performance [video]. Maria Elvira is immediately overwhelmed by emotions, crying and thanking Tañon "because you mentioned Miami, because you mentioned el exilio." She also gave thanks on behalf of her mother, a Cuban exile.

For weeks Maria Elvira Live! has produced an endless amount of programming analyzing the Peace without Borders concert. It was typical to see on her show some of the most hard-line figures in Miami opposed to the concert, but at some point Maria Elvira herself began seeing beyond the rhetoric, and saw hope. Hope that Cubans (exiled or not) would enjoy a wonderful concert, and maybe decide that it was time for change.

Time will tell what change brings.

Another very interesting thing also happened last night. Maria Elvira again interviewed Miguel Saavedra, leader of Vigilia Mambisa who organized a protest in Miami on Sunday, where they destroyed music CDs by participants of the Peace without Borders concert.

Saavedra was on the defensive [video]. He mentioned that it was not time for Cuban exiles to change, that they need to stay militant, and it is the others ("the leftists") that need to change. Saavedra even believed that the Peace without Borders was nothing special because hundreds of thousands of Cubans would have gone to any other concert held in Cuba. According to Saavedra, Cubans have "nothing else to do" and would pack a concert festival because "its the new thing."

Saavedra is revealing his great ignorance here. There was another large music concert not long ago in Cuba in 2005 by the rock band Audioslave. That concert was described as "historic" gathering about 50-60 thousand young Cubans, but if we go by Saavedra's logic, then that concert should have gathered a similar number of concert-goers as Sunday's concert because Cubans have "nothing else to do" and "its the new thing." I personally believe Saavedra revealed his utter contempt for the people of Cuba.

Anway, despite Saavedra being constantly on the defensive (taking many opportunities to describe Maria Elvira as a communist, or a friend of communists), near the end of the interview Saavedra actually proposes the idea of changing the tactics of Vigilia Mambisa! He says that instead of smashing CDs, they should maybe consider aerial banners. Maria Elvira loved the idea. And, I give her a lot of credit for trying to explain to Saavedra how his protests continue to give the Cuban exile community a very bad image in the media.

But, I'm sure Saavedra knows that he needs to change his tactics, especially becuase of recent pressures, such as last month's Bendixen/Cuba Study Group poll [PDF] showing 74% of Cuban-Americans disapproving of Vigilia Mambisa smashing CDs, disapproval (but not condemnation) from leaders within the Cuban exile community, and Sunday's counter-protest from young Cubans at the Versailles Restaurant.

Also, Saavedra most likely knows how poorly Miami has viewed his recent protests. Here's a good video (in Spanish) showing random interviews with Cubans in Miami (two male adults, two female adults, one young woman) all showing their satisfaction with Sunday's Peace concert, one saying that it "shut up" those who opposed the concert, and two saying that those who smashed CD's (Vigilia Mambisa) might be (to put it nicely) a few card short of a full deck.

Now, the big question is: can Maria Elvira get Armando Perez Roura to change?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Meanwhile in Miami...

No, that's not Val Prieto from the Babalu blog in the photo. Instead, Prieto thanked Juanes [screenshot] for organizing the Peace without Borders concert and this morning wrote:

"Gracias Juanes! You fucking communist son of a bitch."

Oh, those boys at Babalu!

I mean Prieto got all excited this morning that he forgot to copy the last paragraph of Yoani Sanchez' latest blog post. In that last paragraph she writes:

"If we see the performance of this September 20th as the dress rehearsal for a concert we’ll have one day, then we must congratulate those who participated. Even if there isn’t another, and the Plaza again takes on its solemnity and grayness, at least this Sunday afternoon we live something different. In a place where the division between us has been systematically sown, Juanes—to the setting of the sun—has shouted, 'For one Cuban family!'"

I'm sure he'll correct the error.

Well, if you want to see what the Cuban people thought about the concert, here are two good videos [1 and 2] I found on YouTube. Or, you can go to Babalu blog and view Humberto Fontova's latest post comparing the concert audience to a herd of animals.

You might have also read some reports about a protest in Little Havana yesterday. Yup, Vigilia Mambisa was at it again. But, this time they might have met their match. Carlos Miller has the scoop.

But, if you want to see some video, click here and here. Basically, what happened yesterday was that Vigilia Mambisa and its supporters died out (not literally) once their demonstration permit expired into the evening. Many anti-Juanes protesters soon left, leaving many pro-Juanes demonstrators at the Versailles Restaurant (which grew after the end of the television broadcast of the Peace concert). The crowd numbers were quite large, according to Miller and this local reporter for CBS4 news.

[Photo by Reuters]

Sunday, September 20, 2009


To all the artists who performed at the Peace without Borders concert in Cuba. Thank you for showing us the power of music and peace.

[View the final emotional minutes of the concert here.]

[Photo by Reuters: Miguel Bosé, Olga Tañon, and Juanes (the three main sponsors of the event) embrace in the final minutes of the Peace without Borders concert in Cuba.]

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Where to Watch the Concert

If you have DirectTV or Dish Network then you are in luck. The Peace without Borders concert will be broadcast live on both services on the HITN channel [check here for the channel].

The HITN website also looks like it will be streaming the concert, so you can check there tomorrow. The Yahoo! Musica website will definitely be streaming the concert. And, according to Carlos Miller, the NBC Miami website will also be streaming the concert live.

Several, news networks will be covering the event, including CNN. Locally, Telemundo 51 and Univision 23 are both in Cuba already covering the events. Also, AmericaTeVe, the Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald will be collaborating to bring special coverage on the concert.

You can listen to that special coverage on local radio at Caracol 1260AM.

Concert begins at 2pm ET.

[Photo (sign says "Concert of the Century") by Reuters]

Friday, September 18, 2009

Gorki has Arrived [Updated]

The controversial rocker from Cuba, Gorki Aguila, arrived last night in Miami. [Watch video here] And, today in the afternoon he presented himself to the public and local media; the first publicity stop in his two-week "Freedom Tour" promoting his latest CD. According to Telemundo 51 [video], he will be autographing CD's for fans tomorrow in the heart of Calle Ocho at the Cuba Ocho Art and Research Center.

The local Spanish media in Miami loves Gorki. Not necessarily because they like punk rock, but because they like his anti-Castro message. Gorki has recently appeared repeatedly on local Spanish news interviews (such as Telemundo 51), Spanish talk show interviews (like Maria Elvira Live), and (surprise, surprise) Radio Marti. In the case of the upcoming Peace without Borders concert in Cuba, Gorki has publicly stated that he supports the event, but believes that the artists, especially Juanes, should inform himself about the Cuban government (because Juanes is naive of course), and place blame on the Castro brothers for the lack of peace in Cuba.

This is music to the ears of the local Spanish media.

But, Gorki honestly despises the Castro brothers. And, its understandable because he's been incarcerated, I believe, three times in Cuba for his "deviant" behavior, and he attributes it all to the repressive machinery of the Cuban government.

Before his arrival to Miami, Gorki had been living and working in Mexico, since April or May, as a waiter in his sister's restaurant (he was shocked that the Cuban government gave him an exit visa). Both his older sister and mother live in Mexico now. He has a 13 year old daughter still in Cuba.

It is also being reported that Gorki's "Freedom Tour" is being sponsored by an organization called the "Global Cuba Solidarity Movement." Looking at their website, this organization seems to have been dormant for about a year since the last Cuba Solidarity Day (which got plenty of attention from the Bush Administration). Looking at the links they provide on their "library" page, you'll get an indication to whom this organization is mostly directed towards (yes, the Babalu blog is there).

Speaking of the Babalu blog, when "founding editor" Val Prieto found out that Gorki was coming to Miami, he got all excited and posted the press release with this title: "Hey Juanes, F*CK YOU!" [screenshot]

Oh, those boys!

Anyway, another excited fan of Gorki's was at today's press conference: Telemundo 51 reporter Fausto Malave. Malave loves to give leading questions, especially when he knows what the answer is gonna be. (Last year, Malave asked former Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez in Miami what he thought should be done about Hugo Chavez. Perez replied exactly as he did four years before.) Today at the press conference, Malave (innocently, of course) asked Gorki [video]:

"What do you wish on the Castro brothers?"

Gorki immediately laughed at the question because he knew what Malave was doing. Gorki eventually responded saying: "It so awful to say, but if the freedom of a country depends on the death of a tyrant, then, of course, so be it welcomed." This reply by Gorki also made it on the airwaves of Radio Mambi.

Welcome to Miami Gorki. It's an entirely different propaganda game here.

--- [Update]---

Gorki made his local television debut last night on Mano Limpia with Oscar Haza [video]. The two other guests on with Gorki shared identical views with him concerning the Peace concert tomorrow in Cuba.

Also, this afternoon Gorki appeared before a large crowd of his fans in Little Havana. The Free Cuba Foundation has some video of the event on their YouTube channel.

Gorki was surprised by the large turnout, and looks like he signed and sold plenty of CDs [video]. There's even video of Gorki playing one of his songs dedicated to Raul Castro [video]. One line in the songs goes: "Raul you are a phony, there's no one that can tolerate you."

You can view lots of music videos of Gorki Aguila and his band, Porno for Ricardo, here.

Here's an excellent video by Generacion Asere:

[Photo by PedroPortal/El Nuevo Herald]

Monday, September 14, 2009

Listening to Juanes

The video above [link here] is a song by Columbian artist Juanes called "(It's Time to Change) the Hatred through Love." The video, which includes English subtitles, clearly expresses a message of unity through personal reflection and transformation, and the possibilites of world peace if everyone "changes" their mind.

Since the release of his 2007 album "Life... Is a Moment," Juanes has begun to write more songs about universal love and how these bonds can bring about world peace. It's a significant change from his earlier more popular messages of finding love, and losing love, which are a staple in the mainstream music industry.

There are also songs about raising our voices, and lifting ourselves up to improve our lives (like in the songs "I Don't Believe in Never" or "Life is a Moment"). There's a song called "A Flag of Hands" that calls for liberty, dignity, justice, and bringing peace by raising our voices through manifestations.

These are wonderful messages.

Then, why did Juanes get so many people in Miami upset over his concert in Cuba? The answer, to me, is simply because he would not be transmiting the message that has propagated in Miami for decades: the Cuban government is a source of evil, and the cause of great pain and suffering throughout the region.

Be it true or not, Juanes will have a different message to spread. And it definitely upset many Cuban exiles in Miami, not just because Juanes lives right here in South Florida, close to the exile experience, but because Cuban exiles would be losing a great propaganda opportunity.

Juanes is a huge, multi-Grammy award-winning artist, famous throughout Latin America and, therefore, an ideal source of political propaganda for those who would want to exploit it, such as Miami's Spanish-language media.

Those who live inside South Florida will notice that local Spanish-language stations like Univision 23, Telemundo 51, MegaTV, AmericaTeVe, and GenTV admire and rely greatly on Cuban artists who repeat the message condemning the Cuban government for so many ills, such as Willy Chirino, Gloria Estefan, Andy Garcia, or even lesser known artists like the members of Porno for Ricardo, or Los Aldeanos.

These stations, when it comes to Cuba, function very similar to a propaganda network, mainly propagating a single, non-pluralist, and close-minded message of the "evil" Cuban government. And, when a media celebrity deviates from the propaganda message, he or she becomes a target by the local media. Notice how the Spanish local media responded to the artist Paulito FG when he publicly stated his positive views of Fidel Castro earlier this year. He was basically pressured to change his opinion.

The same was attempted on Juanes when the local media found out his "peace" message for Cuba. In his first interview with Univision, Teresa Rodriguez (who has worked for Univision in South Florida since 1982!) made several attempts to get Juanes to show some regret over his decision to go to Cuba, and at one point started to lecture Juanes saying: "You recognize that Cuba is a country that is a great violator of human rights? You recognize that?"

The same kind of lecturing came from several other interviewers, always asking (as if telling) whether Juanes was informed about Cuba's countless human rights violations or its political prisoners or its support of the FARC rebels in Colombia. In that one interview with Teresa Rodriguez, Juanes responded perfectly: "Everyday its reported in the news." It's the main message that is reported in the local news.

So, it seems that some people don't want to listen to Juanes when he speaks about "peace" in Cuba. Which is certainly strange given the fact that his message is no different than a pure human rights message: that we are all "members of the human family" who share "inherent dignity." Those are the same concepts found in the Preamble from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Then, one should be left wondering if some Cuban exiles, who also are defenders of human rights, are aware of this fundamental concept that happens to be an important message in the music of Juanes.

Unfortunately, politics in Miami is dominated by political identites when it comes to Cuba (you are easily categorized as anti-communist or apologist/communist/socialist), and therefore it is difficult to view an event beyond this frame. Juanes wants to go beyond that narrow frame. He wants us first to see ourselves as part of the same undivided family. Like he told the crowd last year in his first "Peace without Borders" concert [video]:

"Here there are no political differences, no [political] parties, no racial differences, no [social] classes, no religions. Here we are only one."

Yes, it's a human rights message.


Next Sunday, Juanes, including several other artists, will be performing inside Cuba for his grand concert titled "Peace without Borders." (The Hispanic Information and Telecommunication Network [HITN] will broadcast the concert live, available across the nation on satellite through DirectTV and Dish Network.)