Next month's planned performance in Cuba by the Colombian artist "Juanes" has definitely stirred people up, mainly in Miami. I've been keeping a close eye on events so far and things are beginning to get ugly. I'll write more about my thoughts on the upcoming Juanes concert in Cuba, but right now I wanted to post on something related.
Yesterday, Miguel Saavedra [above] appeared on Maria Elvira Live! (video available here), a local Spanish-language television program that focuses on politics. Saavedra was essentially invited on the program to be questioned about his most recent protest against the upcoming Juanes concert. Saavedra is the leader of the local organization called Vigilia Mambisa, a group that regularly organizes protests and demonstrations in opposition to the Cuban government. I've written many times before on the activities by Vigilia Mambisa and readers can view those posts here.
Again, it seems that Vigilia Mambisa caught everyone's attention last Friday when they began to publicly destroy music CDs by Juanes, and then burn a black t-shirt (symbolic of one of Juanes' songs) in a protest near the Versailles Restaurant. A local Spanish-language station (America TeVe) broadcasted the protest live (video available here), in another attempt to give Vigilia Mambisa maximum exposure. In the television report, Saavedra says that Vigilia Mambisa is asking all Cuban artists to denounce Juanes because "the ones that do not make a statement (against Juanes), become accomplices to Juanes."
But, yesterday's interview with Saavedra on Maria Elvira Live! revealed that some Cuban exiles are not happy with the image of Friday's protest. Maria Elvira read a statement by Radio Mambi's Ninoska Perez-Castellon saying that the protest did "a bad turn to the exile community by transmitting an erroneous image" of them. Maria Elvira also defended this argument strongly against Saavedra suggesting that burning objects, such as music, was reminiscent of actions by Nazis and Communists. In response, Saavedra said that people at the protest had the right to destroy those objects because they were the rightful owners and therefore could do as they wish.
Well, this morning those differences really came face to face, when Saavedra called into Radio Mambi and defended the Vigilia Mambisa protest after one of the radio hosts (Enrique Encinosa) described the actions as "Communist," "Fascist" and "Nazi-like." These statements angered members of Vigilia Mambisa who later called into competing radio station "La Poderosa" (WWFE 670AM) defending Saavedra, and condemning Encinosa's comments. One other blog that reports on the activities of Vigilia Mambisa has already posted about this morning's confrontation.
But, what is odd about all this is the focus on Miguel Saavedra. Saavedra is an extremist due to the hard-line and intolerant values transmitted regularly throughout the exile community, namely by people like Maria Elvira, Ninoska Perez-Castellon and Radio Mambi's programming director Armando Perez-Roura. Why target Saavedra when it is Perez-Roura who repeatedly quotes Jose Marti saying:
"When freedom is not enjoyed [by all], Art's only excuse, and it's only right to exist, is to serve [freedom]. Everything into the fire, even Art, to feed the bonfire [of freedom]!"
Also, it's radio personalities like Encinosa (who defends acts of terrorism) and Perez-Castellon (who prefers acts of violence to overthrow the Cuban government) that preach intolerance almost daily.
In this case, Saavedra is made the scapegoat because if you blame Cuban exile leaders like Perez-Roura and Perez-Castellon for promoting extremism, then you pay a hefty price in Miami. Radio Mambi, for example, provides an important platform for a large network of local exile leaders, political leaders and business leaders. If you blame Saavedra, then what's the worst that can happen?
But, the oddest thing of all is that Miguel Saavedra is now criticized for giving exiles a bad image for publicly destroying CDs on Calle Ocho, BUT when he physically attacked another person on Calle Ocho two years ago, during another public protest, there was barely any criticism from Cuban exiles in the local Spanish media.
The propaganda objectives of the local Spanish-language media is another post for the near future.