Tuesday, December 27, 2011

"Cuba's Economic Revival"

So, will Cuba's economic reforms have the desired effect? And will it have any effect on US policies towards Cuba?

Inside Story Americas
discusses with guests: Peter Kornbluh, the director of the Cuba Documentation Project at the National Security Archive; Philip Brenner, a professor of US foreign policy at American University; and Philip Peters, the vice president of the Lexington Institute think tank.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Herman Cain on Radio Mambi

Armando Perez-Roura, programming director of Radio Mambi, has boasted in the past about the impressive list of Republicans that have appeared on the air with him. He's taken on former Presidential candidates Fred Thompson, Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain during their last campaigns. But, it seems this week Perez-Roura didn't have time for Herman Cain.

Armando Perez-Roura has made it clear that he chooses his guests very carefully (thus the absence of Democrats on Radio Mambi). Earlier this week, Perez-Roura discussed the Republican Presidential candidates with attorney Armando Lacasa and said he didn't care that Mitt Romney was not as "conservative" as Herman Cain, but Romney stood the best chance at winning the Presidency and that is all that mattered. Cain stood no chance according to Perez-Roura.

Cain arrived to South Florida this past Wednesday making several stops, including the traditional one at Versailles Restaurant in Little Havana (video). According to Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald, Cain didn't seem to have an outlined policy towards Cuba. His only policy remarks about Cuba were basically summed up as "freedom for Cuba now" and "put more pressure on Castro." Questions regarding current US-Cuba policy were ignored. As a result, the Miami Herald posted a video on YouTube revealing the hypocrisy of Cain's criticism against Pres. Obama's "foggy" foreign policy.

At Versailles Restaurant Cain was greeted by several supporters including Cuban exile hard-liners like Luis Conte Agüero and members of Vigilia Mambisa. According to a report by the Spanish news agency EFE, Miguel Saavedra, leader of Vigilia Mambisa, had a complaint about all the past Presidential candidates who have visited Versailles talking about Cuba:

"They have said more or less the same thing, but have done nothing later."

Meaning that no President so far has supported an actual military blockade or invasion of Cuba, like Armando Perez-Roura suggested to Presidential candidate John McCain in 2007. Nevertheless, in video taken by EFE of the gathering at Versailles, members of Vigilia Mambisa still showed their support for Herman Cain by holding up "Cain 2012" signs.

Interestingly, both the written and video report by EFE state that Cain proposed cooperation with Cuban exile leaders to formulate his U.S.-Cuba policy. This is not reported elsewhere, but it makes perfect sense given his apparent ignorance on the issue. (Back in 2007, Mitt Romney made similar remarks about his Cuba policy being influenced by Cuban exiles like Armando Perez-Roura.)

It seems that right before his Versailles stop Herman Cain was a few blocks west at the Radio Mambi radio station. There he was greeted by Armando Perez-Roura, but was not there to be interviewed by him. Instead, Lourdes D'Kendall (Bertot), host of "En Mi Opinion" (In My Opinion) which discusses more local politics, was assigned the duty. D'Kendall describes herself as a "conservative" and has spent past shows explaining how strongly she feels about being a "conservative." An interview with Cain seemed natural, but, strangely, they didn't talk about Cuba.

According to a report by Radio Mambi, posted on their Univision webpage (and based on the above EFE report), Cain and D'Kendall mostly talked about Cain's economic policy and his recent flub concerning a foreign policy question on Libya. (The Cuba policy comment in the Radio Mambi report is actually a quote from his Versailles speech.) The audio provided of the interview also does not include any comments about Cuba.

It's possible that Armando Perez-Roura didn't interview Herman Cain because his sidekick, Ninoska Perez-Castellon, has been on vacation this whole week. But, Perez-Roura could have also denied Cain an interview because he sees Cain as a poor Republican candidate, unqualified to be on his interview list like Thompson, Romney or McCain. Perez-Roura simply doesn't boast about Radio Mambi's impressive guests, he also prides himself at being influential. A king-maker perhaps. But, among the winners. Just like he sees freedom for Cuba right around the corner.

[Photo by Chuny Montaner/Univision, Herman Cain arrives at Radio Mambi with food from Versailles Restaurant and welcomed by programming director Armando Perez-Roura standing behind him.]

Friday, October 28, 2011

"The Murder of Laura Pollán" (Part 3)

Yesterday, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart appeared on Radio Mambi with Ninoska Perez-Castellon. He was there to talk about the recent passage of H.R. 674, but also made comments about the death of Laura Pollán. Rep. Diaz-Balart said that despite not having any evidence to prove that Pollán was murdered by the Cuban government, he still believed that she was. Lately, this has been the position of many in Miami. And, it makes for good propaganda*.

Just like Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, Nancy Perez Crespo, radio show host on WWFE 670AM, made the same claim. Earlier this week on her 2pm show, Perez Crespo (photo above, lower right) acknowledged that she had no hard facts to prove that Laura Pollán was murdered, and had to rely on certain assumptions. She began to explain to listeners how Cuba is a closed society with a government-controlled press which makes it hard to find reliable and credible sources. And, she added that sometimes exiles in Miami have to rely on anonymous sources for news in order to protect those sources from government retaliation. What a bad excuse.

First, in the case of Laura Pollán, all sources of information concerning her death and allegations of dissidents being injected with a toxic substances have come from named sources. There are no anonymous sources in this case. Second, the use of anonymous sources by exiles in Miami is rare. Over the past few years, independent news sources from Cuba have become part of our online world, where it is very hard to keep anonymity for long (just ask me).

Nevertheless, despite the lack of evidence and neglect for the burden of proof, many still insist that Laura Pollán was murdered. If you attended last Friday's act of remembrance for Laura Pollán in Coral Gables you heard repeated claims (video) that Pollán was "killed" (by Sylvia Iriondo, President of M.A.R por Cuba), or "strangled by a murderous hand" (by Cary Roque, ex-political prisoner), or chanting of "murderers." Also this week, Rep. David Rivera (FL-25) of South Florida spoke about the "ruthless murder by the Castro dictatorship" of Laura Pollán on the House floor (video). (He got the date wrong saying "last Friday," but facts seem trivial at this point.)

So why do hard-liners persist on this claim?

After decades insisting (and investing into the narrative) that the Cuban government is a ruthless and evil force on the planet, after blaming tragic acts solely on the Cuban government, after years and years of propaganda, what explanation is one likely to accept? But, more precisely, what explanation is acceptable in the exile community? One that is simple and identifies the evil perpetrator, or a more complicated one that describes the complexity of a half-century conflict? For someone who identifies oneself as an "exile," there seems to be little room for a complicated story about why one has struggled for so many years "in exile."

[Video of Sylvia Iriondo's speech at act of remembrance for Laura Pollán in Coral Gables.]
[*Definition and characteristics of propaganda are described by Jay Black.]

[Part One]
[Part Two]

Thursday, October 20, 2011

"The Murder of Laura Pollán" (Part 2)

Because Laura Pollán's death was reported late Friday evening (some believing deliberately so), it wasn't until Monday when Pollán's murder theory was presented. Roberto Rodriguez Tejera and Helen Aguirre Ferre probably heard Armando Perez Roura (Univision Radio colleague) on Radio Mambi Saturday make the bold and baseless claim that Laura Pollán was murdered, and surely they wanted to make the same claim. But, Rodriguez and Ferre are not militants like Perez Roura, and neither is their audience on WQBA 1140AM, so they knew that they had to present some kind of evidence.


"... a phenomenon wherein decision makers have been shown to actively seek out and assign more weight to evidence that confirms their hypothesis, and ignore or underweigh evidence that could disconfirm their hypothesis."

So, on Monday at 4pm on WQBA the show "Prohibido Callarse" (Silence is Prohibited) started by announcing a "special program" examining the death of Laura Pollán (You can listen to an excerpt here courtesy of Univision.com). Rodriguez and Ferre had three guests from Cuba on the phone: Carlos Rios Otero (independent journalist for Cubanet), Mercedes Fresneda Castillo (dissident), and Sara Martha Fonseca Quevedo (dissident). Rios Otero mainly spoke as a witness to dissident accounts of ailments following confrontations with Cuban officials during political demonstrations. Both female dissidents, who march alongside the Ladies in White, gave personal testimony to ailments they suffered after confrontations with Cuban officials. Both claimed that during a past confrontation they felt a prick or pierce on their body which they attributed to a toxic injection.

Both ladies also mentioned 2 other female dissidents who have described a variety of ailments following a pricking sensation during past demonstrations: Caridad Caballero Batista and Mayra Morejon Hernandez. Also, Rios Otero reported that dissident Rita Maria Montes de Oca was currently hospitalized due to ailments suffered following a possible toxic injection.

After these testimonies, without any kind of scrutiny or interrogation of them, Roberto Rodriguez Tejera claims "proof" of toxic injections against dissidents by Cuban officials, and therefore "everything seems to indicate" that Laura Pollán was also the victim of a toxic injection before her sudden death.


Unfortunately, the whole show was an example of journalistic laziness, manipulation, and lack of ethics. Rodriguez and Ferre's story is actually borrowed (without credit) from a blogger named Angelica Mora. During the time Laura Pollán was hospitalized with a serious respiratory illness, and right before her death, Mora began a two-part post [1 and 2] provoking the possibility that Pollán was secretly injected with a virus. Carlos Rios Otero, Mercedes Fresneda Castillo, Sara Martha Fonseca, Rita Maria Montes de Oca and Mayra Morejon Hernandez all appear in Mora's story.

Also the supposed pricking and ailment stories may be months or years old. Rodriguez or Ferre commit a serious lapse of journalistic ethics by not establishing a timeline of events. In the Univision clip, Mercedes Fresneda mentions getting a blood test after suffering some ailments, but never mentions the date. According to this recently uploaded interview, Mayra Morejon Hernandez was with Fresneda when she claimed to be pricked and her blood tested. It was in 2009. Sara Martha Fonseca mentions she was injected during a march with the Ladies in White, but she's not asked for a date. Fonseca has been marching with the Ladies in White as far back as March 2010 (check bio here).

Carlos Rios Otero is mentioned in the Angelica Mora story because last month he wrote a story called "Toxic Injections" for Cubanet. In the story, Otero writes that "according to reports... many dissidents [during political repression by Cuban officials] have been given injections that have provoked toxic reactions." The reactions are made up of various forms of physical ailments. But, no names of dissidents are given, and no other sources are provided, just "reports" and speculation. On WQBA Otero claimed to have conducted various interviews with dissidents, and the testimony was mostly the same: various ailments followed by alleged injections during a protest. Also, the various ailments suffered are always different from the other, and never the same symptoms.

Finally, the only testimony that seems strongest comes from Mercedes Fresneda. She claims that she received a blood test (in 2009) in response to her ailments and alleged injection. The results of the test showed a high level of lead in her blood. When Roberto Rodriguez Tejera heard this testimony he gasped.

Fortunately, next week is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week and it should provide the team at WQBA and the show "Prohibido Callarse" (looking at you Roberto and Helen) an opportunity to learn more about lead poisoning, and give us a better clue about why Mercedes Fresneda may have high levels of lead in her body.

According to some basic information about lead poisoning (a "major environmental health problem" in the US), adults are vulnerable to this hazard for various reasons, such as exposure to dust from common renovation activities, especially on home structures older than 1978.

So, quite simply, Rodriguez and Ferre may have highly exaggerated their claims of "proof." And, their theory where "everything seems to indicate" that Pollán was injected by a toxic substance is still merely an allegation no different than Armando Perez Roura's.

Unfortunately for Miami, the (propaganda) damage seems to have been done.

[*Excellent link about confirmation bias.]

[Part One]
[Part Three]

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"The Murder of Laura Pollán" (Part 1)

If you've been listening to Spanish-language radio in Miami lately, then you might be thinking that Laura Pollán was secretly murdered by the Cuban government. Local Spanish media outlets have waged a strong campaign to convince listeners that this conspiracy is true. But, upon review, the little (if any) facts produced are not convincing. Nevertheless, it seems hard-liners won't be bothered by facts at this point and are only looking for more self-confirmation of who the real murderous enemy is: the Cuban government.

For the past few days, local Spanish news outlets have been making the case that Laura Pollán was indeed infected/murdered by some form of lethal (or near lethal) injection made through a needle, scratch or bite. The Cuban government's motive of course was that Pollán was developing into a powerful enemy of the state. And, since the assumption in Miami is that the Cuban government is only motivated by evil intentions, then it seems logical that Pollán was most likely murdered.


As I mentioned in my previous post, the allegation that Laura Pollán was infected with a near lethal virus was being spread by local Spanish news stations since last week. The sources of those allegations were mainly coming from Cuban exiles in Miami. Operating on the assumption of communism's unrelenting evil, the only explanation for Pollán's sudden illness must've been a conspiracy from the common enemy: the Cuban government.

After Pollán's death, it all made more sense allegedly. The gut reaction was that she was "murdered." At least that's how Radio Mambi's Armando Perez Roura (upper right photo above) put it the day after the tragic news broke. But Perez Roura, like other Cuban exile militants, have a war mindset. That is, when it comes to Cuba, they are more likely to view strange and difficult events as part of the battle against the Cuban government. They may have good reasons to be cautious, but looking for facts and evidence are not the priority. Instead, a gut instinct to confront the known enemy is activated.

Before you knew it, the murder allegation soon developed into a theory. Local Spanish radio station WQBA 1140AM (owned by Univision Radio) began their Monday broadcast with a "special program" aimed to convince listeners that Pollán was most likely murdered. Roberto Rodriguez Tejera (former news director of Radio Marti, left on large photo above) and Helen Aguirre Ferre (opinion page editor of Diario Las Americas, right on large photo above), hosts of the 4pm show "Prohibido Callarse" (Silence is Prohibited), introduced witnesses, testimonies, conjectures and coincidences. At the end of the show, they were convinced that no other alternative explanation existed for Laura Pollán's death.

But, their supposedly strongest piece of evidence, an official blood test, doesn't withstand a simple test of proof. Yet, inside Miami's Cuban exile community it is good propaganda.

[Part Two]
[Part Three]

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Laura Pollán (1948 - 2011)

Tragic news came from Cuba yesterday with the announcement that Ladies in White leader Laura Pollán died in a Havana hospital from cardiac arrest. Since October 7 Pollán was being treated at the Calixto Garcia hospital for a serious respiratory illness.

According to interviews by BBC Mundo reporter Fernando Ravsberg, Pollán contracted the Human respiratory syncytial virus (RVS). Recent reports indicate that Pollán's family has cremated her body, while her husband Hector Maseda thanked the doctors who "tried to save my wife's life until the last minute." Berta Soler, another member of the Ladies in White, also made positive comments about the medical treatment Pollán received saying the doctors "are fulfilling their oath to save lives, without concern over ideology."

Meanwhile in Miami, Radio Mambi's Armando Perez Roura (programming director) announced "the murder of Laura Pollán" at the top of today's noon news program "El Grande del Mediodia." Perez Roura, who traditionally introduces the top news stories, made the baseless claim which seems to be resonating inside the Cuban exile community.

(For days now local Spanish news has been spreading the allegation that Laura Pollán may have been deliberately infected with RVS in a Cuban government conspiracy. Fausto Malave for Telemundo51 spread the allegation using interviews with Silvia Iriondo from M.A.R. por Cuba and Janisset Rivero from Directorio Democratico Cubano. Rolando Napoles from AmericaTeVe spread the allegation using interviews with Dr. Julio Cesar Alfonso of local organization Solidaridad Sin Fronteras.)

Last night, upon hearing the tragic news, militant group Vigilia Mambisa made their way to Little Havana's Versailles restaurant where they made a small demonstration. But, they were mainly there to make the 11pm news, where local news stations instinctively flock to when Cuba is the headline. Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen knew the drill, so there she was at Versailles along with Reina Luisa Tamayo, mother of another Cuban dissident who last year died in a Cuban hospital. Telemundo51 reported live from Versailles as the crowd (except Rep. Ros-Lehtinen) chanted "murderers" and "terrorists."

Telemundo51 reporter Adriana Delgado includes interviews with the members of Vigilia Mambisa alleging that Laura Pollán's death was part of a Cuban government conspiracy. Delgado also interviewed Reina Luisa Tamayo who likewise alleges that Pollán was murdered, just like she alleges her son Orlando Zapata Tamayo was murdered. Delgado then interviewed Rep. Ros-Lehtinen who immediately went into how she was "concerned" over the Obama administration's Cuba policy, clearly exploiting this tragic event for political purposes.

None of this surprises me. The most hard-line members of the Cuban exile community never miss an opportunity to take advantage of a tragic (or near tragic) event coming from Cuba. And, that's because they know well that a hard-line position can only be maintained through shocking examples like Pollán's death. Even better if the death or serious injury is linked to the Cuban government. And, when it comes to Cuba, the local news easily makes itself available to the hard-line.

Don't expect to hear in Miami the positive descriptions made by Pollán's husband, or Berta Soler quoted above concerning the treatment Pollán received. It just doesn't fit the Miami narrative against Cuba.

[Along the Malecon blog has video of Laura Pollán before her illness.]

Friday, June 3, 2011

Hitler in Havana (1966)

I was looking through old Miami Herald articles of the 60's and stumbled upon this ad from December 10, 1966. [Ad from the Miami News courtesy of Google News Archives.] I laughed when I saw it because it highlighted how little anti-communist propaganda against the Cuban government has changed. At least locally.

Thanks to Vimeo, this television program titled "Hitler in Havana" can be viewed in its entirety below. The title and first few minutes summarizes the video nicely: "in the midst of Havana today another Hitler rages!" This and many other points in the video I've heard repeated in Miami often. According to the ad, the video was produced by the Information Council of the Americas, founded by Edward S. Butler. The video is also available on DVD.

[Portion from the ad]

You've read bold headlines! Now see secret scenes smuggled direct from Castro's Cuba. See explosions rivalling [sic] the Riechstag fire! Castro's G-2 Gestapo in action! Concentration camps in the center of Cuba! Red stormtroops rioting throughout the Americas. Brutal executions at the firing squad wall. See pathos, poverty, sabotage, riots, all filmed from life, as it was actually happening, hidden in the heart of Castro's Cuba.

Produced by INCA
(c) 1966, Information Council of the Americas

Entire program will be repeated with Spanish translation by Alberto Gandero
Sunday, Dec. 11
10:30 - 11:30 A.M.

Cason, Rivera and Luis Posada Carriles

Last month, Humbert Fontova found out that Luis Posada Carriles, main suspect in the 1976 bombing of a civilian airliner and reputed terrorist, was publicly honored in Miami by Congressman David Rivera (FL-25) and Coral Gables Mayor James (Jim) Cason. It seems that Fontova (in his usual sarcastic manner) was disappointed that The Miami Herald didn't report on the event. Well, I'm so happy to oblige Mr. Fontova with the details.

Back in April, Luis Conte Agüero was elated to hear that Luis Posada Carriles, whom he considers a "Mambi," was acquitted of several charges of U.S. immigration fraud. So, Conte Agüero, one of Posada's strongest public supporters in Miami, arranged to celebrate the event at the Big Five Club on May 14th where the Cuban Orthodox People's Party was already scheduled to meet. Conte Agüero is the president of that organization.

According to Sergio Galán Pino for Libre Magazine (screenshot of article here), the meeting indeed took place, recognizing Posada as a "Hero of Liberty" and was attended by Rep. David Rivera and Mayor James Cason. Rep. Rivera is a long-time member of the Cuban Orthodox People's Party, and Mayor Cason was an honored guest of the organization in 2009. At that 2009 meeting, Mayor Cason told the Orthodox members that "the enmity of Fidel and Raul [Castro] with us [the United States] is real, it is genuine, they need an enemy to exist, we are that enemy and will always be."

Mayor Cason since 2009 has attended several meetings with other hard-line Cuban exile organizations, and campaigning discreetly among them. Due to this support by Cuban exiles, Cason became Mayor of Coral Gables last April. Mayor Cason was most likely celebrating his Mayoral victory at the May 14th meeting with the Orthodox Party.

[Photo by Libre Magazine - May 24, 2011, left to right: Luis Conte Agüero, Luis Posada Carriles, David Rivera, James Cason.]

Monday, May 16, 2011

Julio Robaina Promises To Be Hard-line

So, I was listening to Radio Mambi this morning (someone's got to do it), and heard something very interesting. A caller identifying himself as a member of an organization of Brigade 2506 veterans called in to publicly support the Mayoral candidacy of Julio Robaina. The caller said that of all the current candidates Robaina has "the toughest stance" on cultural exchanges with Cuba, and Robaina promised to keep that hard-line "wherever he is."

Next Tuesday Miami-Dade county voters will elect a new Mayor in special elections. Among the top candidates stands former Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina. Over the past few years, Robaina has certainly presented himself as a hard-liner on U.S.-Cuba policy, such as preventing a Cuban music concert from taking place in Hialeah, to supporting anti-Castro militants like Luis Posada Carriles. These credentials will most likely help Robaina capture plenty of voters next Tuesday. But, the consequences of having another hard-line Mayor in Miami could prevent the city from becoming a culturally diverse center for the arts, perhaps increasing the potential for Cuba-related conflicts like many seen in the past.

The caller this morning to Radio Mambi stated that Julio Robaina made a "promise" to several hard-line/militant Cuba exile organizations to remain "tough" on cultural exchanges with Cuban artists. Unfortunately, I was unable to record the entire comments made by the caller, and therefore the comments are a bit vague, but the last few comments are interesting nonetheless (the "promise" quote is based only on my own recollections of the caller's comments.)


The caller states that Robaina's position on cultural exchanges is the "toughest" of all the current Mayoral candidates. I am assuming that the caller is Manuel L. Malgor, president of the American Missile Crisis Veterans Association, and a leading organizer of a local campaign to stop the Cuban cultural exchanges in Miami [here's an example of their work]. That campaign has successfully resulted in recent anti-cultural exchange resolutions in the City of Miami and Hialeah, yet no specific laws prohibiting Cuban artists from performing in Miami. The caller specifically mentions these resolutions in the audio clip.

The other interesting bit of information provided in the audio reveals that Julio Robaina has adopted a hard-line stance on Cuba because "an uncle of his was jailed for 18 years in Cuba." Most likely, this memory of injustice has influenced Julio Robaina in becoming a hard-liner, just like many other hard-liners with similar stories of injustice. But, it does not justify a government representative adopting political positions that satisfy individual interests that conflict with the interest of the greater community. In this case, encouraging cultural exchanges between Miami and the people of any other region has greater social benefits than maintaining a hard-line position.

But, the hard-line/militant position believes there are no benefits to cultural exchanges with Cuba. According to a copy of a letter sent to the City of Miami, anti-cultural exchange activists believe that "under the pretence of cultural exchange, that same [Cuban] regime is sending communist agents to infiltrate and provoke the Cuban Exile Community." The (sometimes paranoid) belief that the exile community is being targeted for provocation and infiltration is often used, most recently to stop a legitimate public campaign supporting the Cuban Five in Miami. But, Julio Robaina has adopted this position towards cultural exchanges with Cuba, recently telling El Nuevo Herald: "We don't want our people [the Cuban exile community] to continue being instigated with those kind of shows... that is why we are asking Congress to approve a law that will put an end to this matter [of Cuban cultural exchanges]." Last February, Robaina (then-Mayor of Hialeah) and the Hialeah City Council approved a resolution "urging the members of Congress to introduce legislation opposing cultural exchanges between Cuba and the United States so long as the Cuban government continues its violation of basic freedoms and human rights." [From City Council Agenda - February 8, 2011]

Once again, when it comes to Cuba, hard-liners and militants do as they please while continuing to ignore what the rest of the population think. There is no evidence of a majority of Miami residents opposing cultural exchanges with Cuba.

Back in 2000, Florida International University's Cuba poll found that 54.7% of Cubans in Miami supported Cuban artists performing locally, while 45.3% opposed (85.4% of all Miami residents supported these cultural exchanges). A more recent poll of Cuban-Americans in 2009 [PDF] showed that 52% favored cultural exchanges versus 32% opposed.

So, you might be perplexed about why Robaina is ignoring these majority opinions. Well, aside from Robaina's personal reasons concerning his uncle, Robaina is just being loyal to small but well-organized anti-Castro organizations that consistently vote come election day. The same loyalty helped James Cason win the Coral Gables mayoral election recently (Cason had been campaigning discreetly among Cuban exiles since 2009). Yet, despite all the criticism Cuban exile hard-liners and militants get from the local community, when election day arrives they know how to get their voters out.

But, in the end, democracy is only rhetoric, while elitism seems to rule in Miami.

- [Miami New Times - Julio Robaina campaign gave $350 to Luis Posada Carriles' defense fund.]
- [Julio Robaina accepts award from a local hard-line organization, Mario and Lincoln Diaz-Balart attending.]

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Controversy Over Death of Juan Wilfredo Soto [Updated]

Cuban dissident Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia (left) was buried this Sunday, but there is controversy over what lead to his death. Some believe it was the result after being "savagely beaten" by Cuban state security agents, while others attribute his death to unrelated health complications that occurred after his arrest.

Juan Wilfredo was arrested during a protest last Thursday in Santa Clara where, according to some witnesses, he was beaten by security agents. One witness, dissident Guillermo Fariñas, told Radio/TV Marti that Juan Wilfredo was "savagely beaten" while in handcuffs. Supposedly, Juan Wilfredo was then taken to a hospital where he stayed until his death Sunday morning. But, events that happened after his arrest have produced conflicting reports.

According to this report on the El Nuevo Herald website, but attributed to an AFP copy, Juan Wilfredo "was taken by the [state security] agents" to the hospital after his arrest. The original AFP story doesn't include this specific information about how Juan Wilfredo arrived at the hospital. Other news outlets (such as CNN and BBC) have also assumed that Juan Wilfredo was so badly beaten that he was sent to the hospital after the protest due to injuries, and therefore have not reported that Juan Wilfredo was actually taken to the hospital for other reasons.

According this Radio/TV Marti report, Juan Wilfredo was arrested by state agents on Thursday and then "taken home instead of being taken to a jail cell." That information comes from Cuban dissident Idania Yanez Contreras. But, Idania is much more specific in her audio comments linked to the report. She says that Juan Wilfredo was arrested, taken to the hospital by the police because of his already known poor health, and then released home.

Marc Frank for Reuters similarly reports that Juan Wilfredo "was quickly released [by state security agents] but then checked into the Arnaldo Milian Hospital," but Frank doesn't specify by whom. According to Idania, after being taken home Juan Wilfredo's family, concerned over his worsening health, checked him into the hospital on Saturday. Juan Wilfredo was complaining of pain around his kidneys.

Several reports have mentioned Juan Wilfredo's already poor health, stricken with diabetes and hypertension, but Radio/TV Marti also includes "renal insufficiency" among his ailments. According to Marc Frank, "various bloggers close to the government quoted Dr. Ruben Aneiro Medina of the hospital as saying [Juan Wilfredo] Soto died of pancreatitis and kidney failure and there were no signs of physical violence."

But, Radio/TV Marti insists that Juan Wilfredo was a "victim of respiratory failure, caused by the beating ... of police agents." And, several Cuban dissidents have taken a similar position in blaming the Cuban security agents, or the Castro's themselves.

In local news, Telemundo51 has produced a report that constructs a more sinister plot against Juan Wilfredo Soto. According to Telemundo, Juan Wilfredo was already targeted by the Cuban government since July of last year (!) when he was threatened by a security agent who told him: "look out for the consequences that can happen to you." The threat came after Juan Wilfredo showed his solidarity with another Cuban dissident on a hunger strike.

At the conclusion of the Telemundo report, online comments posted on their website are reproduced for viewers alleging that the Cuban government was behind the death of Juan Wilfredo Soto. Undoubtedly, this conspiratorial allegation of murder will be repeated by the most militant in Miami for the next few days.

[Also note that no reports so far have interviewed the family of Juan Wilfredo Soto, and instead have relied on Cuban dissidents.]

- [UPDATE: The family of Juan Wilfredo Soto said that when they took him to the hospital he never mentioned the police beating, nor show signs of having been beaten.]

- [Amnesty International: "The Cuban authorities need to immediately establish an independent inquiry into the causes of Juan Wilfredo Soto's death. If he ultimately died as a result of a police beating in Park Vidal, those responsible must face justice."]

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hialeah Leaders Support Posada

Above shows Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina and Hialeah Council President Carlos Hernandez expressing their affection for Luis Posada Carriles, a man accused of being a terrorist and a self-admitted unrepentant militant. In South Florida, support for Posada means you either justify his violent tactics in a global war against communism/evil/hate (which the Cuban government represents), or you, as an anti-communist, feel profound respect for someone who has sacrificed his/her life for anti-communism (in this case freedom for Cuba).

But, these are false choices. The violence or cause that Luis Posada Carriles represents is the most extreme form among other methods. Showing public support for Posada, especially as a community leader, serves to advocate these extreme forms of politics while ignoring more moderate ones.

While Robaina and Hernandez have the right to support whatever cause or agent they want in that cause, both Hialeah leaders should be aware that many other Cuban-Americans are not militants, or anti-communists.

As leaders of that community, will they listen to those voices?


- Hialeah Mayor Robaina is currently running for Mayor of Miami-Dade County, while Council Pres. Hernandez is expected to become the interim Hialeah mayor and potential candidate for the seat.

- Recorded from radio program "Esquina de Pepe" hosted by Jose 'Pepe' Yedra on WWFE 670 AM, February 18, 2011. Jose 'Pepe' Yedra is broadcasting live from the Big Five club in West Miami where a fund-raising event is taking place supporting Luis Posada Carriles.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Carter Press Conference in Havana

Here's the full press conference Jimmy Carter held on Wednesday before leaving Cuba, it also includes Carter's 20-minute interview with Cuban television . It's courtesy of TVCubana.tv who provides a large collection of television programs from Cuba. The press conference is translated into Spanish, but you can hear a little of Carter's English comments.

[In English, edited video of some comments from Carter at the press conference.]

I will write later about Carter's comments at this press conference, and how the local media presented his 3-day visit.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Carter in Cuba: Day One

It's been interesting to read the optimistic speculation about Jimmy Carter's visit to Cuba. On the first day, many reports indicated the possibility of Carter's intervention in the case of Alan P. Gross, the jailed USAID contractor, and others saw Carter as a promising interlocutor between Washington and Havana. Meanwhile in Miami, the hard-liners went on the offensive to attack Carter and paint a negative image of the visit.


On Monday, Jimmy Carter again arrived in Havana at the invitation of the Cuban government. Back in May 2002 Carter first arrived at the invitation of Fidel Castro, this year by his brother Raul. Carter landed at Jose Marti International Airport with his wife Rosalynn, his former National Security Advisor for Latin American Affairs, Robert Pastor, and directors of the Carter Center. They were greeted by Cuba's Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, including Jonathan Farrar, chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, among others.

Jimmy Carter and his guests soon made their way to the Patronato Jewish center and Temple Beth Shalom where they were greeted by Adela Dworin, president of the temple, and other members of the Jewish community (video of tour). (Dworin later told reporters that they did not discuss the Gross case or any politics at all.) Later, Carter and his guests met with Cardinal Jaime Ortega of the Catholic Archdiocese in Havana. (Reports say they met behind closed doors for about an hour where Carter expressed his satisfaction with Ortega's role in the release of Cuban political prisoners.)

Several early reports seemed to indicate that Carter arrived with the intent to return to the U.S. with Alan P. Gross, but later in the day reports (such as Jeff Franks') revealed that Cuban officials would not allow it. Nevertheless, CBS News (Portia Siegelbaum) speculated that Carter was working in the background to gain access to Gross, and CNN (Shasta Darlington) confirmed that Carter met with Secretary Hillary Clinton before his trip perhaps sharing her concerns over the case.


There were many articles that expressed optimism about the Carter visit to Cuba. The Miami Herald published an article by Matthew Brady from Freedom House suggesting that "Carter’s visit could kick-start U.S.-Cuba relations through a relatively moderate interlocutor." Brady argues well that the time is right.

Other commentators, like Cuban professor Esteban Morales and Lilia Lopez from the Havana Note blog, see Jimmy Carter as a someone influential enough to provide a "realistic" (Morales) assessment of Cuba with "fresh eyes" (Lopez) directly to President Barack Obama.

It should be noted too that Jimmy Carter is traveling with Robert Pastor, another optimist who is confident that the Obama administration could improve U.S.-Cuba relations with an envoy between Washington and Havana.


Meanwhile in Miami, some hard-liners have taken an ambivalent stand, and others are just being offensive. It seems most militants/hard-liners oppose the trip because it "legitimizes" the Cuban government they see as totally immoral or dangerous. But, seeing that the media is mostly optimistic about the visit, the strategy seems to be to attack Carter's character, or to misrepresent the intent of the visit.

On Monday, Radio Mambi's Ninoska Perez-Castellon tried her tired tactic of presenting the subject (Carter) as a fool. She began reading from Jimmy Carter's 2002 Cuba Trip Report, but it soon became apparent that she wasn't prepared to thoroughly challenged the well-detailed and highly-informative report. Perez-Castellon had obviously not read the report before and ended up skipping several paragraphs of important information (including the paragraph that mentioned the Varela Project) and telling listeners that Carter was just repeating Cuban propaganda and lies.

(The attacks continued today too. Armando Perez-Roura's daily radio editorial described Carter today as an "ultra-leftist-pacifist" and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart called in to Perez-Castellon's radio show and called Carter an "extremist" and "anti-semite.")

In the evening, the Spanish-language political talk show Maria Elvira Live (on MegaTV) invited CANF President Jose "Pepe" Hernandez and ICCAS analyst Jose Azel to talk about the Carter visit (video). Both didn't say if they supported or opposed the visit, but instead focused on speculating about Jimmy Carter's possible intentions in Cuba. Of course, they ignored Carter's stated reasons for going to Cuba because both believe that improving relations is virtually impossible with the current Cuban government. Hernandez argued that Cuba was using Carter to improve its international image, and Azel agreed adding that the Cuban government had nothing to offer the U.S. in a negotiation anyway (and therefore there's no reason to improve relations).

(It should be noted that CANF took a stronger position against Carter's 2002 Cuba visit. CANF, through Joe Garcia, first opposed the Carter visit saying that Carter should only go to demand the removal of Fidel Castro: "However, if his purpose is to better U.S.-Cuban relations with the 43-year-old dictatorship, his time would be better spent elsewhere.")

In the evening news, Telemund051 also attempted to misrepresent Carter's visit (video). Telemundo put their best reporter on the job: Fausto Malave. In typical fashion, Malave mocks the importance and the reason for Carter's visit, barely mentioning Carter's stated purpose. And, instead, attempts to portray the visit as showing little concern for internal political repression and the case of Alan P. Gross. Of course, Malave interviews one person, Janisset Rivero, of the hard-line Directorio Democratico Cubano who erroneously equates the voice of Cuban dissidents with the voice of the entire Cuban people.

Univision23 also does a poor job reporting on the visit. In this report (video), Carter's stated purpose is never mentioned. Instead, the report focuses on the Gross case, and includes Alfredo Duran and James Cason making comments about the Gross case. Fortunately, the report includes comments from Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya saying: "Jimmy Carter is a person that inspires us with confidence... and someone you can expect good from."

It's interesting to see how hard-line commentators in Miami have ignored Carter's personal views about U.S.-Cuba relations. (His views actually coincide with the larger intellectual community and the majority of Americans.) He made them very clear before he first visited Cuba in 2002. Instead, most Spanish-language pundits have tried to portray Carter as possibly having mysterious goals, or being a naive fool while in Cuba. Only in Miami.

[Below, Jimmy Carter in March 2002]

"I think the best way to bring about democratic changes in Cuba is obviously to have maximum commerce and trade and visitation by Americans and others who know freedom, and to let the Cuban people know the advantages of freedom. That's the best way to bring about change. And not to punish the Cuban people themselves by imposing an embargo on them, which makes Castro seem to be a hero, because he's defending his own people against the abusive Americans."

[Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen tried to block Carter's 2002 Cuba visit by writing to the President: "We write to request that you deny permission for Mr. Carter to visit the Cuban dictator. While U.S. law authorizes the granting of licenses by the Treasury Department to U.S. officials and members of Congress to visit Cuba on official business for the U.S. government, it does not do so for former presidents seeking to appease anti-American dictators.'']

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Hand of Fidel

Last week, the trial of Luis Posada Carriles began and I was not surprised to read about how Posada's lawyers wanted to turn the trial around against the Cuban government. I found it typical because one thing I've noticed from my focus on militants and hard-liners in Miami is the constant blaming of the Cuban government for involvement in almost all things that go wrong. It's something that they themselves joke about, but also something that seriously borders on paranoia. In the world of militancy and the hard-line, one is naturally in constant vigilance against the enemy's possible interference in all matters. In the case of Miami, the hand of Fidel Castro and the Cuban government is constantly plotting against Cuban exiles. And, the Posada trial is yet another example of "The Hand of Fidel."

Last week, Arturo Hernandez (above), one of Posada's lawyers, demanded he be allowed to argue in court about "the Cuban government's motive to fabricate" evidence against Posada. (Some evidence collected inside Cuba will be presented in court.) Hernandez argued that this motive originates from the fact that "[i]n a long life of 83 years, [Posada] has made some very powerful enemies. None more powerful than Fidel Castro and his regime." The demand was soon dismissed by the judge as irrelevant. And, prosecutors agreed saying: "This is not the History Channel . . . The regime in Cuba is not the defendant in this case... This is not for The Miami Herald.'' (Ouch.)

[Reality is the FBI alone has gathered enough evidence to criminally charge Posada. Evidence collected from Cuba represents cooperation from two countries that should have better bi-lateral relations.]

No doubt Posada's defense was upset by the decision, but so was Alberto de la Cruz at the Babalu blog. De la Cruz called the trial a "kangaroo court trial" where the judge "has in effect banned the truth from the trial" and the prosecution has "partner[ed] up with a brutal and murderous totalitarian regime." And, no one would have noticed this gross and outrageous blunder of a post from the boys at Babalu if the Miami Herald had not published it this past Sunday.

It seems that the Miami Herald did eventually live up to the expectations of the prosecution at the Posada trial. And there's more, because the Herald managed to squeeze the Babalu commentary (which had the highest word count) in between two other comments by distinguished scholars (Julia Sweig and Peter Kornbluh) and a renowned journalist (Stephen Kinzer). Which means that, despite all the pathetic criticism the Herald gets from Babalu, the Herald has no problems disguising that obscene blog blundering as serious commentary.

That's Miami for you. Some still see Luis Posada Carriles as a hero that fought against modern-day evil, and thus worthy of some kind of defense. But, Posada's violent life and corporal sacrifice also represent something greater: self-confirming evidence proving the existence of the "Hand of Fidel," which is a threat to Cuban exiles and can only be fought with equal intensity.

- Video above of Arturo Hernandez (from local program "A Mano Limpia"), in his own words (@3:35):

"The important thing is that there can be no truthful testimony while those individuals [in Cuba] are in the hands of a dictatorship like that of Fidel Castro and Raul Castro. In other words, its not a question of whether philosophically thinking a person who cooperates is gonna tell the truth or not. No. There is no truth there [in Cuba]. The only thing that exists there is the will of the dictator."

[Related articles]
- Cuban Exile on Trial by Julia Sweig and Peter Kornbluh
- Trial of the Terrorist Who Almost Killed Me by Stephen Kinzer

Friday, January 14, 2011

In Defense of the Cuban Five [Updated Links]

It was the little billboard that couldn't. It survived only a day until enough people threatened to boycott the owners arguing that it was an offense to the community. Suddenly it was gone. I myself was surprised that this billboard was actually up in Miami, knowing well that this city, when it comes to news about Cuba, lives in an almost impenetrable bubble. You can't deny it. The very mention of the Cuban Five in Miami evokes comparisons to the worst criminals, like Hitler or Al-Qaeda. The result of course is a city that dares not confront such taboo subjects, and its citizens, without much choice, acquiesce to a propaganda message repeated in the local media.

But, Mambi Watch believes people have the right to choose their political causes, and be given the right to defend their causes in public and in the media. Unfortunately, when it comes to the Cuban Five, this right is hardly observed.


The story of the billboard, dubbed the "Billboard of Discord" by America TeVe show "A Mano Limpia," is simple to summarize: A local Miami group called Alianza Martiana (Marti Alliance) rented space on a billboard to promote the cause of the Cuban Five. They paid a month's rent to Clear Channel Outdoors and the company placed the ad on a billboard near the Alianza Martiana offices on Tuesday. By Wednesday afternoon it was gone because members of Vigilia Mambisa threatened to boycott the property owners where the billboard is located. The property owners, fearing a boycott from several other Cuban exile organizations called Clear Channel Outdoors and asked for the ad's removal. According to reports, the removal was negotiated just a few hours after the complaint. An official from Clear Channel responded publicly that "it was determined the material does not fit with our norms [of processing], and has been removed." The property owners fully supported the decision.

But, the billboard incident is just the tip of the iceberg. A review of how this story was reported in the media reveals how difficult it is in general to promote the cause of the Cuban Five, while the cause AGAINST the Cuban Five is constantly promoted.

Locally, none of the English-language news stations gave the billboard story any attention, which is typical. Local news in English concerning Cuba is far less frequent than in Spanish media, as if they avoid it. Univision23 and AmericaTeVe, on the other hand, kept audiences well updated on the "Billboard of Discord." But, neither one presented the cause of the Cuba Five, meaning they didn't even mention the main reasons why their supporters believe they should be free. In other words, there seems to be a deliberate attempt to silence the cause of the Cuban Five. But, in every report there was time given to speakers opposed to the Cuba Five, be it someone calling them assassins or convicted criminals. Not very balanced.


Speaking on behalf of Alianza Martiana was Max Lesnik who was given time on both Univision23 and AmericaTeVe to explain why his organization placed the Cuban Five ad (and to respond to its removal), but not to elaborate on the cause to free the Cuba Five. On Wednesday, Lesnik appeared on AmericaTeVe's 8pm talk program "A Mano Limpia" to speak at length about the billboard incident. The program began with an interview with Miguel Saavedra, leader of Vigilia Mambisa, to explain how he negotiated the removal of the Cuban Five ad. Lesnik then appeared on the show alongside an opponent of the Cuban Five, but the discussion focused on the ad's offense to the community (because the Cuban Five are undoubtedly assassins), and soon framed as Miami-vs-Cuba (asking Lesnik to help place a billboard in Cuba favoring a cause by Cuban exiles). The details over the cause supporting the Cuban Five were ignored.

Max Lesnik then appeared Thursday on the radio on WQBA (1140AM) with Bernadette Pardo. In this interview, again Lesnick had to explain the reasons behind the ad, but within the first few minutes the interview took a predictable turn: the Cuban Five were compared to Osama bin Laden. Obviously, the discussion is framed as an issue of respect towards the community, and not about the cause of the Cuban Five. The details of the case were never discussed.


So, do the Cuban Five ever get a break? Not in Miami. Last September, several American actors and artists sent a letter to President Obama requesting a review of the case of the Cuban Five. Soon, the letter was also signed by non-American artists and actors, such as Colombian singer Juanes. The local Spanish media jumped at the chance to attack Juanes.

The letter campaign was ill-described as a "political campaign of the Cuban government" by AmericaTeVe reporter Juan Manuel Cao. The news reporting was an obvious attempt to cast doubt on Juanes' honest intentions concerning his Peace concert in Cuba the previous year, while reporter Gina Romero wonders why Juanes hasn't signed a letter in favor of Cuban political prisoners. (Not surprisingly Capitol Hill Cubans had the same concern.)

The AmericaTeVe program "A Mano Limpia" followed the same attack on Juanes with a full program, including Gina Romero and other opponents of the Cuban Five. And, never a mention of the details over the cause of the Cuban Five.

Finally, when Amnesty International (AI) came out in support of the Cuban Five with a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the same thing happened. Aside from the usual silence from the local media, America TeVe program "A Mano Limpia" came out ready to challenge the AI letter. Host Oscar Haza gathered three local attorneys to argue against the Cuban Five and the AI letter which Haza described as part of a "fierce international campaign" by the Cuban government.


If any honest person takes the time to review the case of the Cuban Five, just like Amnesty International did, they may reach the conclusion that this MIGHT be a case of injustice. Or perhaps not. But, they should be given that chance to decide for themselves.

The cause of the Cuban Five has not been given fair treatment in Miami (or no treatment at all), and therefore people have not been given the opportunity to form an opinion over the case. In addition, some in Miami feel that even discussing the subject of the Cuban Five is an attack against the community. This is nothing but paranoia.

The case of the Cuban Five is a legitimate political cause that has been supported by many people internationally, and deserves to be defended. Even if you do not totally agree with it (like myself because I oppose espionage on principle), it does have the right to be heard. Especially in the media which is responsible for giving everyone with a cause a voice.

Media Sources Reviewed:
- Univision23 news reports
- America Teve news report 1 and 2
- Radio Mambi news report
- El Nuevo Herald report
- Cafe Fuerte report

Additional Resources supporting the Cuban Five:
- Amnesty International's "The Case of the Cuban Five" (October 2010)
- National Committee to Free the Cuban Five
- International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five
- Sting of the Wasp: The Cuban Five Connection

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"The Price of Blood"

The video above features a speech by Luis Conte Aguero, President of the Cuban Orthodox People's Party in Miami, visiting members of the Junta Patriotica Cubana (JPC) in Pomona, California on October 9, 2010.

Luis Conte Aguero, is an eloquent speaker, a local television show host and a militant. Even though he is asking the JPC to support the non-violent civil disobedience of Cuban dissidents, he can't help but also emphasize the important of "the price of blood."

[Excerpt beginning at 8:35]

"Pacifism... Pacifist enemy, very well. Whoever wants that practice, its convenient... But, complimentary to it we cannot renounce the strategy of war... Today, no one says war, as if war was unnecessary. War is an instrument of history. And, it can be constructive. And, no one can accuse me of being cruel, or much less satanic. No. But, one has to pay the price of blood. [Pay with] the blood of the enemy and one's own if you want to truly cultivate the tree of liberty so that it grows and blossoms."

[Rep. David Rivera and Florida State Rep. Erik Fresen are both members of the Cuban Orthodox People's Party.]

Why Support Posada?

So, maybe some of you might be baffled why Luis Posada Carriles, a person with such a violent history, gets so much support around Miami. Every supporter may have their own personal reason, but the general explanation seems to be that Posada is a symbolic hero of "la causa" (the collective exile mission to defeat the Castro government by any means). But, support for Posada should not be confused with support for violence (despite some Cuban exile leaders who continue to believe in the effective use of violence). Rather, aside from the militant politics he promotes, Posada also represents a politics of force without democracy: this is the hard-line.

I recently posted some reasons why the hard-line is a non-democratic idea, and it is this contempt for the public that it shares with militancy. Those who feel that violence is an effective use of force generally have no regard for public opinion. I'll present some examples. The photo above shows a gathering of Cuban exile groups at the Presidio Politico Historico Cubano, a center in Little Havana that documents past and current abuse of political prisoners inside Cuba. This gathering took place on October 2006 [PDF, Page 14] to protest the detention of Luis Posada Carriles while he awaited criminal immigration charges.

In the photo is Rodolfo Frometa (center, black beard), leader of the recently defunct group F4 Commandos (the website is down and the office has been put for rent). Frometa made it very clear to listeners of Radio Mambi that violence was necessary to bring change to Cuba. Frometa, of course, rarely appeared before any other media outlets in Miami because of the anticipated public rejection. Frometa, without the F4 Commandos, was last seen publicly among the marchers at last year's march supporting the (non-violent) Ladies in White in Little Havana.

Also, in the photo is Miguel Saavedra (center, red tie), leader of Vigilia Mambisa. Back in 2007, Saavedra and other members of Vigilia Mambisa physically attacked a small group of protesters in Little Havana after the small group held up a sign calling Luis Posada Carriles a terrorist. Saavedra is also a member of the militant group Unidad Cubana, and in 2009 was found to be an unpopular figure after a poll found a majority of Cubans (74%) in Miami opposed his protests.

Ernesto Diaz Rodriguez (center, blue shirt), secretary general of Alpha 66, also appears in the photo. Diaz was arrested in 1968 inside Cuba while attempting to "set up a base" and "infiltrate guerrillas." Diaz was released in 1991 after serving 22 years of a 40-year sentence. Alpha 66 long ago gave up its violent campaign, but now advocates the use of "sabotage" inside Cuba by dissidents. (I once heard him suggest on Radio Mambi the burning of Cuban government vehicles.)

Enrique Encinosa (front, dark glasses), also a strong defender of Posada's and news editor at Radio Mambi, was featured in a documentary defending the bombing campaign of Cuban hotels. Encinosa says: "I personally think its an acceptable method. Its a way of damaging the tourist economy. The message that one tries to get across is that Cuba is not a healthy place for tourists. So, if Cuba is not a healthy place for tourist because there's a few windows being blown out of hotels, that's fine."

The individuals and groups above represent a political idea which includes a strong disdain for the public. They don't care if you detest their use of force because for many years they have ignored the public and done as they pleased. Not just because of "la causa," but also because the public (or their representatives) never really tried to stop them. And, neither were any alternatives considered.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Important links:
- Summary of Luis Posada Case by Peter Kornbluh and relevant documents.
- Center for Democracy in the Americas press conference on Posada Case.
- The Posada Files by Ann Louise Bardach

Posada's Supporters in Miami

Luis Posada Carriles' trial over criminal immigration charges started today. Laura Wides-Munoz for the AP provides an interesting report and interview with Posada revealing deep concern at the possibility of being jailed. "If I go to jail, my life ends in jail," says Posada.

Posada was arrested by U.S. immigration officials back in May 2005. It wasn't until January 2007 that Posada was charged with making false statements on his naturalization application and interview. But, in May 2007 Posada was exonerated of these charges because the federal judge believed Posada was the victim of entrapment during the naturalization process. That ruling was later overturned in August of 2008 by a federal appeals court, and after much delay Posada is finally back in court.

[Check a list of important court documents at the Along the Malecon blog.]

Since his release in 2007, Posada has been very active throughout Miami. The main mission of course was to collect funds for his legal expenses, thus public appearances seemed obligatory. Through the years, Posada has met with several important leaders in the Cuba exile community as shown in the collection of photos above.

- Rep. David Rivera (top left) - Newly elected, Rep. Rivera showed his support for Luis Posada Carriles on December 30, 2010 at a public solidarity event [video] in front of the Versailles Restaurant. Rep. Rivera is a member of the hardline/militant organization called the Cuban Orthodox People's Party (Partido del Pueblo Cubano Ortodoxo) which is headed by Cuban exile militant Luis Conte Aguero. Conte Aguero was the main speaker at the Posada solidarity event, and is a fervent Posada supporter. Rep. Rivera showed up at the event, not just to regurgitate platitudes, but to show his solidarity with Cuba exile militancy. Also at the event were Antonio Esquivel, president of the Cuban exile organization Junta Patriotica Cubana, representing the organization's support for Posada and Nelis Rojas Morales, one of the main organizers of Posada's legal fund.

- Mayor Julio Robaina (bottom left) - Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina allowed the City of Hialeah to present artwork by Luis Posada Carriles at the Walker Community Center on November 15, 2007 (check this schedule). In the photo, Posada stands in front of the Mayor with human rights activist Armando Valladares in the back. The photo was taken during an exhibition of Valladares' artwork on September 14, 2007. (Photos of both events can be found on the City of Hialeah website here.) Mayor Robaina is hoping to become the next Mayor of Miami-Dade County in 2012.

Others in the photo include, Sylvia Iriondo (bottom middle) and Bertha Antúnez Pernet (top right). Both women work prominently with the Cuban Democratic Directorate, a hard-line human rights organization in Miami that has received money from USAID. Both Iriondo and Antúnez travel overseas to promote a hard-line policy towards Cuba while documenting the political repression inside the island. Antunez is also the sister of Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, Cuban dissident whose recorded editorials now appear regularly on Radio Mambi.

Finally, there's Alex Hanna (bottom right), the traffic ticket attorney whose face appears on many billboards and bus benches around Miami. In the photo above he appears next to Posada receiving artwork by Posada during a meeting of the Cuban Orthodox People's Party where Hanna is also a member. Hanna seems to be a very successful attorney who also sponsors many programs on local station America TeVe, which regularly features hard-liners in Miami.

The photos above, mostly collected from the archives of Libre magazine, while only a few, represent the strong support for Posada in Miami. Previous posts related to Luis Posada Carriles also show local support by some Cuban exiles.

[Correction: Radio/TV Marti has reported on the start of the Luis Posada Carriles trial. They include news from EFE news agency reporting that Luis Posada was met with protesters calling him an "assassin" as he left his hotel. The report interviews a supporter of Posada saying that Posada was "verbally attacked" by the ANSWER Coalition. The Nuevo Accion blog reports that the protesters "tried to physically attack" Posada "inside the hotel," but were thwarted by Posada supporters. Nuevo Accion has a consistent record of misinformation.]

[Watch the ANSWER Coalition peacefully demonstrate before the Posada trial.]

Friday, January 7, 2011

Do You Favor Democracy?

So, as a new Congress convenes I'm getting ready to keep a good eye on our South Florida representatives, and the ambitious Senator Marco Rubio. And, boy! I thought the hard-line could not get any tougher. Now, here comes David Rivera and Marco Rubio, two known hard-liners on U.S. policy towards Cuba, and Rep. Ros-Lehtinen heading the House Foreign Affairs Committee and appointing other hard-liners as Subcommittee Chairmen. Yikes!

And, maybe some of you are wondering why being a hard-liner* is a cause of concern. Well, the answer is simple: hard-liners tend to ignore the opinion of others, namely their own constituents. Put more bluntly, they don't believe in democracy. Why am I so convinced? A quick review of public opinion concerning U.S. policy towards Cuba is a good start.

Over several years, Gallup polling has documented a strong and consistent American opinion that differs greatly with hard-liners' policy for Cuba. For several years, surveyed Americans have strongly favored (with an average of 59% since 2000) re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba if it was a key issue up for a referendum.

Ending the U.S. embargo towards Cuba has also seen strong approval in some polling. A recent online survey by Widmeyer Communications showed a majority of Americans supporting the end of the embargo by 47%, with 22% in opposition and 31% unsure. These results are similar to those reached by Gallup, and several other surveys.

So what about South Florida's opinion on the embargo? A 2008 survey from Florida International University's Institute for Public Opinion Research (IPOR) found a slight majority of Cuban-Americans favoring the end of the embargo, but a 2000 survey (also by IPOR) had already shown that 60% of Miami non-Cubans opposed continuing the embargo.

Of course, the local media continues to present the issue of public opinion concerning Cuba as divided. Last March, the Miami Herald (Juan O. Tamayo) reported on a BBC World News/Harris Interactive online poll showing "no clamor for change in U.S. Cuba policy." The online poll seemed to show support for the embargo (40% in favor, 36% opposed), but the questionnaire used Likert scaling (agree-disagree) on the statement "The embargo towards Cuba should remain in effect." The measurement was clearly vulnerable to bias because it implied one policy option.

Interestingly, after the Herald published this report (the only ones who reported on this poll according to a NewsBank search), another survey was conducted as a direct response. That survey was from the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). The NAE conducts a monthly survey of its Board of Directors, and last March they found that 63% of evangelical leaders opposed the U.S. embargo towards Cuba. According to the NAE:

"The embargo’s impact on the poor, its failure to influence the leadership in Cuba toward greater openness and respect for human rights, and the potential benefit the lift would have on the spread of the gospel are the primary reasons evangelical leaders support the embargo’s end."

This survey by the NAE, who represent "40,000 local churches" was not reported by the Herald. In fact, according to NewsBank, it got no coverage at all.

So, when I read about South Florida hard-liners being proud over their tough stance on Cuba by supporting the embargo, all I can conclude is that they don't believe in democracy. And, all their talk about the "civilized world" seems like a joke.

And, I haven't even gotten to the part about Cuban dissident opposition to the embargo and travel restrictions!

[*A good definition of "hard-line" comes from George Mason University professor Colin Dueck.]