Maggie Alarcón

Archive for the ‘Cuban Americans’ Category

Not quite Kansas yet Toto…

In Cuban Americans, Politics, US on September 15, 2016 at 2:51 pm


Margarita Alarcón Perea

For a little over two years now, everyone who comes to Cuba from where ever, will ask the same question: “So, how are things now with all the changes?!” The intention is both naïve and endearing; most people actually think and believe that after December 17th of 2014, like magic a la Wizard of Oz, Dorothy (the Cuban Revolution) would magically receive the wand fluttering hand of the Good Witch of the North (in this case POTUS) and all things would be grand back in the land of Oz.

In order for things to “change” it’s going to take a heck of a lot more than paying visits, watching baseball games and holding talks. We need common sense, and a whole lot of chutzpah form the White House and/or a vote on The Hill.

Only then, will that much awaited change actually come to fruition. Mind you, I am not just referring to sales of goods from the US or the freedom to travel; I am talking about real change, for the better or worse, but change.

Sorry to say, no, that has not been the case.

In Cuba we have a saying “El pollo del arroz con pollo” which roughly translates as “the gist of it” but in a much more picturesque manner basically speaks to the nucleus of any given event, act or action.

In 1962 President John F. Kennedy signed the below mentioned Trading With the Enemy Act which pretty much set the blockade/embargo in motion. To this day and ever since President William J. Clinton signed Helms Burton into law in 1992 all you basically need to do is what President Barack H. Obama did today, once again extending what JFK began over half a century ago. A pattern if ever there has been one.

So, has anything changed in Kansas? Are we back yet?

No, Toto, it hasnt and no we´re not…


                                    THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY

SUBJECT:         Continuation of the Exercise of Certain
                          Authorities Under the Trading With the Enemy Act

Under section 101(b) of Public Law 95-223 (91 Stat. 1625; 50 U.S.C. 4305 note), and a previous determination on September 11, 2015 (80 FR 55503, September 16, 2015), the exercise of certain authorities under the Trading With the Enemy Act is scheduled to terminate on September 14, 2016.

I hereby determine that the continuation for 1 year of the exercise of those authorities with respect to Cuba is in the national interest of the United States.

Therefore, consistent with the authority vested in me by section 101(b) of Public Law 95-223, I continue for 1 year, until September 14, 2017, the exercise of those authorities with respect to Cuba, as implemented by the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 515.

The Secretary of the Treasury is authorized and directed to publish this determination in the Federal Register.


December 17th and the Voice of Reason

In Cuba, Cuban Americans, History, Politics on December 17, 2015 at 5:01 pm


Margarita Alarcon Perea

December 17th marks the anniversary of the first year of the release of Alan Gross, the return of three Cuban prisoners unjustly jailed in US prisons and for the first time presidents from both Cuba and the United States live on their respective television networks speaking about the same thing and both on the same page.

Last year Raul Castro and Barack Obama got their acts together and decided to do something that for far too long had been silenced, they gave voice back to reason and spoke of restoring relations between their two countries.

Since that day, which on all accounts was joyous albeit an enormous surprise, much has happened in the form of restoring the diplomatic side of the relations, but not much else. Watching the debate the other night I fear much more needs to be done before November of 2017. Yet I am hopeful.

At least Cuba wasn’t mentioned openly. So maybe the two pseudo Cuban contenders for their party’s nomination have since figured out that siding with irrationality by actually bolstering the notion of how they would turn back all that has happened since last year’s televised speeches or the less Latino hopeful candidates criticizing the current President of the United States for having “given so much in exchange for nothing” or ranting about how if he were to come down to the Caribbean’s largest island before leaving office might be indicative of nothing less than …say, treason? Of course, this is an exaggeration on my part, but heck, he was accused of not being “American” enough for almost two straight years!

In any case, it’s been a year already. The secretary of State has opened the long closed Embassy, the Stars and Stripes waves every day, morning, noon, and night. US tourists are coming down nonstop, Cuban Americans are devising ways of investing on the island in the most intuitive and inventive fashion ever. So I guess, Cuba won’t be part of the debates in the near electoral future.

Maybe the candidates have figured out that the voice of reason silenced for so long is now the shout of logic that just won’t keep quiet, lest they lose those historically beloved 28 electoral votes.


Originally posted on the Huffington Post

Alas y Raíces

In CAFE, Cuba, Cuban Americans, History, Politics, Travel on October 17, 2012 at 11:04 am

Para Mirta Lavastida Fernández que concibió aves de vuelo con alas y raíces.


Margarita Alarcón Perea


En Cuba la generación nacida después del triunfo revolucionario de 1959 tiene una dicotomía emocional: fuimos educados por padres que tuvieron la posibilidad de vivir las dos Cuba, la del ayer traumático de la dictadura batistiana y la del futuro esperanzador de la revolución de Fidel Castro. Recuerdo que no había reunión en casa donde mis padres y sus amigos no rememoraran los años de la lucha, la vida de antes, las vicisitudes y sobre todo, lo mucho que había que hacer, y cuanta euforia sentían por el deseo de crear ese mundo nuevo en la isla.

Todo era válido. Niños y jóvenes instruyendo a los iletrados, 45 y más días en el campo, los trabajos voluntarios, la expo 67 Rampa arriba y Rampa abajo, hasta el corte de caña con todo y que la zafra de los 10 millones no resultara ser lo que se esperaba; no importaba, Cuba y su población isleña pasaban por alto los errores, se regocijaba en los éxitos y seguía adelante con un espíritu incalculable de solidaridad y amor casi que contagioso.

Esa fue la generación de nuestros padres, la que  de alguna manera nos inculcaron a nosotros, sus hijos, ese apasionamiento y esa electricidad de vida. La generación que le dijo adiós a padres, abuelos, tíos, hijos, amigos y mucho más. Pero fue también la generación que dejó atrás al parque de la primera patineta, al banco del primer beso;  la de los atardeceres de la añoranza. Fue una generación a ambos lados de un estrecho que cada vez se hacía más ancho, que aprendió  a la fuerza que las palabras “irse” y “quedarse” cobraban un significado mayor que la simpleza de movimiento, significaba una actitud ante la vida.

Y así fueron pasando los años y nosotros los nacidos de esa generación fuimos creciendo entre ese meollo de separación, incomprensión y distancia.  Pero nuestros padres fueron sabios, y la vida nuestra mejor escuela. Esos mismos que en ocasiones y por momentos nos fueron educando entre el “bien y el mal” de nuevo tipo, también evolucionaron para comprender que la distancia no es el olvido como ora la canción. Muchos, quizás motivados por nuestra misma existencia y nuestras inquietudes y nuestras ansias de isleños, fueron cambiando o despertando, o quizás simplemente confiando más. La distancia y la soledad se hacen más largas cuando uno las prolonga.  La nueva generación, heredera de la revolución, pronto aprendió, como les dijera Serrat a través de Machado, que el camino se hace al andar.

Ya,  por fin, se han levantado los miedos y los tapujos, ya por fin las puertas se han abierto y no se volverán a cerrar. Cual padre que ha educado bien a su hijo, llegó el día de entregarle las llaves de casa … y volverá.

Paul Ryan’s Cuban Conversion

In Alan Gross, Blockade, CAFE, Cuban Americans, US on September 27, 2012 at 12:46 pm

By Douglas Bloomfield 

Originally posted in The Jewish Week

In politics, where you sit often determines where you stand.

Up north in Wisconsin’s largely rural First Congressional District, Rep. Paul Ryan told his constituents it was time to end the trade embargo on Cuba. “If we think engagement works well with China, well, it ought to work well with Cuba. The embargo doesn’t work. It is a failed policy.” As for those who wanted to tighten the embargo, not ease it, “I just don’t agree with them and never have.”

That was then, this is now.

Down south in Florida this weekend he recanted and said he’d had an epiphany.  What changed his mind?  He’s now running for vice president and campaigning in the rabidly anti-Castro Cuban-American areas of south Florida, critical to  Republican hopes of winning that battleground state.

Like Mitt Romney’s 180 turns on abortion, health care, guns and so many other issues, he attributes the shift to an evolution in his thinking, but the reality is both are just tailoring their views to appease extremists in their party.

Ryan said he changed his mind from what he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel a decade ago as a result of his “friendships” with some of Florida’s leading anti-Castro Republicans.  Thanks to them, he said, he now knows “just how brutal the Castro regime is.”  No explanation where he’s been for the past 50 years.

And what about Ryan’s old views on Cuba?  Not only has he renounced them but has assigned them to Barack Obama and labeled them “appeasement.”  Actually, the Obama administration has consistently renewed the trade embargo that Ryan once opposed and now supports, but what apparently Ryan and his friends see as appeasement is the easing of restrictions on family visits and cultural exchanges and rules that make it easier to send money to loved ones in Cuba.

This financial help from visitors and families abroad enables Cubans to purchase luxuries like soap and razors not included on their ration cards.

On my visit to Cuba earlier this year on a Jewish Heritage mission, many Jewish leaders I met with expressed fear that such exchanges, which have been so important in supporting the country’s small and often poor Jewish community, would be cut off by a Romney administration.

They rely on American visitors bringing suitcases filled with such “contraband” as pencils, paper, crayons and toys for children, clothing, vitamins, medicine, books, Judaica and cash contributions.

I saw firsthand how people-to-people exchanges were diminishing anti-American feelings.  A frequent visitor told me that signs around Havana that once blazed revolutionary slogans are now promoting tourism.

Reverting to the old Bush-era restrictions, as Romney and Ryan want, would not harm the Castro regime but would set back the progress being made by current cultural exchanges and would be harmful to the country’s small Jewish community.

Cubans and super WiFi

In Blockade, Cuba, Cuba/US, Cuban Americans, Cuban Embargo on September 20, 2012 at 2:12 pm



By Fernando Ravsberg*

Version en español

HAVANA TIMES — The war on technological development is already lost. This was learned by the English workers when they tried to stop the industrial revolution by destroying the machinery they believed was taking their jobs.

Things are accelerating even faster in cyberspace, and whoever doesn’t keep up will be swallowed by a black hole or conquered by their enemies. In this epoch, trying to remain isolated in a bubble is as utopian as destroying those industrial-age machines.

Cuba’s authorities have had all the time in the world to give cyberspace a place on the island.

They have also had the necessary human, material and international support, yet — inexplicably — the country continues to lag behind.

For more than a year the underwater fiber-optic cable that was promised to increase Cuba’s connectivity by 3,000 times should have been in operation. However that still hasn’t happened, and the leadership of the Ministry of Communications refuses to explain why.

Rumors are circulating from Miami assuring me that the cable is operating and that it’s only being used by the Ministry of the Interior, while people in Cuba tell me that the trial is about to begin of those who were most responsible for this multi-million-dollar scam.

The impact of this fleecing should be measured not only because of the economic losses, but also for its social and political consequences. The lack of connectivity leaves most Cubans on the fringe of the world and cedes the power of information to the extremes.

On the one pole there’s a group of pro-government webpages that repeat everything that comes “from above.” They do this even when — without the least shred of evidence — they’re asked to accuse major Cuban intellectuals of being spies for the CIA.

In this way they ensure their connection, because the bandwidth for Internet access by Cuban journalists is regulated directly by the “protectors of the faith,” so only colleagues who they consider “ideologically pure” are rewarded with high-speed ADSL connections.

Others are relegated to navigating at 56 kbps – a speed so slow that when you go to Google and search “news,” you can go to make some coffee and come back 15 minutes later to find that still nothing has opened. Photos take even longer and videos are impossible.

At the other extreme are the cyber-dissidents who enjoy high-speed access thanks to the generous but not disinterested assistance of several embassies – first among them being the US Interests Section, which provides internet hours as if it were a cybercafé.

Obama believes in the network and is placing his bets on Cubans’ access to the Internet being the way to end the revolution. His subordinates are creating underground networks and video games to achieve what couldn’t be accomplished by the military invasion from Miami or 50 years of embargo.

Meanwhile, technology continues forward. A “super WiFi” and is being tested in several US regions to eliminate any inaccessible holes of Internet coverage. Networks are being deployed that can cover more than a hundred miles at the amazing speed of 22 Mbps.

As soon as the notion of a super-WiFi became public, the propaganda machines started cranking up. While the anti-Castro elements are asking to use it to break the isolation of the Cuban people, the communists are describing it as a weapon for conducting information warfare against Cuba.

It’s a sure thing that there will be those on the island who will seek technical measures to block access to the “imperial” super Wi-Fi, but I’m confident that sensible people will understand that these resources should themselves be used to create connections to the network.

The battle against technology has no future because eventually development will continue knocking down all walls. Cuba’s government can’t prevent it; it can only decide whether Cubans access the world through it or through its enemies.
(*) A Havana Times  translation published with the authorization of BBC Mundo.

While Miami burns… Obama and Cuban-American politics

In ACLU, Blockade, CAFE, Cuban Americans, Cuban Embargo, Miami/Cuba, Politics, US on September 13, 2012 at 12:32 pm



By Arturo López-Levy

Originally published in OpenDemocracy



US policy towards Latin America has paid a substantial price for President Obama’s kowtowing to the Miami hard-right wing. For example, Venezuela withdrew from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights of the Organization of the Americas (OAS), and there is a chance that no Summit of the Americas will happen in 2015 unless the United States changes its position on Cuba’s participation. Several countries in the Americas, from Nicaragua to Ecuador, spent years without a US ambassador due to Senator Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) obstructionist caprice.

In a clear distortion of American values and presidential foreign policy prerogatives, the pro-embargo machine is taking the debate away from questions related to security threats and the constitutional right to travel theoretically enjoyed by Americans, to whether it is fine, or “ethical”, for an American traveler to smoke a cigar, drink a mojito, and dance salsa. Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s Treasury and State Department have surrendered the constitutional and moral high ground. Could somebody in the administration ask Senator Rubio: what is the problem with Americans having a good time once they do their full share of religious, educational, and humanitarian work in Cuba? And exactly what threat does a mojito or a salsa dance pose to American national security?

According to Ellen Cragger from the Detroit Free Press, “the process of application for a people-to people-travel license grew up from six pages to more than a hundred. There has been also a massive slowdown on the responses of applications for new licenses and renewal of old ones for people-to people-travel.”

Appeasement is precisely Obama’s strategy, except that it is aimed towards his adversaries in the Cuban-American right instead of Cuba. Nobody is fooled by such tactics. Watergate (with the Cuban exiles as plumbers) and the 2000 elections Dade County incidents should remind every Democrat that Miami doesn’t play “second fiddle” to Chicago or any other place in dirty politics.  By showing no spine to defend democratic ground, the White House will not attract a single Cuban-American vote to its side. In fact, it might make more than one of its supporters stay at home in November.

Meanwhile, the Cuban-American pro-embargo lobby is working full speed to intimidate. In Miami, where nobody has ever apologized for using terrorism inside American territory, “somebody” set fire to the offices of Airline Brokers, the charter company that took American pilgrims to Cuba for Pope Benedict XVI’s visit. Not one of the Miami elected officials called for cooperating with the authorities or for condemning a terrorist attack on a business that honors every single rule in the book. The Democratic Party could have placed Republican congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen between the “rock” of condemning practices that are perfectly fine for her base and the “hard place” of avoiding condemning a terrorist attack. It missed its chance.

What about the South Florida press and TV? The Miami Herald editorial page condemned the attack but did not demand a similar attitude from every elected official in the city. Neither Senators Rubio or Bill Nelson (D-FL) nor Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who represents the district where the company is located, were ever asked by the press for their opinions.

On Radio Marti, a government-funded “Radio Free Europe”-like broadcast emitting to Cuba, Obama appointed director Carlos Garcia to prove his bona fides to the Cuban-American right. In an editorial page in the spring, Mr. Garcia showed who the boss was when it comes to America’s foreign policy towards Cuba. Garcia used taxpayers’ dollars to call Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega “a lackey”, because of his perceived indulgence towards the Castro regime. Of course, Garcia is entitled to express his own opinions under our first amendment. However, as long as Congress doesn’t pass a legislation committing the US government to censure and insult the Cuban Roman Catholic Church, the visible spokesman of those who defend dialogue and national reconciliation in Cuba, Mr. Garcia should not use a public institution to vent his adolescent catharsis.

Garcia’s editorial was not a demonstration of force against the Castro regime but towards moderate Cubans and even Obama’s own State Department, who supported the Pope’s visit. None of this was a surprise to observers within the Cuban-American community, but there was a certain amount of hope that the White House would have some sense of decency and commitment to its own limited engagement policy towards Cuba. Wrong. Instead of supporting a constructive approach to President Raul Castro’s economic reform, Washington, not happy with one bad policy towards Cuba, is en route to having two: Obama’s respect for the 1996 Helms-Burton law (which strengthened the embargo and applied financial sanctions to non-US companies trading with Cuba), and Garcia’s preference for an even more contentious implementation of it.

The lack of commitment to Cuban Americans who defended Obama’s engagement steps, such as the easing of Cuban-American travel and people-to-people contacts, might have negative consequences for his support in South Florida. After many decades of exclusion from political life, both in Cuba and Miami, Cubans everywhere have an instinct to wait and see. One of the reasons why candidate Obama attracted the vote of Cuban-American progressive and moderates in 2008 was his article in the Miami Herald announcing clearly how he would reverse President George W. Bush’s policy on travel and remittances. It marked a contrast with then Republican presidential candidate Senator McCain’s commitment to fifty years of nonsense.

But since January 2011, when the Obama Administration expanded the categories of people-to-people contacts, the White House has been reluctant to strengthen its followers in the Cuban-American community. Admittedly, the President has firmly defended his policies towards Cuba, especially his family travel policy, from attacks from the Florida right; but he has avoided taking a high profile on this matter.  The end of the restriction against family visits, a disposition that bothered many who were unable to visit sick parents or even to attend relatives’ funerals, was announced a day before the fifth Summit of the Americas. The measures in favor of people-to-people contacts of January 2011 were adopted on a Friday afternoon through a discreet communiqué from the White House. During the 2010 campaign, no major Democratic figure came to campaign with congressional candidate Joe Garcia, who supports the trade embargo but campaigned for everything Obama stands for concerning the travel policy. No wonder a suspicion has grown that Obama is content with the status quo of Republican dominance in the Cuban-American community.

A second term could hopefully prove us wrong on this. To reach Cuban-American voters under 45 years old, increasingly registered as Independents or Democrats, President Obama should double down on his narrative of engagement, people-to-people contacts and dialogue with Cuba. Electoral considerations aside, Cuba has become a symbolic test case of the Obama administration’s will to adopt a realist approach to strategic problems in the hemisphere, such as the calamitous state of the OAS, immigration reform and drug ban efforts. Were a new constructive era of US-Cuba relations to begin, the new populist regimes would lose a rallying flag for their radicalism. A concentration on “good neighbors” actual multilateralism and not rhetorical fights could make a beginning.

P.S: Two weeks ago, US government-funded Radio Marti transmitted to Cuba an interview about the virtues and difficulties of developing a porn star career in democracy. There is nothing wrong with this use of freedom of expression as long as it is not paid for by taxpayers’ dollars. But again, Radio Marti is a public institution. It is difficult to believe how Director Garcia’s information policies fit with the rules and standards of the FCC, or how providing advice about the beauty and odds of a porn career squares with the mission of “promoting democracy in Cuba”. Everywhere in America, outside Miami, any promotion of porn with taxpayers’ dollars would cost the resignation of every official involved. It is time for Mr. Garcia to go.

About the author

Arturo Lopez-Levy is a Doctoral Candidate and lecturer at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies of the University of Denver. He is a co-author of the book “Raul Castro and the New Cuba: A Close-Up View of Change”, McFarland Publishers, 2011.

Open Letter to Republican and Democratic National Committees / Carta Abierta a los Comités Republicano y Demócrata

In CAFE, Cuba, Cuba/US, Cuban Americans, Cuban Embargo, Politics, US on August 24, 2012 at 11:32 am


To the Republican and Democratic National Committees:

In light of both the upcoming Republican and Democratic conventions we, as Cuban Americans and American citizens, urge both parties to not fall into the trap of viewing our community as a monolithic voting bloc that is in favor of the United States’ embargo on Cuba.  During these conventions the platforms for each party will be decided upon and put into action. For the past fifty years, a strategy of blind support for the embargo has become the norm for political candidates from both parties in order to garner the support of Cuban Americans. We would implore all candidates to not look upon our demographics as one that unanimously supports this failed policy of hostility. Rather, we are a diverse body of voices with a majority that favors a policy of engagement, and ultimately, normalization of relations between the two nations.

Numerous polls of the Cuban American community in southern Florida and throughout the nation demonstrate that a majority of these citizens favor the policies that the Obama administration put in place in 2009 and then expanded in 2011.  These moves have eased the process of reunification of Cuban families by allowing Cuban Americans to travel to Cuba more frequently and send more remittances to loved ones on the island. Overwhelmingly, Cuban Americans have voted with their feet and pocketbooks by traveling to Cuba, sending money, and acting as ambassadors for our great nation.  As Cuban Americans we feel that we are not any better than any other American citizen and would hope that the U.S. government takes steps to eliminate the travel ban placed on all American citizens.

We ask Mitt Romney, the presumptive candidate, and the Republican Party to abandon the Cold War rhetoric. Easing the embargo is not an act of “appeasement”.  It is our hope that Paul Ryan will remain consistent to his well-documented stance against the embargo. We urge all candidates to consider the vast support among congressional Republicans who represent the Midwest and many other districts across the country to end the embargo in order to open up a potentially dynamic market for agricultural and other manufactured goods made in the USA.

True conservatives cannot defend our policy towards Cuba. The travel restrictions violate American citizens’ individual right to travel. Also, our government’s stance towards Cuba is an absolute contradiction to free market capitalism. Furthermore, it is our hope that the GOP will understand the historic ties that Tampa, the host city of their national convention, has with Cuba. The majority of the Cuban American community there favors normalization of relations with Cuba. We reject any attribution of Cuban American congressional members of the Republican Party from southern Florida such as Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Marco Rubio, David Rivera, and Mario Diaz-Balart to speak on behalf of Cuban Americans as a whole within the state, let alone throughout the nation.

The inclusion of Cuba on the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism is counterproductive. This designation undermines American national security because it eliminates the possibility of working in concert with Cuban leaders on important matters of regional security.  Our policy towards Cuba is also looked upon with derision by most of our allies in Latin America and this also compromises our position of influence in the hemisphere. Finally, the embargo effectively denies the very real potential of sustained gains in various sectors of the economy that would result from the opening of a very close market that yearns for American goods and services.

President Obama and his administration are well aware of these circumstances and have encountered opposition from our partners in the western hemisphere regarding such policies. We welcome a proactive response to deal with these challenges.  Regardless of the outcome of the elections in November we would hope that liberals and progressives within the Democratic Party continue to work to bring about a relationship that is more beneficial for both the Cuban people and the American populace.

In closing, we reiterate to all political candidates of both Republican and Democratic parties that Cuban Americans represent a plurality of views pertaining to U.S.-Cuba relations. Any posture by any politician that insinuates that we are all in favor of the embargo is misleading.  It is our desire that the members of the American political class resist the urge to repeat the same tired lines about Cuba and the embargo from past campaigns.  Such an attempt to pander to a community whose grasp of the issue of U.S.-Cuba relations is quite sophisticated and nuanced could cause negative results at the ballot box.


Members of the Board of Directors of CAFE (Cuban Americans for Engagement) and from the Executive Committee of FORNORM

Dr. Maria Isabel Alfonso, New York, NY. CAFE

Dr. Romy Aranguiz, Worcester, MA. CAFE

Dr. Eduardo Araujo, Boulder, CO. CAFE

Alejandro Barreras, Miami, FLA. CAFE

Isidro Borja, Miami, FLA. former President of FORNORM

Ernesto Cabo, Alexandria, VA. CAFE

Amaury Cruz, Miami, FLA. Vice President of FORNORM

Elena Freyre,  Miami, FLA. President of FORNORM

Arturo Lopez-Levy, Denver, CO. CAFE

Andres Ruiz, Worcester, MA. CAFE

Dr. Julio Ruiz, Miami, FLA. Secretary of FORNORM

Benjamin Willis, New York, NY. CAFE

Antonio Zamora, Miami, FLA. former President of FORNORM


Contact: Benjamin Willis

(786) 529-5123



A los Comités Republicanos y Demócratas:

En el marco de las próximas convenciones Demócrata y Republicana, nosotros, ciudadanos cubano-americanos y americanos, urgimos a ambos partidos a no caer en la trampa de ver a nuestra comunidad como un todo monolítico en favor del embargo de Estados Unidos a Cuba. Durante estas convenciones, serán analizadas y puestas en acción las plataformas de cada partido. Por los últimos 50 años, la norma seguida por los candidatos de ambos partidos ha estado trazada por una estrategia de apoyo ciego al embargo, con el objetivo de obtener apoyo de ciertos cubano-americanos. Rogamos a todos los candidatos que no nos vean como un todo que unánimemente suscribe esta fallida política  de hostilidad. Que vean que, por el contrario, somos un conglomerado de voces que en su mayoría, favorece una política de intercambio y normalización de las relaciones entre ambas naciones.

Numerosas encuestas dentro de la comunidad cubano-americana del Sur de la Florida y en toda la nación, demuestran que la mayoría de estos ciudadanos apoya las medidas implementadas por Obama en el 2009, extendidas al 2011. Las mismas, han facilitado el proceso de reunificación de las familias cubanas. De forma abrumadora, los cubanos han correspondido, viajando a Cuba, enviando dinero, y actuando como embajadores de nuestra gran nación. Como cubano-americanos, sentimos que no somos mejores que ningún otro ciudadano norteamericano y esperamos que el gobierno de los Estados Unidos tome pasos hacia la eliminación de la prohibición de viajar, haciéndola extensiva a todos los norteamericanos.

Pedimos a Mitt Romney y al Partido Republicano, que abandonen la retórica de Guerra Fría hacia Cuba. Disminuir algunas de las restricciones del embargo no es un acto de “apaciguamiento”. Esperamos que Paul Ryan sea consistente con sus públicamente conocidas proyecciones en contra del embargo. Urgimos a todos los candidatos a que consideren el vasto apoyo de los congresistas republicanos del Midwest de los EEUU, y de muchos otros distritos del país, a poner fin al embargo y a iniciar una potencial dinámica de mercadeo agrícola y de otros bienes manufacturados en los EEUU.

Un verdadero conservador no puede defender nuestra política hacia Cuba. Las restricciones de viaje violan los derechos individuales de viaje de los norteamericanos. También la posición de nuestro gobierno contradice las bases del capitalismo y del libre comercio.

Esperamos que el Partido Republicano sepa ver los lazos históricos que Tampa, la ciudad anfitriona de su Convención, tiene con Cuba.  La mayoría de la comunidad cubano-americana allí favorece la normalización de las relaciones. Rechazamos cualquier atribución de los congresistas cubano-americanos del Sur de la Florida, como Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Marco Rubio, David Rivera, y Mario Diaz-Balart, a hablar en nombre  de la comunidad cubano-americana como un todo. Menos, aún, en nombre de todos los que vivimos en otros estados de la nación.

La inclusión de Cuba en la lista de países terroristas es contraproducente. Tal designación, socava la seguridad nacional norteamericana, puesto que elimina la posibilidad de trabajar con Cuba en importantes renglones de seguridad regional. Nuestra política hacia Cuba está también en pugna con la de nuestros aliados de América Latina, lo cual compromete nuestra posición de influencia en el hemisferio.

El presidente Obama y su administración están al tanto de las circunstancias que han encontrado oposición por parte de nuestros aliados regionales del hemisferio occidental. Esperamos una respuesta proactiva a estos retos. Más allá de los resultados de las elecciones de noviembre, esperamos que liberales y progresistas dentro del Partido Demócrata continúen trabajando en aras de un mejoramiento en las relaciones Cuba-EE.UU.,  la cual beneficiaría tanto a la población cubana como a la norteamericana.

En resumen, reiteramos a todos los candidatos de los partidos Republicano y Demócrata, que los cubano-americanos encarnamos una pluralidad de puntos de vista en cuanto al tema de las relaciones Cuba-EE.UU. Cualquier postura ostentada por cualquier político, que insinúe que todos estamos a favor del embargo, está basada en falsos presupuestos. Esperamos que los miembros de la clase política resistan la presión de repetir el mismo estribillo sobre Cuba y el embargo, de las campañas presidenciales anteriores. Tal intento de paternalismo hacia una comunidad cuya visión de las relaciones Cuba-EE.UU. es sofisticada y llena de matices, pudiera traer resultados negativos en las urnas electorales.


Miembros del Comité Ejecutivo de CAFE (Cuban Americans for Engagement) y del Comité Ejecutivo de FORNORM (Foundation for the Normalization of the US-Cuba Relations).

Dr. Maria Isabel Alfonso, New York, NY. CAFE

Dr. Romy Aranguiz, Worcester, MA. CAFE

Dr. Eduardo Araujo, Boulder, CO. CAFE

Alejandro Barreras, Miami, FLA. CAFE

Isidro Borja, Miami, FLA. former President of FORNORM

Ernesto Cabo, Alexandria, VA. CAFE

Amaury Cruz, Miami, FLA. Vice President of FORNORM

Elena Freyre,  Miami, FLA. President of FORNORM

Arturo Lopez-Levy, Denver, CO. CAFE

Andres Ruiz, Worcester, MA. CAFE

Dr. Julio Ruiz, Miami, FLA. Secretary of FORNORM

Benjamin Willis, New York, NY. CAFE

Antonio Zamora, Miami, FLA. former President of FORNORM

Contacto: Benjamin Willis


El Habeas Corpus de Gerardo Hernández

In Alan Gross, CAFE, Cuba, Cuban 5, Cuban Americans, Politics, Press, US on August 23, 2012 at 12:18 pm


Por Fernando Ravsberg

Tomado del blog Cartas desde Cuba


La relatora especial de la ONU sobre la independencia de jueces y abogados, Gabriela Knaul, expresó oficialmente  su inquietud por la falta de trasparencia legal y de procedimientos en los juicios contra 5 agentes cubanos detenidos en EEUU desde hace más de una década.

Al parecer la fiscalía y la jueza jugaron con cartas escondidas en la manga, impidiendo que la defensa tuviera “acceso a todas las pruebas disponibles y a los archivos documentales”. Es una violación de procedimiento tan elemental que aparece hasta en las series de TV.

Pero los desaciertos procesales no se quedan ahí, según la relatora de la ONU los Habeas Corpus presentados por la defensa son valorados “por la misma jueza que previamente estuvo a cargo de los casos”, con lo cual la convierten en juez y parte.

Para colmo de males se vislumbra la mano del gobierno de EEUU presionando a los tribunales para conseguir las condenas más duras. Antes y durante el juicio, varios periodistas de Miami habrían recibido dinero para escribir artículos contra los 5 agentes cubanos.

Realmente no parece muy legal que el Poder Ejecutivo intente influir sobre el Poder Judicial ni tampoco resulta muy ético que un periodista acepte recibir dinero del gobierno con el fin de escribir artículos para influir en el resultado de un juicio en curso.

El abogado norteamericano Martin Garbus asegura que en el periodo 1998-2001 la comunidad miamense recibió a través de la prensa escrita, radial y televisiva un arsenal de propaganda pagada por el gobierno para interferir en el proceso y persuadir al jurado.

Según Garbus, una quincena de periodistas recibieron dinero para escribir contra los 5 agentes. Al parecer algunos cobraban en secreto, ni siquiera en sus medios de prensa sabían que trabajaban para otro patrón más generoso, tanto que le pagó a uno de ellos U$D 175 000.

La Oficina de Transmisiones a Cuba del gobierno de EEUU (OCB) se vio obligada a aceptar la acusación, cuando el periodista Oscar Corral reveló que 50 de sus colegas en la Florida eran pagados por Radio Martí para hacer materiales apoyando la postura del Departamento de Estado contra Cuba.

El escándalo fue tal que el editor del mayor periódico de Miami, Jesús Díaz, despidió a varios periodistas aduciendo que no se puede “garantizar la objetividad ni integridad si alguno de nuestros reporteros o reporteras reciben compensación monetaria de cualquier entidad, en especial de una agencia de Gobierno”.

A pesar de las duras palabras del editor, la falta ético-profesional no parece haber sido considerada demasiado grave porque unos meses después algunos de esos periodistas volvieron a trabajar en la redacción como si nada hubiera pasado.

Sin duda, se han dado tantas anomalías legales y éticas que parece lógico que la Relatora de la ONU, Gabriela Knaul, mire con recelo la independencia de los jueces en este caso. De todas formas era de esperar que fuera así, teniendo en cuenta donde se realizó el juicio.

Miami es una ciudad en la que los exiliados cubanos tienen un enorme poder político, económico y mediático. Era muy improbable que obtuvieran un trato justo estos 5 agentes confesos de vigilar e informar a Cuba de las actividades de esa misma comunidad.

El ambiente de Miami sobrepasa incluso el odio a Fidel Castro y se extiende a los ciudadanos que viven en la isla. En el mayor periódico de la ciudad aparecen diatribas asegurando que cualquier acercamiento “lo tienen que construir los cubanos sumisos del interior”.

A los que describe como “los que lo han aguantado todo, los que han colaborado en todo, los que apalean a los cubanos insumisos, los que delatan a sus compatriotas, los que los torturan, los que los arrojan al mar, los que llevan cincuenta años llenando la Plaza de Fidel y aplaudiéndolo y oliéndole el culo”.

Pero parece que a Washington no le bastaba ambiente natural de la ciudad, entonces decidieron que su aparato de información oficial “quemara” cientos de miles de dólares para inflamarlo aún más y crear un incendio de grandes proporciones a través de la prensa.

En medio de ese ambiente Gerardo Hernández fue condenado a 2 cadenas perpetuas, como para garantizar que seguirá tras las rejas aún si lograse reencarnar en otra vida. Ahora su defensa reclama un juicio justo, en una ciudad desprejuiciada, sin presiones del gobierno ni campañas de prensa.

El tema preocupa incluso a las Naciones Unidas porque como expresara el abogado estadounidense Martin Garbus “cada dólar por cada artículo, imagen o programa de radio o televisión que se gastó en este programa secreto, violó la integridad del juicio”.

Defending the defensible

In Blockade, CAFE, Cuba, Cuba/US, Cuban 5, Cuban Americans, Ecuador, Education, Human Rights/Derechos Humanos, Miami/Cuba, Politics, US on August 7, 2012 at 2:40 pm



For Gerardo, René, Antonio, Fernando and Ramón, thank you.


Margarita Alarcón Perea


I have written about the Cuban Five  and have posted even more on this blog site about the subject. Five men unjustly imprisoned in the United States, serving long Machiavellian sentences for a crime they did not commit. It’s a long story that most have not heard about and should really learn more on.

Since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution back in January of 1959, Cuba had to establish one of the best Intelligence networks the world has ever known. Often times compared to Israel’s Mossad, not because of its record for killing but yes for its record as an  intelligence service. The island was struck with numerous blows both on a military scale (Bay of Pigs Invasion, Missile Crisis, explosion of the Cargo Ship La Coubre), as it was a victim of terrorist attacks on civilian targets (Fire at the El Encanto department store, fire at the “Amadeo Roldán” TheaterCubana Flight 422) or multiple terrorist biological attacks on crops and livestock and of course direct terrorist attacks on individuals throughout the more than half a century of tension between the island and its closest neighbor to the north.

All of these attacks have been proven to come from the Cuban American community living in the South of Florida and working directly under the noses of the CIA, the FBI and the White House. This is not news to anyone who has been alive and paying attention for the past fifty years.

For a good part of those years, the excuse was that Cuba was a satellite nation of the Soviet Union and since the Cold War was on, Cuba was considered a nation to be exporting revolution and  it was an accepted fact that it  was the enemy and that the island and its people were a valid target. After the demise of the USSR and the socialist block in Eastern Europe it would have been logical to expect a change in these policies and I like to think that on many levels in the CIA, the FBI and the White House this is the case but unfortunately these same institutions created a Frankenstein that is now a rogue killer and completely out of control.

One of the “revolution” exports was Nicaragua and then Angola and Namibia and South Africa. Nicaragua was “taken care” of by the Reagan Administration and Angola, Namibia and South Africa were, well, let’s just say, that former President Nelson Mandela has publicly acknowledged the role of Fidel Castro and his people in not only freeing him but also in putting an end to that gruesome system known as apartheid in that region of the world.

Yet the Cuban Five are a term we who love Cuba and its sovereignty use over and over again. What is it? Well, it’s not an “it” per se. It’s the term used to refer to five men who infiltrated Cuban American terrorist networks to try to put an end to terrorist activities against the island years after the fall of the Berlin wall, years after the end of the Cold War and years after so called “democracies” were taking over much of the hemisphere. Because you see, it wasn’t the Cold War or the “exporting” of Revolution or even the fact that Cuba is the only island to stand in the face of imperialism and win.

The  Cuban Five are men who were standing up for things that the Cuban Revolution stands for and that are now becoming  a reality the world over. These men were protecting not only their homeland, they were protecting what their homeland stands for in the rest of the world.

Cuba today, is guilty of one thing only. It is guilty of having been in Haiti with 400 doctors collaborating with the country when the earthquake hit in 2010. It is guilty of having sent another 5000 to Pakistan shortly after another such natural disaster struck the mountains in that eastern nation. It is also guilty of having guaranteed that some 6.5 million citizens in 28 nations are no longer illiterate persons thanks to the Cuban Literacy Program known as “Yes, I Can.” A figure that surpasses all statistics reported by other similar programs implemented thus far around the world. Here is the humdinger: the cost of the course depends on the conception of how to apply the program. Depending on the application of the program and the teaching means, including a TV set and a DVD player, teaching a person how to read and write does not cost more than five dollars.

And that is one of the main things the Cuban Five were defending, Cuba’s right to “export” literacy at a cost of FIVE dollars a pupil.

How can anybody condemn anyone for defending something like that?

Much ado about nothing … or not

In Asamblea Nacional/National Assembly, Blockade, CAFE, Cuba, Cuba/US, Cuban Americans, Cuban Embargo, Miami/Cuba, Politics, Press, US on August 1, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Margarita Alarcón Perea

It’s been a topic of conversation on the streets, in places of work, in the news (foreign press) and the blogger sphere. Cuba will be imposing a new import tax come this September. The information came out in the form of a document (PDF) posted on the web site of the National Customs Agency.

Back history

Entrepreneurs have been popping up all over the country after the very extensive  layout in the national newspaper announcing which jobs qualified as legal entrepreneur endeavors. From watch repair shops to restaurants to cafeterias and impromptu clothing stores. All of these immediately began to lighten the burden of shopping and receiving services in a country which has been lacking in retail business for way too long. Now you may walk up a couple of blocks from any neighborhood in Vedado and either get the batteries in your watch replaced or have your cell phone fixed or buy yourself a new shirt, dress or pair of shoes. On occasion at much more moderate prices than those offered in the state owned businesses. You may also sit down for a sandwich or have a complete meal at any of the eateries sprouting up all over town. It’s all quite comforting and relaxing as far as a society goes; what is more important, it is all quite welcome and overdue.

How they work

When these new job opportunities opened up, the State took the needs and the availability of job options into account. For this purpose the page in the paper that listed all of the possible business options one would have hoped would have been as explicit as possible. In some instances this was not the case. Cuba has a serious issue when wording legal jargon and the reader has an even bigger problem when this legal jargon is left to interpretation. For instance, one of the new job opportunities was listed as “sale of CD’s ,LP’s, DVD’s”. Nowhere was it stated that the sale of these items was to be that of “used” ones and not items created by individuals with either internet access (downloading) or the ability to burn 30 CD’s or DVD’s from an original and which include the works by Cuban artists who are signed to Cuban record labels and will hence not see a cent from royalties on these sales. Same applies to movies, you can buy for less than 5cuc’s the entire bootlegged Elpidio Valdes collection a comic strip created by Juan Padrón, Cuban film maker distributed by ICAIC the Cuban National Film Institute. This entire situation has been going on for over two years now and I for one have seen no sign of it coming even close to an end. Having worked in the music industry for a good long part of my life and having musicians both as friends and as family members I found this legalized pirating remarkably insulting.

More cases

The food entrepreneur business also has its loopholes. Most businesses will buy their produce from the farmers markets and fishermen and then some from the general state owned stores. Now, the reality is simple, those who have family abroad will be at an advantage since these can help out with the wholesale acquisitions of a good lump of the stuffs necessary in order to start a business and keep it going. In some cases this was happening in a constant free flowing manner which not only helped to sustain the business itself but also garnished the services and quality of the goods with fresh new ideas and incentives not seen on the island in a long time. Things like matching heavy duty salt and pepper shakers, hot sauce and other goodies from – I’m guessing here, COSTCO, Wall-Mart etc – were coming down in the huge black plastic duffle bags brought down from Miami, Venezuela and Ecuador among other nations.

Not all was centered on the plight of buying from aboard. At one such Paladar I noticed these very simple presentation plates and asked if these were also being brought down from somewhere (over the Rainbow…), “Oh, no!” said the owner. “I commissioned them from a guy who hand draws the logo for me and I acquired the plates here at a state owned store.” With this response I thought: how grand a situation where not only was the owner making a buck but he was also helping to entice other members of society to join the independent work force. The other positive edge to this whole opening up of events has been that if you own a business in Cuba and you employ others, you pay less tax to the state. An even bigger plus is that many of these restauranteurs will use their wall space as impromptu show /sales rooms for the works of young artists. Job opportunities galore!

So, where’s the problem?

If you’ve read this far then you must have started to wonder about the first paragraph in this piece and the rest of my train of thought, right? Well read above again, where I use the word “plight” in regards to bringing down goods. Cuba established the legal possibility of opening up certain levels of business but it didn’t have a system of whole sale in place for those business in order to enable the owner/investor to acquire the stuffs to supply their places of work. So what happened? Mules happened. And more importantly, a huge traffic of un controlled import which was completely under the national radar. It also has served as the perfect food for corruption inside the Customs Agency. You pay me a buck or two, I let you by with 56 pounds worth of parmesan cheese and Hunts tomato paste or 72 multi colored jeans in 7 different sizes and two duffle bags full of bright and shiny in style t-shirts in sizes S, M, L and XL.

The other thing that sprouted up precisely because of the misinterpretation of the wording in the law was not only the birth of pirating which in my opinion has no place in this country, but too a situation whereby  an individual who acquires a license to sell clothing , understood to be  clothing manufactured by a seamstress, ideally the one who has requested the license, would then open an impromptu shop on a street corner or home to sell clothing and accessories imported from abroad.

Not all the traffic from Miami and elsewhere is about this. But much of it is, and its wrong and illegal anywhere in the world. You import for a business, you pay a business import tax. It’s as simple as that. The problem now stands in the legal writing of the new customs regulation. Is the population of the island all involved in some sort of entrepreneurial business? Nope. Does some of the population depend on what their family members send them, whether it be in the form of food or clothing or anything else? Yes. Is it fair to regulate affecting all such that many will be footing the bill of the few? I think not.

Putting things into perspective, the problem the way I see it, isn’t the regulation on a personal import tax. The problem lays in not having worded the text properly clarifying that until Cuba has the ability to establish a wholesale market, something which is unlikely while Helms Burton and their law continue running the economic show on this island, there should be a an import tax on large (obvious) quantities of merchandise into the country. You can establish a clothing shop on your front porch, or desire to have delicacies on your menu , you’re just going to have to pay for the import of what you sell.