Damsels, dragons, and commissioners
Dissident voices from a generation born under the communist dictatorship in Cuba are being heard in international forums and garnering attention. All of the sudden, the world is listening!
Yoani Sanchez, the tireless blogger, dismantles the myth of the Castro Revolution with a thoughtful speech. Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White, confronts Castro agents in Madrid with a “Cuba si, Castro no!” Rosa Maria, the young daughter of Oswaldo Paya demands justice for her father. They are three women, three damsels who have escaped from their prison to desperately plea for help in liberating their enslaved people.
But as they gain valuable ground in their battle wielding virtual swords on the Internet, gladiolas, and a demand for justice, members of the Miami-Dade County Commission are getting ready to vote on a decision that can reward Odebrecht, the huge Brazilian conglomerate that is currently modernizing the Port of Mariel and which the Cuban regime is depending on to survive and reinvent itself.
This company is not just remodeling the Port of Mariel to turn it into one of the major seaports in Latin America and the largest commerce center in the Caribbean, but they are also building a Special Development Zone adjacent to the port: a free trade zone that will facilitate commerce. Odebrecht, whose projects in Cuba are financed by the Brazilian government, has also just signed a 10-year agreement to revitalize Cuba’s sugar industry.
This multinational company depends greatly on its U.S. subsidiary, Odebrecht USA. In the past, it has received $4.8 billion from county taxpayers through contracts awarded by the County Commission. The Adrienne Arsht Center, the remodeling of Miami International Airport, the docks at the Port of Miami, and the construction of the FIU stadium are just a few of the examples of Odebrecht’s eternal presence in Miami.
However, what is on the table now and the County Commissioners must decide with a vote coming up soon is the granting of a juicy contract to Odebrecht for the construction of Airport City, an enormous tourist complex at Miami International Airport at a cost of $512 million. Odebrecht will finance the construction themselves and Miami-Dade County will receive in return a portion of the profits over 50 years in addition to rent paid on the 33 acres of county land where it will be built.
Odebrecht has become an obscene word in the lexicon of the majority of exiled Cubans because its mention evokes memories of the abuses, deaths, imprisonment, beatings, starvation, intolerance, and a nation subjugated by a dictatorship for more than fifty years. Because of this, the vote by the County Commission’s Cuban American members, who are a majority, should be a resounding “NO.”
But this should also be the case with the non-Cuban American commissioners. This past November, 62% of county voters voted against granting contracts to companies who do business with countries listed on the State Sponsors of Terror list. Since 1982, Cuba has been one of those countries.
The commissioners should not turn their backs on Yoani, Berta, and Rosa Maria, those valiant damsels who at great risk to their lives will return to Cuba to face abuse. Their courage deserves to be rewarded. The dragon that breathes life into their repressors should be rejected!
Say NO to Odebrecht!
Director, MAR por Cuba/US-Cuba Democracy PAC