Yoani Sánchez — A Bridge Through Dialogue

Following is a magnificent interview conducted in Berlin, Germany in 2003, by Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez. While I disagree with Yoani when it comes to the lifting of the U.S. embargo, I respect her daily fight against the repression in Communist Cuba. She cited a famous saying by Cuban Founding Father José Martí: “Subir montañas, hermana a los hombres.” [Fighting for a just cause triggers the brotherhood of mankind]. Her cause – fighting for the restoration of freedom and democracy to Cuba – is my cause as well. She describes herself as bridge through dialogue. While you may not agree with each other through dialogue, it opens a window of understanding to the other side. Many people have asked me why I write so much, and I’m glad that Yoani used the same logic to respond: writing is a catharsis for my being a citizen of the world.

To listen to the interview, click on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pbo03RidoD0

Pachanga in the White House

President Obama’s 2015 National Hispanic Heritage Month Proclamation addresses the contributions that “America’s Hispanic community” has made to our country. Therefore, one must ask why the President has opted to host Communist Cuba’s Buena Vista Social Club at a White House function tonight. One can draw only one conclusion, the President prefers to embrace Cubans from a Communist country rather that freedom-loving Cuban-Americans from the United States.

But the President can’t help himself. In the 2015 proclamation, he brags as one of his accomplishments the fact that “we are expanding the cultural, economic, and familial ties that so many Hispanic Americans share with Latin America by entering a new chapter of engagement and cooperation with Cuba.” Once again, the President shows no respect for freedom-loving Cuban-Americans.
And now you have an inkling as to why I dislike President Obama so much!

To read the 2015 White House proclamation, click on https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/09/15/presidential-proclamation-national-hispanic-heritage-month-2015

Pope Francis, Dorothy Day, and Che Guevara

Pope Francis

Bombarded by the 24-hour news cycle on the Popemania, I was moved to listen to Pope Francis’ address to a Joint Session of the U.S. Congress on September 24, 2015.

Having said this, I must admit that I was not favorably inclined to listen to this Pope for his failure to rise to the occasion during his Cuban visit. He refused to meet with the Ladies in White and with other human-rights activists who have been fighting the oppression of the Castro regimes and religious persecution. He invoked “reconciliation” to the Cuban people — ignoring the fact that what they need is FREEDOM. The Pope’s demeanor in Communist Cuba was not that of a man of courage. His continued criticism of capitalism and his silence on communism show his biases and his preferred ideology.

When asked why he had not met with human-rights dissidents during his stay in Cuba, Pope Francis responded that “”It was very clear I was not holding private audiences in the nunciature — not even with other heads of state.” And, yet, Pope Francis did meet with Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis at the Vatican Embassy in Washington, DC.  This provides more evidence where Pope Francis’ loyalties are – definitely not with democratic forces.

There are signs that Pope Francis offered us to let us know where his sympathies are.  By meeting with Fidel Castro, the Pope gave a pass to the former Cuban dictator who closed all Catholic schools and universities, as well as expelled 131 priests, brothers, and a bishop on a freighter bound for Spain in 1961.  According to the church’s statistics, the number of priests in Cuba decreased from 723 in 1960 to 220 in 1965. By reaching out to Fidel, Pope Francis betrayed the sacrifices of many Catholic youngsters who died at the hands of firing squads at La Cabaña prison to shouts of “Viva Cristo Rey.” Pope Francis sided with the key enemy of the Catholic Church in Cuba.

And here is yet another clue as to why I don’t trust Pope Francis. When he visited Bolivia, he accepted as a gift a Marxist crucifix from President Evo Morales — one shaped with the Communist hammer and sickle. It was Karl Marx who called religion the opium of the masses. Religion and communism are incompatible with each other, and, yet, Pope Francis said that he was not offended by Evo’s gesture. You see, Pope Francis remembers to talk about “politics” only when he is away from totalitarian-run countries. To him, the enemy of the people is capitalism, not communism!

Getting back to Pope Francis’ speech to Congress, I was glad when he mentioned leading civil-rights champions in our Nation’s history, like former President Abraham Lincoln and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Both of these were Americans whom I have always admired.

But then, the Pope threw me a curve ball when he mentioned Dorothy Day. At first, I thought that the Pope’s lack of proficiency with the English language had triggered a mispronunciation of a famous American. I was certain that the Pope meant to recognize the popular actress of the 1950s and 1960s Doris Day. She was a favorite of mine, too.

On second thought, I thought that Doris Days did not belong next to the names of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr., unless, she had done some momentous acts in our history that I was unfamiliar with. So, I went back and checked Doris Day’ biography, and I could not find any. Her fame was mainly in the film industry.

My first clue that helped me to solve my dilemma came when I heard that U.S. Senator and self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders had left the House chamber beaming because the Pope had cited an American Catholic whom Sanders had plenty of praise of. The Senator indicated that the name “Dorothy Day has not been used in the United States Congress terrible often.” Sanders went on to say that “She was a valiant fighter for workers, was very strong in her belief for social justice, and I think it was extraordinary that he cited her as one of the most important people in recent American history. This would be one of the very, very few times that somebody as radical as Dorothy Day was mentioned.”

Now that I had the correct name, I did a bit of research on Dorothy Day. And I came up with one of Day’s famous saying during the 1970s:

“The two words [anarchist-pacifist] should go together, especially at this time when more and more people, even priests, are turning to violence, and are finding their heroes in Camillo Torres among the priests, and Che Guevara among laymen. The attraction is strong, because both men literally laid down their lives for their brothers. “Greater love hath no man than this.””

And, now, I am more convinced than ever as to why I admired Pope John II. Regarding Pope Francis, I am not a fan. Anyone who mentioned an American who looked up to Che Guevara cannot be a friend of mine or of freedom-loving Cuban-Americans.

Pope Francis and President Obama

Pope Francis Evo Morales

According to the Wall Street Journal — “Vatican disputes White House guest list for papal visit,” by Francis X. Rocca: “On the eve of Pope Francis’s arrival in the U.S., the Vatican has taken offense at the Obama administration’s decision to invite to the pope’s welcome ceremony transgender activists, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop and an activist nun who leads a group criticized by the Vatican for its silence on abortion and euthanasia…According to a senior Vatican official, the Holy See worries that any photos of the pope with these guests at the White House welcoming ceremony next Wednesday could be interpreted as an endorsement of their activities.”

Where was the Vatican rage when Bolivian President Evo Morales gave him an image of the crucified Christ featuring the Communist hammer and sickle?

Now that Pope Francis has become a buddy of President Obama, he’s finding out that worst thing anyone can do is become a friend of the President. Obama is kinder and gentler with his enemies than with his friends.

Cuban-American Poet in Havana on August 14th

Marti Quote

The Obama administration asked Richard Blanco, the son of Cuban immigrants, to write a poem for the reopening of the U.S. Embassy in “La Obama,” Cuba, on August 14th, 2015. Blanco, who read his poem “One Today” at President Obama’s second inauguration, indicated that this second request “was the hardest and easiest poem I have had to write.”

It is shameful that Blanco has allowed himself to be manipulated by the Obama administration. Perhaps, Blanco is more interested in himself than in the plight of the Cuban people. Indeed, it is ironic that Secretary Kerry refused to invite Cuban dissidents to the official flag-raising ceremony at the U.S. embassy. It is the Cuban dissidents who deserve to read their poems at this official ceremony.

Blanco should be reminded of the words of Cuban Founding Father José Martí regarding visiting an enslaved Cuba:

“To set foot in the house of the oppressor is to justify the oppression. As long as a people have not conquered its rights, he/she who visits the house of those who trample on his/her rights to party and have a good time is an enemy of the people. “

If President Obama’s goal was to bring the Cuban and the Cuban-American closer together, he has failed miserably. Blanco’s actions have set them apart.

See: http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/politics/2015/08/13/son-cuban-exiles-says-reciting-poem-at-embassy-opening-is-his-easiest-yet/

Some Pedro Paners’ Nonsensical Views on Communist Cuba

Between 1960 and 1962, Cuban parents sent approximately 14,000 children unaccompanied to the United States to rid them of the Communist indoctrination in Communist Cuba. Many were relocated to live with relatives, while others were placed in foster homes and orphanages. Some were reunited with their parents later, while some never saw their parents again. This is what I call making the ultimate sacrifice by these parents for their kids to live in a free society!

To me, it is inconceivable that some of these Pedro Pan kids nowadays have positive views of the Cuban dictators. It is inconceivable to me that some of them even have favorable views of the Obama/Castro opening. Like my friends in Santo Suarez would say, ¡Le zumba el mango!

While this is a right granted to all in a democracy, I place my trust and admiration in Pedro Paners like Willy Chirino who is still faithful to his parents’ ideals of returning only to a Cuba Libre.

This Cuban-American Is Not On My Team

“U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on Tuesday said it will no longer require incoming U.S. citizens to pledge that they will ‘bear arms on behalf of the United States’ or ‘perform noncombatant service’ in the Armed Forces as part of the naturalization process. Those lines are in the Oath of Allegiance that people recite as they become U.S. citizens. But USCIS said people ‘may’ be able to exclude those phrases for reasons related to religion or if they have a conscientious objection.”

I think that patriotic Americans should contact their congressmen(women) to insist that President Obama fire the agency’s director, Leon Rodriguez, over the apparent change. Rodriguez is a Cuban-American who does not have my vote.

Rodriguez was born in 1962 in Brooklyn, N.Y. to Cuban immigrants. When he was four years old, Rodriguez moved with his parents to Miami, where they ran a business. He attended Brown University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in History in 1984. Rodriguez received his J.D. from Boston College in 1988.


Ponce Painting 1


Cuba is now front and center in the United States. Not a day goes by when there is not an article on Cuba from a major media outlet or a press release from a federal agency. With a major lobbying blitz underway to lift the U.S. embargo on Cuba, Cuban-Americans who insist on the maintenance of a hardline policy towards Cuba are viewed as pariahs to progress. They have become stumbling blocks to the new honeymoon that is now in vogue in the United States with everything pertaining to Cuba. These Cuban-Americans have been called all kinds of pejoratives – from Batista sympathizers to unauthentic Hispanics.

But, Cuban-Americans have been exposed to so much suffering that the cat-calls by some biased and uninformed Americans will not deter them from exposing the suffering of the Cuban people at the hands of the Castro brothers or discussing their own hardships in the Diaspora. It is difficult to comprehend the anger and resentment felt by most Cuban-Americans without having experienced a similar odyssey. But, make no mistake about it, their anger and resentment are well-justified.

With the following heartfelt story of a heinous act committed by the Cuban authorities against a close family member, it is my intent to explain the deep distrust that exists between the Cuban Government and Cuban-Americans — which cannot be bridged by happy talk and the reopening of embassies.

While this is a small example of the hardships that most Cuban-Americans have suffered, it serves to illustrate their saga by recounting a personal story.

My late father, Claudio Ponce, led a life of comfort that he closely cultivated by mingling with movers and shakers in La Habana. Shortly after Fidel Castro rose to power in 1959, my father, at age 42, made the painful decision to take us out of the country for good. My parents strongly believed that it was unacceptable to turn over the upbringing of their children to the Communist state. They realized the evil of a Government that was intent on inculcating in the minds of its youth that Communism was the religion of the enlightened many and that complete submission to the wishes of the Government offered the only guarantee to a successful life.

And, while I did not see eye-to-eye with my late father on many issues, I respect his decision to take us out of this Cuban Inferno. Many of my close friends have speculated that with my rebellious personality and with my perennial quest to fight for just causes, I would have been shot by a firing squad or thrown in prison if I had remained in Cuba. I am not an individual who easily succumbs to someone’s plan or ideology. I am free, I enjoy saying I do, I don’t, I will, or I won’t. I have never aspired to be just a space, a no one, a number, a sheep. Living in the United States has allowed me to thrive academically and professionally, and to now enjoy a happy retirement in Florida. For this, I offer my eternal gratitude to my parents.

My father never adjusted to the American way of life. He never mastered the English language, and had to take a downgrade in his employment status because his accounting degree was not from a U.S.-accredited university.

To bring meaning to his life in the United States, he immersed himself in activities having to do with Cuba. He became president of the Casa Cuba of Washington, DC – a Cuban-American organization that promoted the history and culture of Cuba. He brought to the DC area many renowned Cuban-American cultural idols of pre-1959 Cuba, including mounting a musical show in 1976 at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to honor our Nation’s bicentennial. Over the years, Salsa Queen Celia Cruz, Mr. Babalú Miguelito Valdés, Fernando Albuerne, and Xiomara Alfaro serenated Cuban-American audiences in the Nation’s capital.

My father’s response to the existential question of how he would be remembered was that he kept the Cuban roots alive in the hearts of the Cuban-Americans in the DC area. While he devoted many hours to bringing joy to the Cuban-American exiles, he, nevertheless, felt the need to keep Cuba alive in his own soul.

Part of my father’s nostalgia emanated from the fact that it was in the Cuba BC (Before Castro) that he accomplished most of his dreams. It was in this Spanish-speaking society that my father was at the top of his game. He was respected by all, led a successful life, was married to a professional woman who was ahead of her times, and had two healthy children to brag about. Life was good back then.

But the good times came to an end when he emigrated to the United States in 1966 – a country with a different culture, different language, and a different way of looking at things. To alleviate his homesickness, he yearned for four oil paintings that he had left in my aunt’s house in La Habana. With them around him, he thought he would feel more like the man that he had been in Cuba.

While he painted many oil paintings, he took immense pride in these four. He painted them with the mentoring of Valentín – a graduate of the famous San Alejandro Academy, considered the oldest and most prestigious fine arts school in Cuba. The four paintings depicted scenes from the Mediterranean – as he was fond of seascapes because he was born in a fishing town in Cuba (Caibarién). He felt at peace with himself when he was near the sea.

In any country in the world where democracy is the law of the land, artists have sole ownership of their creations. My father felt an emotional connection with his paintings, and he liked to keep them all. To him, there was no price tag to compensate him for the spiritual connection that he felt with his paintings. But, in Communist Cuba, you gave sole ownership of all your personal possessions to the Cuban Government after emigrating to United States. This was their way of punishing Cuban-Americans who left and went to live with the Great Satan — the Yankee Imperialists!

Based on Cuban law, my father’s paintings belonged to my aunt while she remained in Cuba. My father realized that this was a problem. But, there is always a solution to even the most difficult challenges.

On one of my mother’s trips to visit her mother in La Habana, my father concocted a subterfuge to get the paintings out by concealing them in my mother’s luggage. To play it safe, my mother hid just two of the paintings after removing their frames. And, it worked!

My father was so happy at having two of his paintings with him again that he invited some of his relatives and friends in Miami to a viewing and a toast at his home. On this special day, my father looked and felt younger. He had a defiant look in his smile. He felt good at the fact that he had defeated the Cuban Communists at their own game. There was a sparkle in his eye projecting a feeling that he could take on any obstacle thrown in his path. Once again, he felt like he was in charge of his own destiny!

But success breeds overconfidence. And, so, my father planned the next secret mission with my mother to bring back the remaining two paintings on her next trip to Cuba. While my mother followed the same protocol as the first time and hid the two paintings in her bags, the Cuban security agents at the airport discovered her plot and forbade her from taking them out of the country.

To my father’s extreme chagrin, these two paintings are now the property of the Cuban Government. Although my aunt in La Habana was still alive (she has now passed away) and could have kept the paintings, the Cuban officials wanted to punish my mother by confiscating them. My father never got over this extreme humiliation, and he passed away dreaming of his two lost paintings!

My father speculated that one reason that could explain the Cuban agents’ action was that they may have thought that the paintings were the work of a very famous Cuban painter by the name of Fidelio Ponce de León. But to my father, his paintings meant more to him than those painted by this Cuban master. To his immediate family, these lost paintings were part of his legacy.

The confiscation of two of my father’s paintings was unjustified and at odds with the property rights that prevail in capitalist societies. These paintings belong in a Ponce home, and not sitting in a Communist Cuban residence.

Some legal scholars opine that in a Cuba Libre, the Cuban Government would have to arrange for the restitution of stolen properties to their rightful owners.  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word “restitution” as a legal action serving to cause restoration of a previous state.  This is impossible.  These four paintings were the crowning jewel of my father’s collection.  Every time that he looked at them, he felt great joy and pride.  But such powerful feelings were felt by a father who was at the prime of his life in his beloved country and in his enchanted city – La Habana.  When he left Communist Cuba, he lost his soul.  Thus, there is no way that anyone could offer restitution or restoration to a previous state.  My father is no longer alive. 

The rightful compensation that the Cuban Government could offer would be the reunification of my father’s paintings with my family.  It is only my mother, my sister, and I who can keep alive my father’s legacy with our children.  We deserve to have his paintings in our households.  This is where they belong!

I am optimistic that the other two paintings that remain in the possession of the Cuban Government will be returned to the Ponce family in the near future.  I am a believer in the redemption of the human race and sinners.   

My father’s two beloved paintings are proudly displayed in my living room.  They are a testament to my father’s artistry and a constant reminder of the sacrifices that he endured so that I could become the man that I am today.  I am honored and humbled to look at them each day.  


Great Book of José Martí

Marti Book

Professor López did an outstanding job researching this book. I had tried reading Jorge Mañach’s book on Martí in the past, but I could only understand only 5% of its content. Its Spanish was so erudite, that it was burdensome for Cuban-American like myself to get the gist of it. This is not to detract in any way from Mañach’s book, which many judge to be the definitive book on Martí (in Spanish).

What makes López’ book so wonderful is that it is the first written in English. Moreover, López looked up to Martí as a man — with all his frailties and genius. Thus, he added another dimension to Martí that up to now was unknown. Rather than detracting from his persona, López made him better understood and relatable.

Anyone who is anxious to find out the racial dimensions of the Cuban struggle for independence from Spain and on Martí’s thoughts should read this book.

You can purchase your copy at http://www.amazon.com/Jos%C3%A9-Mart%C3%AD-Revolutionary-American-Culture/dp/0292739060/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1426474385&sr=1-1&keywords=lopez+marti

Do Younger Cuban-Americans Think Differently Than Their Parents on Cuba?

Art Linares

There are many out there in fantasy land who justify the Obama/Castro Accord of December 17, 2014, by saying that a majority of Americans – and they put special emphasis on the younger members of the Cuban-American community – support the opening. 

Well, here is a speech by the Cuban-American Connecticut State Senator Art Linares (Republican) on his feelings and aspirations for the homeland of his parents and grandparents. He makes Cuban-Americans and freedom-loving Americans very proud. 

Linares dispels the lies propagated by most media outlets whose main interest is propaganda. When it comes to the restoration of freedom and democracy to Communist Cuba, the majority of the Cuban-American community is of one-mind. This is self-evident not only in the election of Cuban-American congressmen who embrace a hardline on Cuban matters, but in the many Cuban-American households who teach their children that there is price to be paid for democracy. 

Linares succeeded ten-term Democratic State Senator Eileen Daily for the 33rd Senate District, and, thus, became the first Republican to hold this seat since 1992.  At age 26, he is one of the youngest state senators in Connecticut history. He co-founded a commercial solar energy company, Greenskies, while majoring in entrepreneurship at the University of Tampa. Middletown-based Greenskies recently scored a $30 million contract to install solar panels at 27 Wal-Mart stores in Massachusetts. 

To listen to State Senator Linares’ speech, click on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Ngf9XVyjKk&feature=youtu.be


Cuban-Americans: Who They Are and How They Are Perceived


Cuban-Americans, primarily those belonging to the Historic Exile (1959-1979), have been the target of insults lately after President Obama announced a new opening to Communist Cuba on December 17, 2014.

They have been called all kinds of pejoratives – Batista sympathizers, inveterate hardliners, cavemen, reactionaries. They don’t deserve these slanderous labels. Those who mischaracterize them do not really know the story of one of the most successful immigrant groups in the United States.

Indeed, most Cuban-Americans have taken umbrage at multiple racist cartoons that several national newspapers have published in the past. Two come to mind immediately – one by Oliphant and the other by Herblock. Pat Oliphant’s cartoon depicts Uncle Sam sending a bunch of Cuban-Americans on a raft back to Cuba for fear that they would interfere with the 2008 presidential election, and asking them to say hello to Batista. Herblock’s cartoon issues a warning to Cuban-Americans who are dissatisfied with U.S. laws to purchase a one-way ticket to Cuba. Both of these cartoons are slanderous to Cuban-Americans – a minority group that is more conscious than the average American of the supremacy of laws because they left a homeland that became lawless. Regarding Cuban-Americans returning to Cuba in 2008 and saying hello to Batista, this shows the utmost ignorance by Oliphant. Fulgencio Batista left Cuba on January 1, 1959, and died in 1973. Thus, it would have been impossible for Cuban-Americans, or for anyone else, to interact with Batista – which goes to prove that racism is based on ignorance and unfounded stereotyping. Anti-intellectualism may be an American tradition, but when mainstream cartoonists embrace ignorance, we are all diminished as a Nation.

Moreover, some media outlets indicate that the majority of these Cuban-Americans are Republicans and mostly whites. And, you can rest assured that these characterization are not complimentary.

Ignorance and prejudice are sins against humanity! Although they may not know much about Cuban-Americans, they have seen them or interacted with them in the past. When they’ve gone to the movie theaters, they’ve seen Andy García playing leading roles in “Godfather, Part III” and in “When a Man Loves a Woman.” They’ve watched television anchor and correspondent Soledad O’Brien report the news and interview guests in multiple shows in CNN, HBO, and Al Jazeera. They’ve seen journalist José Díaz-Balart interview the President of the United States. They’ve read or watched the film “The Mambo Kings,” written by Oscar Hijuelos (the first Hispanic to win the Pulitzer for fiction). They’ve listened to the magnificent interpretations of jazz classics by Grammy-winning saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera and pianist/trumpeter Arturo Sandoval. They’ve danced to the catchy tunes of Celia Cruz (the Queen of Salsa), and rapper Pitbull. They’ve read about those who served in the President’s Cabinet: Carlos Gutierrez, former U.S. Secretary of Commerce, and Mel Martínez, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. They’ve been entertained by the incomparable Sammy Davis, Jr., whose mother was of Afro-Cuban descent. They’ve celebrated special occasions by drinking Bacardi Rum and Grey Goose Vodka, both owned by the Bacardi Family.

Cuban-Americans are highly educated. According to the Pew Research Center, they have higher levels of education, as of 2011, than the Hispanic population overall. Twenty-five percent of Cubans ages 25 and older—compared with thirteen percent of all U.S. Hispanics — have obtained at least a bachelor’s degree. After losing all their personal possessions when they left Communist Cuba, they learned that the one thing that no totalitarian government could take away from them was a good education and a university degree.

And, Cuban-Americans wield immeasurable power in the realm of U.S. politics. While being less than one half of 1 percent of the U.S. population, they make up 3 percent of the U.S. Senate and more that 1 percent of the U.S. House of Representatives. In total, there are eight Cuban-Americans in the U.S. Congress – five in the House, and three in the Senate. They speak for four states – Florida, New Jersey, Texas, and West Virginia. They belong to both political parties. And, when it comes to issues regarding Cuba, they speak with one voice regarding the restoration of freedom and democracy to this Caribbean Island, the Pearl of the Antilles.

But, one thing that the majority of Cuban-Americans are certain of is never to trust a Castro. Fidel and Raul have subjected the Cuban population to 56 years of totalitarian rule. With the average monthly salary of a Cuban employee being $20 and with many Cuban youngsters having to resort to prostitution to feed their families, most Cubans have lost hope of a better future. They cannot complain to anyone or participate in protest rallies for fear that they will be ignored, arrested, receive lengthy jail sentences, or assassinated. Two prominent political dissidents, Laura Pollán and Oswaldo Payá, disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Requests made to the Cuban Government to investigate these cases have fallen on deaf ears. No one pays attention to their cries for justice, as the Cuban Government is not interested in finding the truth, but only in hiding it.

So, are Cuban-Americans Batista sympathizers? Some of them are, but they are a minority and have to play by American rules while living in the United States. Although I’ve been called this designation in the past, I could not be a sympathizer of any political figure as I was 11 years old when I left Cuba. This shows vividly that these people who dislike Cuban-Americans so much are not interested in logical debates, but in ad-hominem attacks. In 1959, the majority believed that Fidel was the best hope for a better Cuba, only to regret it shortly after. This majority made up the cream of the crop of Cuban society – the professionals, the businessmen, the entrepreneurs, the entertainers who wanted a better life as a reward for their talent. They are the sons and daughters of this generation of Cuban-Americans who rose to prominence in American society because of the example that their parents gave them that it took hard work, dedication, and determination to achieve the American dream.

Are they cavemen? Not by any stretch of the imagination. They want nothing else than freedom and democracy for Cuba. No one would dream of calling former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt a caveman for fighting to restore freedom and prosperity to our allies during World War II. No one would dare to call Nelson Mandela a caveman for fighting to remove the apartheid plague from South Africa. Freedom is an equal-opportunity dream.

Are they reactionaries? No, again. They are champions of progress who have exceeded in all areas of American culture – the arts, humanities, sciences, and business. Instead, it is the Cuban Government officials who merit the reactionary label. They sentenced former USAID contractor Alan Gross to fifteen years in prison for simply distributing cell phones and computers to the island’s small Jewish community to connect it through the Internet with the outside world – not a crime anywhere else. In 2014, only 3.4 percent of homes in Cuba had Internet access – one of the lowest rates in the world – and it was largely limited to government employees and expensive pay-by-hour public access. Among the things that the Cuban Government fears the most is providing access to unfiltered information to its population. Keeping Cubans in the dark is the safest way for the Cuban Government officials to remain in power in perpetuity.

Are they inveterate hardliners? This, they are. Many of them believed Fidel Castro when he promised them in 1959 a revolution “as green as Cuba’s palm trees” with national elections in three months. They remember Fidel saying in July of 1959 that “I am not a communist and neither is the revolutionary movement,” and doing an about-face in December of 1961 by stating “I am a Marxist-Leninist, and I will be a Marxist-Leninist until the last days of my life.” They do remember Raul Castro giving the order in 1996 to shoot down two Brothers to the Rescue unarmed civilian planes in international waters, killing three U.S. citizens and one Cuban-American resident. They resent the Cuban Government for giving the title of national heroes to the Cuban Five Spies on February 24, 2015 — the nineteenth anniversary that Cuban Migs shot down two planes belonging to Brothers to the Rescue. And, they became aware on January 28, 2015 of Raul Castro’s ludicrous demand of requiring the U.S. Government to compensate Cuba for the estimated $1 trillion in damages for the U.S. embargo. And, yet, it was the Cuban Government that triggered the U.S. embargo when they confiscated the holdings of U.S. businesses shortly after Fidel rose to power in 1959 – which originally were valued at $1.8 billion, and which at 6 percent simple interest translates to nearly $7 billion in 2014. It is incomprehensible for Cuban officials to expect compensation from the victims of their illegal behavior.

Are the majority of Cuban-Americans affiliated with the Republican Party? Well, the United States is a free country, and no political party has an advantage over the other. Membership in one is determined by the confluence of ideology and platform with voters’ core values. And, the majority of Cuban-Americans think that the Democratic Party has betrayed their ideals. Most Americans are familiar with the three-strikes-and-you-are-out rule of baseball. Well, the Democratic Party has struck out with most Cuban-Americans. First, in 1961, President Kennedy crushed the hope to bring back freedom to Communist Cuba when he betrayed them at the Bay of Pigs Invasion. Second, President Clinton betrayed the aspirations of Elizabeth Broton Rodríguez to have her son, Elián González, raised in freedom in the United States. Elizabeth drowned in the open sea, but Elián was miraculously rescued by two fishermen and turned over U.S. Coast Guard. In 2000, President Clinton returned Elián to Communist Cuba. And, on December 17, 2014, President Obama announced his decision to relax travel, trade and economic restrictions with Communist Cuba. The deal was made after 18 months of secret negotiations in Canada and the Vatican, while keeping U.S. congressmen in the dark. There was a reason for the lack of transparency in this deal. President Obama knew that U.S. congressmen from both sides of the aisle would have objected to this unilateral deal with Communist Cuba.

After being called out on strikes, most Cuban-Americans opine that the Democratic Party considers them the enemy or not important enough to care about getting their votes. It was not like this before. There were many Cuban-Americans whose views were more compatible with those held by Democrats. But, it has come to this now. Just look around at how many Cuban-Americans get nominated to political appointments in the Federal Government when a Democrat wins the White House. Let me answer this rhetorical question for you: NOT MANY!

Are the majority of Cuban-Americans who came to the United States from 1959-1979 primarily whites? The quick answer is “yes.” According to the 2012 census, conducted by the National Office of Statistics of Cuba, the Cuban population was mostly white (65.1%), minorities included mulatto and mestizo (24.8%) and Afro-Cubans (10.1%). Within a century after the landing of Christopher Columbus in Cuba in 1492, the indigenous people were virtually wiped out due to Eurasian diseases and cruelty of the Spaniards. During this time period, the Cuban Government inundated the air waves with news about the rampant discrimination in the United States. Alabama Police Chief Bull Connor and his police department’s use of fire hoses, police dogs, and night sticks to break up civil rights demonstrations got as much air time as the speeches of Dictator Fidel Castro. After listening and viewing to these sound bites, most Afro-Cubans decided that the United States of America was not a welcoming place for them. And, ironically today, the majority of human rights dissidents in Cuba – from Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet to Jorge Luis García Pérez (better known as Antúñez) – are Afro Cubans.

At a hearing on February 2, 2015, before the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives, Antúñez indicated that he had “been subjected to torture, arrests and raids on my home by Castro’s political police for denouncing the human rights situation in Cuba at international forums.” He went on to say that the Obama-Castro Accords “are considered by a vital segment of the Cuban Resistance as a betrayal of the aspiration to freedom of the Cuban people.”

There is an African proverb that reads “Not to know is bad. Not to wish to know is worse.” Finding out why the majority of Cuban-Americans think that the Obama-Castro Accords are treasonous to the cause of freedom in Cuba is something desirable for the citizens of the last bastion of freedom on Earth. You can find from me, a Cuban-American who left his homeland at age 11, or you can find out from Antúñez, who served a seventeen-year sentence for calling out for political and economic reforms in his country. But, find out you must! It a crime to let the enemies of the United States to do the thinking for you!

Cuban-Americans want nothing more than a Cuba Libre. A Cuba without any political prisoners, where Cubans can participate in free and fair elections conducted under the supervision of internationally recognized observers. A Cuba that recognizes human rights and basic freedoms as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Cuba is a signatory nation. A Cuba that allows the establishment of independent trade unions and the creation of independent social, economic, and political associations. A Cuba that does not include Fidel Castro, Raul Castro, or any member of this family. A Cuba of the Cubans, by the Cubans, and for the Cubans.

[I submitted the above op-ed to multiple national newspapers, and all came back with multiple excuses for not publishing it. Out of frustration, I posted it on my LinkedIn account. As of today, it’s been viewed by 18,005 readers and growing].

What Is President Obama So Mad About?


President Obama kept the U.S. Congress out of the loop for 18 months during his secret negotiations with Communist Cuban officials. Why is he so upset with Speaker Boehner for bypassing the White House by inviting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint meeting of Congress on March 3, 2015? I will be watching the Israeli Prime Minister on March 3. Kudos to Speaker Boehner for making the right call.

I think that it’s time that someone reminds Obama that he serves as president and not as emperor.

U.S. Senate Subcommittee Holds Hearing on the New Cuba Policy

On February 3, 2015, the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere (chaired by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)) held a hearing entitled: “Understanding the Impact of U.S. Policy Changes on Human Rights and Democracy in Cuba.”

The first panel to testify before the Subcommittee was made up of: Roberta S. Jacobson, (Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, U.S. Department of State) and Tomasz Malinowski (Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State).

The second panel was made up of: Ms. Rosa Maria Payá (Cuban Christian Liberation Movement and Daughter of Slain Dissident Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas), Ms. Berta Soler (President, Cuban Ladies in White), Ms. Miriam Leiva (Human Rights Activist and Independent Journalist, Havana, Cuba), and Mr. Manuel Cuesta Morúa (Spokesperson for Progressive Arc and Coordinator of New Country, Havana, Cuba).

Among the news that came out at this hearing was an announcement by Mr. Morúa that Cuban human rights activists planned to host parallel summits in Havana and Panama for Cuban-Americans and Cubans to air their visions for a democratic Cuba. He indicated that he had met with Cuban-Americans from Miami, New Jersey, and Puerto Rico. Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela stated recently that the doors “are open” for Cuban dissidents to potentially attend a key forum during the upcoming Summit of the Americas, which will be held in Panama in April 2015.

Another news of interest is the differentiation made by the panelists from the U.S. State Department between “the restoration of diplomatic relations” and the “normalization of relations” between the United States and Communist Cuba.

Ms. Berta Soler was the only member of the second panel that spoke in support of TV and Radio Martí.

According to the State Department’s Malinowski, the Cuban Government has undertaken 140 new detentions of human rights dissidents since December 17, 2014.

Senator Rubio’s questions for the first panel are found in slots 49:51 through 58:46 and slots 1:50:48 through 1:55:30. Senator Menendez’ questions are found in slots 1:14:39 through 1:21:37, and slots 2:01:51 through 2:06:26.

The testimonies of the second panel start at slot 2:11:00, while the question-and-answer session starts at slot 3:12:20.

To listen to the hearing, click on http://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings/understanding-the-impact-of-us-policy-changes-on-human-rights-and-democracy-in-cuba (Note that the hearing starts at slot 23:50).