In this day and age of "political correctness" the pitifully aggressive editorial "Anti-Castro Enforcers Go Too Far" in the St. Petersburg Times of September 17 is truly an outrage. How can they get away with it? They would not have dared to write such a hate piece about Jews or blacks in America.

But the intolerance for Cuban exiles in America is reaching alarming proportions.

This virulent attack upon Cuban exiles in Miami was written because of their opposition to the performance in Miami of Castro’s official music group Los Van Van at the James L. Knight Center next October 9. The Cuban exiles are constitutionally entitled to the same freedom of speech as any other US citizen. They have the right, no, the duty to protest when their sensibility is violated just as the Jews, the blacks or any one else.

Apparently many Americans have been bred by their college and university professors and by the liberal media to be insensitive and intolerant regarding what Cubans on the island and in exile want the most: to end Castro’s tyranny.

Based on their own first hand experience living inside Cuba as Cuban citizens, they have a perspective that many Americans who have never lived in a communist totalitarian society may find challenging to comprehend, therefore they ignore or even try to malign it. Cubans cannot be fooled so easily and fall for the prevalent pro-Castro propaganda. They’ve been there, done that.

Cubans realized long ago that Castro is opposed to any change that would threaten his hold on power. Therefore, there will be no changes for as long as Castro and his cronies remain in power. Establishing relations, trade, cultural or scientific exchanges is not going to do the trick. It will only serve to prolong his regime in detriment of the population. It’s really very simple: when one’s power is baseless, one must put all effort toward maintaining it. One has no other concerns.

Many Americans (including many editorial writers), generally misinformed by the US media and without the cultural background to understand the situation are easily influenced by propaganda. Cuban exiles, by calling attention to the recent policy mistakes with their protests, are in the way of the liberal establishment who contribute to the myth about Castro and his revolution, and have been covering up his crimes for the last four decades.

That same intolerant US liberal establishment does not want to recognize that they made a mistake when they helped create Castro and that he is the tyrant that Cuban exiles have been denouncing since 1959. Besides, they make a lot of money by writing and talking about him. It doesn’t matter that they are toying with a tormented people.

The response of the reactionary hard-line US liberal establishment from their ivory towers has been to attack Cuban exiles’ reason and credibility using an arsenal of derogatory labels. This recent editorial in the St. Petersburg Times is a textbook example of the bigotry against Cubans in the US.

An eloquent Cuban American born in the US said, "Every single sentence in this editorial tries to hammer in the notion that Cuban exiles who oppose Los Van Van's concert in Miami are not only enemies of free speech but anti-Americans! We are called a ‘rabid cult,’ a ‘snarling pack of Cuban Americans,’ and ‘Contra-Castroistas.’ Cuban born politicians are ridiculed as ‘politicos,’ and ‘Miami Hidalgos,’ and our struggle against Castro's 40 year long tyranny is simply discarded as ‘anti-Castro hysterics.’"

And he stresses, "The St. Petersburg Times might do better examining the real issues surrounding this concert instead of striking a blind and punitive pose. To begin with, if Cuban Americans are anti-American and against free speech for trying to ban Los Van Van's concert, well then so are African Americans." Was there something wrong with banning Official South African artists from performing in the United States during Apartheid?

"How about Jews?" he continues. "The Jews rightfully banned Yasser Arafat from speaking at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. Is that indicative that Jews are anti-free speech and anti-American?

"Only someone who is monstrously irrational and refuses to consider the evils of apartheid, the PLO bombings in Israel or Castro's tyranny would unconditionally call these bans signs of being against free speech.

"As far as Los Van Van's concert, the real issue here then is that Castro is using these artists, who are not paid, as good will ambassadors to depict his Stalinist government in a positive light and to make money to support his baseless power. Even if money made from Los Van Van's concerts doesn't find its way back to Castro's coffers, the sale of Los Van Van's CD's propped up by this promotional tour and free publicity from the media, certainly does, and this can only mean more money for Castro's repressive machinery!"

According to a Hollywood source who understandably requested anonymity, the breakdown of the royalties of the CD "Buena Vista Social Club", featuring Castro’s official musicians, is as follows: 50% goes to its American producer, Ry Cooder, 45% to the Cuban government, 5% to a non-Cuban technical staff and 0% to the Cuban performers. The source says, "this is public knowledge, if you work in Hollywood."

The same economic principles apply to Los Van Van’s CDs that will become more popular after their promotional 26-city tour in the US. Considering that 0% goes to the performers (Los Van Van), who are we helping here, Castro or the Cuban people?

Yes, the Petersburg editorialist actually said, "Somehow it's hard to imagine Fidel shaking his green fatigues to the drum-driven rhythms of Los Van Van's dance music". So, since Los Van Van’s style of music couldn’t possibly be Castro’s personal favorite, he couldn’t possibly have anything to do with their appearance in the US. Thank you, sir, I’m convinced! Why doesn’t the St. Petersburg Times get equally as excited or more so about other talented Cuban musical groups and performers living in the US? They are just as Cuban as Castro’s official groups.

Cuban American exiles complain about these acts of insensitive intolerance for their plight the same way Jewish leaders complained in 1997 about the award given in Los Angeles to 95-year old Leni Riefenstahl, a filmmaker who directed propaganda films for Nazi Germany. No one in the liberal establishment trashed the Jews, called them derogatory names or accused them of being anti-American.

The Associate Dean of the human rights group Simon Wiesenthal Center, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, condemning Riefenstahl’s award said, "There is no doubt that she is a brilliant documentarian and filmmaker," but her films "helped inspire millions of Germans and Austrian to embrace the Nazi ideology that brought such horror to the world. You cannot separate the art from the implications of the art."

Castro brought the horror of communism to the Cuban people and has caused the unnatural death of at least 86,000 Cubans. Los Van Van and other official Castro artists being sent to the US to collect royalties for the tyrant are offensive to Cubans. As Rabbi Cooper, the Cuban exiles say, "we cannot separate the art from the implications of the art."

We should be respected and not dragged through the mud because of the liberal establishment’s intolerance for the Cuban’s cause.


Agustín Blázquez with the collaboration of Jaums Sutton

Mr Blazquez is the Producer/Director of the documentaries COVERING CUBA & CUBA: THE PEARL OF THE ANTILLES

ABIP 1999

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