Saturday, September 18, 2010

This is open-minded detente?

Posted on Saturday, 09.18.10
This is open-minded detente?

The Obama administration has embarked on a path of cultural exchanges
and lax immigration policies toward Cuba reminiscent of Jimmy Carter's
administration and the brief detente that existed with the island's regime.

This year alone, we have seen the likes of artists such as Silvio
Rodriguez, Los Van Van, La Orquesta Aragon, Omara Portuondo and
Adalberto Alvarez perform in various cities in the United States,
including Miami.

The latter was unimaginable during the Indian summer of good relations
Cuban and American diplomats enjoyed in the late 1970s under President

Along with the performers, our city has seen an increase of former
Castro security agents, assistants and ex daughters-in-law who have
added a circus-like, paparazzi feel to local television talk shows on
Spanish language stations that deal with the Cuban polemic on a nightly

For the most part, I support the cultural exchanges if for nothing else
than to demonstrate that freedom of speech is alive and well in Miami,
where Cuban exile leadership has been so maligned by the media (and
sometimes rightfully so) for being narrow-minded and obtuse.

Albeit, the exchange seems to be ``one way.'' I have yet to see Albita
play the Karl Marx Theater in Havana or Willy Chirino play an open air
show in the very spot that Colombian singer Juanes serenaded a million
Cubans several months ago.

I have come to believe that human contact goes a very long way in
dispelling the wall of mythology and propaganda promulgated on both
sides of the Florida Straits.

These cultural exchanges have brought Cubans in Miami closer to the
present-day sights and sounds of the island, which undeniably helps
bridge the gap that politicians in Miami and dictators in Cuba cannot

Given this new era of openness with Cuba, I was surprised when a friend
brought her father's hopeless status to my attention.

Timoteo Gonzalez, a 77-year-old native of the Cuban town of Bolondron,
would like to come to the United States to live out the rest of his days
with his children who are hard-working contributors of our society.

The snag? In 1964, Mr. Gonzalez burned a cane field in protest of and
out of frustration with the Cuban regime, which was at the height of one
of its most rigid periods of intolerance. For this, he was arrested and
tried in Cuba.

He served seven of his 30-year sentence and was eventually released to
live the rest of his life as a political leper in a country that does
not celebrate divergence.

What is puzzling about Gonzalez' case is that, considering this new
immigration philosophy adopted by the administration toward Cuba, it is
the American government that is not permitting him entry into this
country, likening him to ``a terrorist threat.''

I contacted Congresswoman Ileana Ros Lehitnen's office for help on this
matter, and she regrettably informed me of the government's posture. ``I
find the fact that this government can give Mr. Gonzalez such a hard
time on his petition to enter the U.S. and has no problem granting
declared enemies of this country the right to travel, perform, and in
the case of some of the former Castro aides, the right to reside in the
U.S. truly hypocritical,'' Ros-Lehtinen commented.

I concur with the congresswoman. The decision is hypocritical indeed,
along with shameful and shortsighted.

Unfortunately Gonzalez is the victim of selective historic revision and
partisan politics.

The fact that he doesn't play the guitar and rail against the United
States every opportunity he gets seems to work against him. So much for
open-mindedness and detente.

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