Sunday, October 24, 2010

Goal of liberty crosses lines of partisanship

Posted on Sunday, 10.24.10
Goal of liberty crosses lines of partisanship

They've been called intransigent. Hard-line. Even dinosaurs. No matter.
They proudly accept the characterization -- a mucha honra, as we say in
Cuban, with much honor.

They are the members of the Cuban Liberty Council, which split with the
Cuban American National Foundation after the death of CANF's founder,
Jorge Mas Canosa. CANF was taking a more moderate approach to U.S.
policy toward Cuba than older members wanted. The hard-liners bolted and
formed the council.

Two other Cuban Americans have been called Obama boot-lickers. Traitors.
Even communists. No matter. They proudly accept the characterization --
a mucha honra.

They are Emilio and Gloria Estefan, our local kids done good. The
politically independent super stars made a calculated move in April when
President Obama asked them to host a Democratic Party fund-raiser at
their Star Island home. They aren't Democrats and didn't contribute a
penny; their goal was to get the president's ear on Cuba's awful human
rights record.

No matter. It caused a firestorm among some older, predominantly
Republican exiles who had marched with the Estefans on Calle Ocho just
two weeks earlier.

The march, which attracted more than 100,000 people of all ages and
political persuasions, was a defining moment. All sought to get world
leaders to pay attention to Cuba's atrocities. It happened after Orlando
Zapata Tamayo died after an 83-day hunger strike in prison. After the
Ladies in White were beaten by mobs in Havana. After another former
political prisoner, Guillermo Fariñas, went on a hunger strike and vowed
not to end it until the Castros Crazy released all political prisoners.

Last week, Fariñas, who ended his hunger strike this summer after Cuba
began releasing prisoners, was awarded the European Parliament's
prestigious Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. From his humble home
in Villa Clara, the ex-soldier who became a peaceful change agent took
calls from reporters. He praised the Estefans and exiles throughout the
world for coming together to defend human rights.

And on Saturday, the Cuban Liberty Council honored the Estefans as
``Heroes of Liberty'' in downtown Miami, where 500 people came to see
them accept an award given in the past to such luminaries as Vaclav
Havel of the Czech Republic and Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez.

Surprised? No one should be. Gloria and Emilio have a long history in
defense of human rights.

``If you follow their careers, you realize that all that they have done
has been to benefit the Cuban people,'' said Ninoska Pérez Castellón, a
founder of the council. Whether before the pope, asking that he pray for
Cuba's freedom, or during a concert tour in Argentina, where Gloria
asked Cuba to end the embargo against its own people, the Estefans have
sought to build conscience about a 51-year-old dictatorship that quashes
the human spirit.

And for all of their ``intransigence,'' the council has embraced those
with different approaches to helping Cubans secure democracy. Yoani was
awarded her prize even though she supports opening Cuba to American

For Gloria and Emilio, the award is bittersweet as Cubans still aren't
free. Yet so much has been accomplished in just six months -- a lesson
Emilio learned from Mas Canosa, a childhood friend in Santiago.

``Jorge offered a great example. He spoke to any president who would
listen. ... I knew that in the long term, having us host the fund-raiser
would give us the opportunity to help the president learn about Cubans'

With honor, anything is possible.

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