10/16/13 - Miami Herald - Fabiola Santiago: Dalliance with Cuba a bad deal for Key West
The idea of quaint, historical Key West becoming best buddies with the
dictator next door is repulsive.
Talk about a political hot potato.
A lot is at stake in the misguided dalliance of Key West politicians with
high-ranking diplomatic representatives of the repressive Cuban regime.
Were not talking about fisherman-to-fisherman contact here, but about the
Castros goons coming to play in Key West.
The city cant engage in cocktail party pleasantries and hypocritical
wreath-laying ceremonies with officials whose government brutally beats up
and detains peaceful women and dissidents and get away with its
paradisiacal image intact.
So its a good thing that the Key West City Commissions short-sighted
dive into heavyweight foreign relations voting to host the head of the
Cuban Interests Section in Washington D.C. and the diplomatic missions
first secretary and stage a flurry of events in their honor was
aborted this week.
It might have all gone ahead if Commissioner Tony Fat Yaniz had not
demanded a reception be held honoring the diplomats at the San Carlos
Institute, a historic Duval Street building where Jose Martí spoke on
behalf of independence from Spain in the 1800s, and that, technically,
belongs to the Cuban government.
The decaying building was rescued in 1985 by Miami lawyer Rafael Peñalver,
who fought for legal stewardship and won. With the help of a volunteer
board culled from the Keys and Miami communities, Peñalver restored the
gorgeous space, and for 20 some years, the San Carlos has been operating
as a lively cultural center, hosting among other educational activities
the Key West Literary Festival.
Not that it has been a smooth project. Pro-Cuban government activists have
tried to take over the San Carlos post-restoration. One of the exiles who
fought off a rowdy crowd, Armando Alejandre Jr., ended up being one of the
Brothers to the Rescue men shot down and killed by Cuban government
fighter jets while flying over international waters.
So imagine the consternation Yaniz with the backing of Democratic
Congressman Joe Garcia caused when he asked that the red carpet be
rolled out at the San Carlos for the Cuban diplomats.
Peñalver told Yaniz he couldnt keep anyone from visiting the San Carlos,
but the diplomats were sure to be received as personae non grata. When
that didnt sway Yaniz, the San Carlos board penned and distributed a
lengthy open letter to the Key West community that eloquently expressed
why its so morally wrong, not to mention bad business, for the Keys to
It is shameful that anyone in the Key West business community would
extend a welcome mat or shake the bloody hands of Castros
representatives, the letter says. Their uproar nixed the plans this
Yaniz reacted by talking tough not to the oppressors hes courting but
to the regimes victims: Cuban-Americans.
Cold War dinosaurs, he called us.
Some of us, however, would rather be a dinosaur than a weasel.
Getting in bed with an aging dictatorship when its bravest citizens are
fighting for change is the last thing a storied place like Key West needs.
People drive to Mile Marker 0 to get away from it all. People flock to the
San Carlos to revel in history and heritage. The humblest of people have
arrived in these shores seeking refuge.
How unwise it is for Key West to pick a fight with friends, to replace the
Jimmy Buffett vibe with Raúl Castros ugly fare.
There goes laid-back, high-occupancy Margaritaville. There goes the
nibbling-on-key-lime-pie charm, the strumming the six-string persona the
world knows and loves.
All for the sake of the narrow business interests of people who think they
can profit from cosmetic changes in Cuba they perceive as a lasting
An open Cuba is not a free Cuba, Peñalver told me Tuesday.
In the opportunistic alliance with todays Cuba, Key West has a lot to
Original Source / Fuente Original:
CUBA-L FAIR USE NOTICE
This server contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of Cuba's political, economic, human rights, international, cultural, educational, scientific, sports and historical issues, among others. We distribute the materials on the basis of a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107. The material is distributed without profit. The material should be used for information, research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/ uscode/17/107.shtml.