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    Key West should not fete Castro regime

    Posted on Saturday, 10.19.13

    Key West should not fete Castro regime
    BY RAFAEL PEÑALVER AND SAN CARLOS INSTITUTE BOARD MEMBERS

    Key West officials dropped plans last week to invite Cuban officials to
    the Conch Republic and hold events at the historic San Carlos Institute
    after a controversy erupted about the political implications of such an
    event. Here is the open letter to the Key West community sent by San
    Carlos board members:

    We, a broad group of members of the Cuban community in Key West and the
    Keys, firsthand victims of the totalitarian Cuban regime, feel deeply
    hurt by myopic plans by business interests to welcome and fete in Key
    West the de-facto ambassador and deputy ambassador of the Castro regime
    as part of a covert campaign to promote business with the regime. We
    rely on the people of Key West, known for their unwavering defense of
    freedom and democracy, to act in accordance with their conscience to
    instead empower the Cuban people in the island and reject the fallacies
    of a regime that continues to repress human rights advocates and the
    most basic civil rights we enjoy in this country.

    We, the undersigned, are members of the Board of Directors of the
    historic San Carlos Institute, an educational and patriotic center
    founded in 1871.

    The San Carlos’ board is mostly composed of persons of Cuban descent who
    were either born in Key West or have been long-time residents of the
    Conch Republic. Many of us have families in Cuba and all of us care
    deeply about the welfare of the Cuban people. This letter is an appeal
    to the conscience of the people of Key West and the Florida Keys who
    value principle over profit and who take pride in the city’s history as
    a defender of human rights and as a beacon of freedom and hope for the
    Cuban people.

    The Key West community is being bombarded with a propaganda campaign led
    by the Cuban regime and a few powerful local business interests that
    advocate for an “Open Cuba” policy with the Castro regime. As a part of
    this campaign, the head of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington,
    D.C., Jose Rodriguez Cabanas, and the First Secretary of said mission,
    Raul Sanchez Cordovi, will be visiting Key West this coming week to meet
    with local business leaders and attend receptions and cocktail parties
    in their honor. It is shameful that anyone in the Key West business
    community would extend a welcome mat or shake the bloody hands of
    Castro’s representatives.

    The objective of the Cuban officials coming to Key West is to attract US
    investment in Cuba without making significant political reforms. The
    Castro elite wants to hold on to power in Cuba while making what appears
    to be economic reforms, which are already failing, to attract US
    investors. They want US investors to grease the repressive apparatus
    that keeps them in power.

    To paraphrase the words of Baptist pastor and dissident Cuban blogger
    Mario Felix Lleonart Barrosol, who came from Cuba this week, the same
    communist elite who caused all the suffering, who took away Cubans’
    freedoms and who led the economy to ruin now want to project themselves
    as its capitalist saviors. “They are the same people and the same
    communist party,” he said.

    It hurts us deeply that those calling for an “Open Cuba” don’t seem to
    care about the suffering of the Cuban people under the Castro regime.
    They are calling for an “Open Cuba” where they can do business – not a
    Free Cuba where the Cuban people can enjoy the freedoms we can easily
    take for granted.

    The proponents of an “Open Cuba” point to the virtues of free enterprise
    and argue that the policy of isolation has failed to open up Cuban
    society. On the surface, their argument sounds persuasive. But beware.
    Cuba has always been open to foreign investors from throughout the world
    who have profited from Cuba’s cheap and captive labor force. The foreign
    investment allowed in Cuba has only served to fill the coffers of
    Castro’s inner circle and help pay for the repressive apparatus that
    keeps them in power. There is no such thing as free enterprise in Cuba.
    Cubans are not allowed to freely pursue business opportunities with
    foreign investors nor share in the proceeds of those investments. All
    commercial activity in Cuba is strictly controlled by the regime. The
    Cuban regime uses the award of business licenses as a means to exert
    political control over its people. To qualify for a business license,
    foreigners are usually required to take as partner an operative of the
    Castro regime. Dissidents need not apply. The isolation of the Cuban
    people and the stagnation of Cuba’s economy come primarily from the
    embargo that the Cuban regime keeps on its own people.

    For 54 years, Fidel and Raul Castro have held on to power in Cuba
    through a brutal and repressive military apparatus that denies the Cuban
    people the most elemental human and civil rights. Tens of thousands of
    Cubans have been executed by firing squads or suffered long political
    imprisonment. The once-proud and prosperous Cuban nation is destroyed.
    Over 2 Million of its citizens have fled to exile, often leaving their
    loved ones and all of their worldly possessions behind. Cuba has become
    the personal fiefdom of the Castro brothers. There have not been free
    elections Cuba for over half a century and any political dissent is
    violently suppressed. There is no freedom of speech, nor freedom of
    assembly, nor a free press. There is neither independent judiciary nor
    independent radio or television stations. Even access to the Internet is
    highly restricted. The totalitarian regime controls every aspect of
    Cuban society. The Castro brothers have no ideology other than doing
    whatever it takes to remain in power.

    Key West holds a special place in Cuba’s history. Just 90 miles from
    Cuba, the city is a symbol of freedom and hope for the Cuban people. Key
    West’s San Carlos Institute, founded in 1871, served as cradle of Cuba’s
    independence movement. In recent years, thousands of Cuban rafters
    seeking to escape from Castro’s repression have perished at sea trying
    to reach Key West’s shores. Some of those rafters are buried in the Key
    West Cemetery.

    The Castro regime, in need of foreign capital to maintain the repressive
    apparatus that keeps it in power, is trying to lure
    politically-influential US businessmen to partner with members of
    Castro’s elite to develop and exploit selected segments of Cuba’s
    economy – most notably tourism.

    To project the appearance of reform for visiting tourists, the Cuban
    regime restored a section of Old Havana and allowed limited private
    enterprises to develop in that zone. Gullible tourists and prospective
    investors were given the false impression that things were changing in
    Cuba. True to its nature, however, the regime is again crushing the
    entrepreneurial spirit of Cubans through its economic “reforms” that do
    not allow Cubans to achieve economic independence and has forced many to
    close their small businesses. Behind the restored facades of Old Havana,
    Cuban dissidents are crushed and totalitarianism prevails.

    The Castro regime offers foreign investors a cheap, enslaved labor force
    and controlled markets. Sweet deals that would not be possible in an
    open and democratic society. The same privileged investment
    opportunities that are now being offered to American businesses have
    been previously enjoyed by influential investors from throughout the
    world, most notably from Spain, Canada and Brazil. History shows that
    once foreign investors get their licenses to operate in Cuba, they exert
    their influence to make sure that there are no political changes in Cuba
    that could threaten their privileged positions.

    It is a proven formula that has produced quick profits for foreign
    investors, kept the Castro brothers in power for 54 years and the Cuban
    people enslaved. The record shows that an “Open Cuba” for profiteers
    does not lead to a “Free Cuba” for the Cuban people. All the contrary.

    Foreign investors are not free to choose any Cuban as a business
    partner. The regime tightly controls business licenses and its most
    valuable asset: the cheap and enslaved labor force. Cuban workers are
    forbidden from forming labor unions or demanding improved working
    conditions. Investors pay the regime in US Dollars but Cuban laborers
    and are paid in worthless “pesos” for their work.

    Due to its geographic proximity and historical ties to Cuba, Key West
    would provide the perfect beachhead for the Castro regime to launch a
    charm offensive to lure American capital and perpetuate itself in power
    without providing the Cuban people the most sensible basic human and
    political rights.

    We believe it is shortsighted for Key West business interests to jump in
    bed with dying dictators. Change is at hand in Cuba, with more Cubans
    taking to the streets and speaking out against the regime’s abuse of
    power, arbitrary arrests, and violence against its people. A new dawn of
    freedom is coming to Cuba. Once the Castro brothers are gone and the
    atrocities committed by the regime are fully revealed, foreign investors
    will be viewed as opportunists who sought to take advantage of a captive
    people.

    It would be unfortunate for Key West to be on the side of the oppressors
    rather than the oppressed when that change comes.

    We are appalled by the insensitivity of some of the proponents of the
    “Open Cuba” policy who sought to bring Castro’s representatives to the
    San Carlos Institute and to lay a wreath in the Cuban Martyrs’ plot at
    the Key West Cemetery. In no uncertain terms, the San Carlos board
    stated that Cuba’s representatives would not be welcomed at the San
    Carlos or the Cuban Martyrs’ Plot. Their visit would be an affront to
    the memory of the founders of the San Carlos, the tens of thousands
    killed at the hands of Castro’s thugs, to those who perished while
    escaping Cuba’s island prison, and to countless others in our community
    who still suffer as a result of atrocities perpetrated against them and
    their families.

    The Castro regime still imprisons U.S. humanitarian aid worker Alan
    Gross for the “crime” of helping connect Cuba’s small Jewish community
    to the Internet, and continues to viciously oppress the Cuban people.
    The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation
    reports that in 2012, there were a documented 6,602 political arrests,
    which is markedly up from 4,123 arrests in 2011 and 2,074 in 2010.
    Furthermore, the 2013 Human Rights Watch World Report states, “Cuba
    remains the only country in Latin America that represses virtually all
    forms of political dissent. In 2012, the Raul Castro’s regime continued
    to enforce political conformity using short-term detentions, beatings,
    public acts of repudiation, travel restrictions, and forced exile.” The
    deaths of pro-democracy activists Orlando Zapata Tamayo (d. February 23,
    2010), Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia (d. May 8, 2011), Laura Pollan (d.
    October 14, 2011), Oswaldo Paya (d. July 22, 2012) and Harold Cepero (d.
    July 22, 2012) demonstrate the regime’s callous brutality against
    activists in the pro-democracy movement.

    Over one hundred years ago the noble people of Key West forged a legacy
    with the Cuban people. The Key West community should be proud of its
    legacy for standing on the side of the Cuban people rather than a tyrant.

    Let Key West be again on the right side of history. Let us reject myopic
    opportunism and instead let us concentrate on ways of empowering the
    Cuban people and positioning Key West for a post-Castro Cuba.

    Sincerely,

    Rafael A. Peñalver, President, Miami

    Javier Garrido, Vice-President, Key West

    Monica Faraldo Hill, Secretary / Treasurer, Key West

    Diana Arteaga, Miami Beach

    Julio Barroso, Key West

    Barbara Edgar, Islamorada

    Julio Estorino, Miami

    Irving Eyster, Islamorada

    Norma Faraldo, Key West

    George Galvan, Key West

    Joe Garrido, Key West

    Gilda Niles, Key West

    Alex Pascual, Key West

    Elena Spottswood, Key West

    Rosa Leonor Whitmarsh, Miami

    Source: “Key West should not fete Castro regime – From Our Inbox –
    MiamiHerald.com” –
    http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/10/19/v-fullstory/3697711/key-west-should-not-fete-castro.html