Cuba Ordinance 101

A New Times guide to busting the county's Cuba law

3) Nationals: The county could engage in contracts with South African nationals and with companies who held contracts with individual citizens.

Cuba Ordinance

1) Travel: Anyone who has traveled to Cuba in the past ten years is disqualified from entering into a contract with the county.

No matter that José Antonio Ponte's book was banned in Cuba -- the enemy of my enemy is no friend of Miami-Dade County
No matter that José Antonio Ponte's book was banned in Cuba -- the enemy of my enemy is no friend of Miami-Dade County

2) Cultural exchanges: Banned. Cultural institutions that receive money from the county are forbidden from bringing artists to Miami-Dade County, even if their views differ from the communist regime's.

3) Nationals: The U.S. State Department considers all Cuban nationals to be employees of the Cuban government. While the U.S. embargo exempts artists and scholars, the county ordinance does not, making all artists, musicians, and scholars de facto employees of the Castro regime.

Note: Because the Cuba ordinance goes beyond federal law in its treatment of arts organizations, the ACLU argues the federal courts would find it violates the First Amendment and contradicts the Berman Amendment to the Cuban Trade Embargo, which allows cultural exchanges.

The Long Arm of the Cuba Affidavit
For cultural exchanges, numbers two and five are the most crucial.

Number two: Arts organizations funded by Miami-Dade County violate this prohibition when they bring a Cuban artist or scholar to perform locally, explains Assistant County Attorney Bob Cuevas. Even when the artist or scholar receives no payment, the group engages in what the county considers a "transaction with a Cuban national" and runs afoul of the ordinance.

Number five: "You can't contract with an entity that does direct business with Cuba," says the county attorney. Arts groups violate this prohibition in two ways: by using a third party to contract Cuban artists, such as a booking agency based in Mexico; and by conducting a transaction with a third party that does business in Cuba in ways unrelated to the group, by inviting a speaker who works with Cuban nationals or performing a play in a festival that also features Cuban nationals.

Note: William T. Martinez, an attorney who specializes in obtaining visas for Cuban musical groups that play in the United States, criticizes the ordinance. He says federal law not only allows Cuban artists to appear in this country, but further allows for them to be compensated for transportation, lodging, and a per diem. The U.S. government considers these payments to be the costs related to cultural exchanges and not business transactions, says Martinez. (from relocation of major events)

"People keep saying all this money goes back to Castro. What they don't realize is these musicians don't take one penny back. They spend everything they have at Target, Toys R Us, and Sears. And God forbid there's a special on VCRs at Wal-Mart; they clean the whole place out. It's really a big boost for the local economy." -- promoter Debbie Ohanian

Estimated losses

MIDEM Music Conference: $20 million

Junior Pan Am Track and Field Championships: prestige

2007 Pan American Games: $130 million

2012 Summer Olympics: pipe dreams

Latin Grammy Awards: $40 million

Total Gains: $190 million

Estimated potential gains
(from shopping sprees by commodity-starved Cuban musicians, such as those who played here this year, listed below)
Issac Delgado (3 VCRS, 2 microwaves, 1 CD player): $ 821

Paulito FG y Su Elite (2 DVD players, Vuarnet sunglasses, 8 Casio watches): $ 1100

Charanga Habanera (6 pairs of Nike shoes, 4 Fubu Caps; 6 Fila sweat suits): $ 1354

NG La Banda (12 cell phones, 30 beepers, 4 PlayStations ): $ 1250

Los Van Van (titanium hubcaps; Santería couture; 6 I-Choose-You Pikachus): $ 6000

Bamboleo (2 electric clippers, 2 Bebe dresses): $ 423

TOTAL: $ 10,948

***Very few Cubans, artists or otherwise, have cash to burn. But new laws under a Castro regime desperate to keep stars from defecting have allowed musicians to keep a bigger cut of their earnings. What they're spending here, they're making elsewhere. By knocking out the ordinance, Miami-Dade County might end up taking more money out of circulation in the socialist economy than hosting the musicians would put in.


October 1917 Congress passes the Trading with the Enemy Act, which prevents the government or a citizen from an enemy country from owning property or assets in the United States.

February 1962 President Kennedy proclaims the Cuban Trade Embargo. It prohibits all trade with Cuba, including music and culture.

March 1987 The Metro-Dade Commission passes the South Africa ordinance. It bans the county from purchasing goods of South African origin or signing contracts with companies that do business in South Africa.

August 1988 Congress passes the Berman Amendment. It permits cultural exchanges between the United States and Cuba, including the sale of Cuban books, records, and tapes.

July 1992 Metro-Dade commissioners pass a resolution forbidding the county from contracting with any U.S. company whose foreign subsidiary trades with the communist nation. It requires representatives of companies seeking county contracts to sign sworn statements.

October 1992 Congress passes the Cuban Democracy Act, which tightens the embargo by including the subsidiaries of U.S. corporations that operate in foreign countries.

July 1993 County commissioners enact a law mirroring the Cuban Democracy Act. It gives the county authority to revoke business licenses of any entity found violating the embargo. The law passes a court challenge.

March 1996 Congress passes the Cuba Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act (known as the Helms-Burton law), which forbids business executives from any country, who do business on or with American property confiscated by Castro, from entering the United States.

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