Cuba Ordinance 101

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

July 1996 County commissioners pass a broad law barring any company that does business with Cuba from obtaining a contract with Metro-Dade or using county facilities. All such organizations must sign a Cuba affidavit.

February 2000 County commissioners clarify the Cuba affidavit policy by requiring paperwork to be submitted before a company bids to work on a project.

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

Final Answer
New Times talked to heads of cultural organizations that are affected by the Cuba ordinance. Few said they were willing to challenge the local law. Others said they could not afford, economically or politically, to file the lawsuit that would be required to overturn this policy in a court of law.

Laura Quinlan
executive director of the Rhythm Foundation

"I think it would be perceived as insensitive for some gringos to push the issue. We're a small organization, and we rely on county funds to operate. We try to represent music that is meaningful to the South Florida community from all over the world. The issue is so politicized that if you become involved, it overshadows everything else you do. Most of us care so deeply about our own organizations that we don't want to give up what we do to focus on this one issue."

Reason won't challenge ordinance: Can't risk funding

Mitchell Kaplan
founder of the Miami Book Fair International and owner of Books & Books

"To be frank, it is not an issue that I was very cognizant of. As an individual I think anything that has a chilling effect on free speech is a bad thing. I've felt that's one of the reasons for being in the book business, which is all about free expression. I would support the ACLU with a situation that arose. As for actually provoking a controversy, that's an unfair place to put an arts organization."

Reason won't challenge ordinance: Can't act independently

Niurca Marquez
associate director of Artemis Performance Network

"What the ordinance doesn't recognize is that there are people in Cuba who are dissidents and who are not officially addressed as such, but whose message you can see in the form and the material they present. People say that real dissidents aren't allowed to leave the island. If you look at some of these artists, the message against the regime is so evident. Some of them are in positions where they might actually be able to leave and present their work here.

"People ask why we don't challenge the law. We're just not in the place to do that. Fifty percent of the grants we receive comes from the county. That's 25 percent of our total budget. With that money we're doing so much for the Hispanic artists that are here. We're such a young organization that if we challenged the ordinance, we would be practically burning all of our bridges before we even start."

Reason won't challenge ordinance: Can't risk funding

Marlene Urbay
conductor and artistic director of the Florida Chamber Orchestra

Marlene Urbay "Since we're talking about tax money that everyone pays, I agree that the multicultural community here in Miami should not have to sacrifice to pay Cuban artists and the Cuban government.

"At the same time, we left Cuba so that we could have the liberty to think freely. We should not go to the opposite extreme here. I don't believe people should spit on other people or throw tomatoes, because that's exactly what happens in Cuba. The ordinance mixes up politics and art. I made the decision to come here. Others made the decision to stay. That doesn't mean that, as artists, we should not share the same stage."

Reason won't challenge ordinance: Doesn't want to give money to Castro

Elizabeth Boone
executive director for the Miami Light Project

Elizabeth Boone "I agree with the ACLU that it's unconstitutional to prohibit the promotion of culture, art, and education. Why does American Airlines have an exemption from the county ordinance? That's ludicrous. Why is art, culture, and education not okay, when everyone would agree that the free exchange of culture and ideas is where democracy begins?

"I'm not in a position to threaten the financial stability of my organization over this issue. It would represent a serious loss to the Miami Light Project. The ACLU talked to me about a year and a half ago. They want to challenge the constitutionality of the statements in the resolution. So we spoke to the county attorney and to the executive director of cultural affairs. We talked about the steps and the risks. Our board made the determination that the risks would be too great."

Reason won't challenge ordinance: Can't risk funding

Andrea Seidel
director of INDAMI (Intercultural Dance and Music Institute) at Florida International University

"I think that academic freedom to express diverse points of view is at the heart of any university. You may decide that you want to talk to the director of the Latin American and Caribbean Center. You can tell him that I preferred not to speak on the issue independently."

Reason won't challenge ordinance: Can't act independently

Eduardo Gamarra
director of the Latin American and Caribbean Center at Florida International University

New Times caught Gamarra in the midst of the conflict over LACC's reception for 5000 scholars from the prestigious Latin American Studies Conference, including some Cubans. County commissioners had threatened to cancel the reception. A technicality saved the party: FIU neglected to sign the Cuba affidavit as part of the contract for the event.

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