Letters from the Issue of April 18, 2002

Is the only good fish a dead fish?

Joel Yanovich

Miami

How the Cuba Embargo Changed My Life

I went from dumb to smart and Republican to Democrat: Kirk Nielsen's enlightening article "Heretics in the House" (April 11) provided excellent and detailed coverage of the conference "The Time Is Now to Reassess U.S. Policy Toward Cuba," which took place March 28.

In the year 2000 I ran for state representative from District 117, and in 2001 I took a shot at a seat on the Miami-Dade County Commission from District 6, both times as a Republican. Although I did not win my elections, I did gain insight and experience in the process. Among other things, I realized that more than half the Republicans I met are leaning toward lifting the Cuba embargo -- at least privately.

After 43 years of the same rhetoric, no real progress for establishing democracy in Cuba has been made. The worst part is that many of these Republican voters and elected officials fear giving their opinion publicly because polls indicate a majority of Cuban-American exiles do not want to lift the embargo. Therefore the exile radio stations and press make it very difficult for Cuban Americans to offer a truthful opinion. After all, some of them have re-election campaigns to consider. So they opt for the easy road and pander to pro-embargo sentiments in their speeches and on the radio. If they don't they will be chastised, called communists, and ostracized by the self-appointed, so-called real Cuban patriots. These types of exiles have learned plenty from the Cuban dictator they claim to hate so much. I am sure they would love to censor all press related to the anti-embargo theory.

It is appalling and disgraceful that U.S. Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen would state that members of the Cuban Committee for Democracy are agents of Fidel Castro, particularly when they attack real patriots like Alfredo Duran, my uncle and president of the committee, who put his life on the line for the liberation of Cuba during the Bay of Pigs invasion, when he was apprehended and imprisoned. Moreover, Mr. Duran had all his family property and assets confiscated by the communist regime.

He is not an agent of Fidel Castro and he does not have any vested financial interest in Cuba. In fact he cares so much about human rights and establishing democracy in Cuba that he considers the vicious attacks by his fellow exiles to be a minor sacrifice. Mr. Duran and members of his organization show true leadership and courage. They should be commended, not maligned and slandered.

Diaz-Balart and Ros-Lehtinen have accomplished one thing politically: They have made a lucrative career for themselves by pandering to and exploiting Cuban-American and Latin-American elderly voters. But voters need to know that the issue of the embargo has nothing to do with party affiliation. Republican and Democratic elected officials alike make promises to overthrow Castro. The reality is that they have failed. I suggest they become more open-minded and understand that maintaining the embargo goes against the essence of true democracy.

I have recently become a Democrat because I believe that Democrats have delivered most of the benefits the immigrant population is receiving. But at the age of eighteen I registered as a Republican hoping they would help overthrow the dictatorship in Cuba. That was my mistake. Lack of experience led me astray as a voter, but now I see with more clarity.

I hope others like me will listen to the Alfredo Durans in this community, those who have proven true leadership by exhibiting patriotism with class, decorum, and respect for our country, the United States of America. They are voices of reason amid the demagoguery so prevalent in South Florida. Kudos to Alfredo Duran and the Cuban Committee for Democracy, for it is they who have begun to pave the way for others to voice their honest assessment.

Ana Alliegro

Miami

Diaz-Balart, Ros-Lehtinen Condemn Embargo!

Cuban lawmakers shaken by visit to island, vow reform, U.S. engagement: I doubt that U.S. Rep. William Delahunt's advice to Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen -- "It's time for Ileana and Lincoln to go to Cuba" -- would do anything to change their minds. Going to Cuba certainly didn't change the mind of South Florida's other proponent of the Cuba embargo, Rep. Peter Deutsch, whose trip, from the U.S. perspective, could hardly have been more embarrassing. I doubt either Ileana or Lincoln could top it.

If you'll recall, back in February 2000 Deutsch (D-Pembroke Pines) donned a Florida Marlins baseball cap, left his congressional I.D. behind, and hopped a tourist flight from Cancun to Havana for two days of clandestine meetings with dissidents. The congressman -- who has voted not to allow tourist travel and sales of food and medicine to Cuba -- brought with him hypertension medicine, vitamins for dissidents, and a bra for a female cancer patient. Displaying a keen sense of statesmanship, Deutsch also brought leaflets of a smiling Elian Gonzalez, "because he had heard that Cubans see only unhappy pictures of the child in Miami."

In a scene that borrows heavily from 007 (or was it The Spy Who Shagged Me?), the Miami Herald described how he visited dissidents. "Rather than make appointments in advance, Deutsch said he used freelance taxis and had drivers drop him off a block or more from the dissidents' home. Then he would arrive, unannounced, after walking the wrong way up a one-way street."

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