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Cuban Exiles Want The World On Their Side, Not Cuba's. Try Persuasion, Not Petulance

Cuban-Americans, most having traveled from Miami, protest outside the Cuban embassy in Washington D.C. this week.
Nathan Hart
McClatchy via Miami Herald
THE WHOLE WORLD'S WATCHING? Cuban-Americans, most having traveled from Miami, protest outside the Cuban embassy in Washington D.C. this week.

COMMENTARY Cuban-Americans want countries to join an anti-apartheid-style front against Cuba. Do they recall how they dissed the anti-apartheid movement?

Of all the sentiments Cuban-Americans voiced during their demonstration in Washington D.C. this week — in solidarity with last week’s unprecedented anti-government protests in Cuba — this one from Miami resident Marlen Garcia turned my middle-aged head:

“The Cuban government needs pressure,” Garcia told the Miami Herald, “like America and other countries did with apartheid in South Africa.”

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Yep, that kind of global leverage needs to be applied to Cuba’s repressive communist dictatorship. But the regime’s never felt it because the Cuban diaspora in the U.S. has time and again failed — or refused — to attract all those other countries to its anti-Castro movement the way the anti-apartheid movement did.

To better understand why, glance back at the support the anti-apartheid campaign received from Cuban exiles here in Miami. What? Don’t see anything? That’s because it got next to nada from them before South African apartheid finally ended in 1994.

Except verbal abuse.

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In 1990, iconic anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela visited Miami. Days prior, he’d publicly thanked Fidel Castro for being one of the first and few heads of state to champion him when he was in prison. That wasn’t the savviest thing for Mandela to do before visiting Miami; but it offered the exiles an opportunity to persuade him. They opted instead for petulance. The city rescinded Mandela’s welcome; public officials snubbed him and Cuban-American protesters hurled epithets at him.

Yet afterward they couldn’t understand why more countries didn’t sign up to help them push the Cuban regime over the cliff when it lost the Soviet Union’s patronage. They asked why the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba remained a unilateral stick instead of the multilateral cudgel that helped topple apartheid.

The Cuban regime’s never felt the global squeeze because Cuban exiles have failed – or refused – to draw the world to their anti-Castro movement the way the anti-apartheid movement did.

They railed at foreign tourists who kept flocking to Cuba’s beaches — and naïve lefties who kept apologizing for totalitarian Marxists in Havana as shamelessly as neo-Nazis kept making excuses for neanderthal racists in Pretoria.

I wonder if they remember all that now as they urge the global community yet again to tighten the diplomatic and economic screws on Cuba. Either way, here are a few reasons they shouldn’t be surprised if the world’s more influential nations still don’t join their boycott:

  • Hypocrisy is a lousy salesman for democracy. Stop acting like the Cuban regime itself. That means you, Coral Gables, where Cuban-American mayor, and Joe McCarthy wannabe, Vince Lago just purged Miami-based Cuban artist Sandra Ramos from his city’s art project. Her work is actually critical of the Cuban regime — but Lago has deemed her "a communist sympathizer."

Smacks of communist censorship? You bet. The mayor of Coral Gables is bucking for Cuban culture minister.


And speaking of aping anti-democratic regimes, it probably wasn’t the best international p.r. move to have Florida Senator Rick Scott and Miami Congressmen Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Gimenez headline this week’s Washington rally. They did, after all, trash the U.S. Constitution on January 6 by genuflecting to Donald Trump and voting to block legitimate electoral college votes – right after an insurrectionist pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol.

  • Black Lives Matter matters. Making Cuban exile YouTube “influencer,” blackface aficionado and Black Lives Matter demonizer Alex Otaola the de facto MC in D.C. didn’t help, either. Beyond the Cuban exile echo chamber — especially beyond U.S. borders — the racial justice movement is respected. Seriously. I can send some links.
NO TENEMOS MIEDO Cubans march through Havana on Sunday protesting their communist regime in nationwide demonstrations of unprecedented size and anger.
Eliana Aponte
Cubans march through Havana on July 11 protesting their communist regime in nationwide demonstrations of unprecedented size and anger.

  • Bomb talk ain’t the bomb. Ditch the calls for U.S. military intervention in Cuba. That means you, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez. Why would Canada or the E.U. cozy up to the embargo after hearing your reckless suggestion to drop bombs on Havana?
  • It IS partly the economy, stupid. Cubans rose up for freedom last week. No one disputes that. But they’re also furious at chronic shortages of food, medicine, electricity — and yes, vaccines. The incessant Cuban exile insistence that those things don’t matter to Cubans on the island insults them and the world’s intelligence. If Cuban-Americans want to have both the embargo and international backing, they’ll have to help Cubans meet their quotidian needs — starting with a resumption of remittances to families and aid to entrepreneurs.

It won’t mean they’re soft on communism. It’ll instead help assure the world they won’t make post-communist Cuba as unfairly hard a place as Miami was to Mandela.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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