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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Hillary, Pitbull and the Embargo on the Dictatorship in Cuba

 The Question: Will Cuban exiles boycott Pitbull and punish Hillary Clinton at the voting booth?

Free Cuba Foundation (FCF) has a long tradition of defending human rights generally and taking the controversial stand that many may find unpopular while exercising our freedom of expression. Six years ago we defended Colombian musician Juanes's freedom of expression, denounced death threats against him while at the same time criticizing aspects of the concert he put on in Cuba.

FCF has also been out front in denouncing the concessions made by the Obama administration to the Castro regime in order to upgrade diplomatic relations from the previously existing interests sections to the current embassies.

While recognizing that people of good will can differ on the issue of economic sanctions on Cuba the Free Cuba Foundation finds problematic the manner in which Cuban American musician Pitbull has apparently called "to end the embargo on Cuba" on a bottle of vodka. The musician's apparent support of President Obama's Cuba policy is not a surprise because he campaigned for him in 2012. However tying the embargo to his vodka venture is surprising and could lead to a Boycott Pitbull effort taking off in social media.

Alcoholism in Cuba is a terrible problem in the populace and one of the tools that the dictatorship uses to maintain power. James Kirchnik, a fellow with the Foreign Policy Initiative and a correspondent for the Daily Beast, in the May 14, 2015 issue of National Review wrote about his experience traveling to Cuba and met with Lady in White leader Berta Soler who addressed the role of alcohol:
"'The government sells a lot of alcohol to occupy the minds of the people,' Soler tells me, an observation that makes a lot of sense once you’ve spent a few days in Cuba. Alcohol is plentiful and cheap. In the poor provincial city of Pinar del Rio, about a two-hour drive west of Havana, I saw a boy no older than 13 walking the streets with a half-empty bottle of beer. A discotheque there was, on a Saturday night, full of people ranging in age from mid teens to 40s; a bottle of Havana Club sets you back $6. Subsidizing the production of cheap alcohol so as to keep the population inebriated (and therefore distracted) is one of many tools that the Cuban regime learned from its erstwhile Soviet benefactor."
This reality combined with the commercial calculation and self promotion is disappointing. However the timing, coming so close to what is expected to be Hillary Clinton's July 31, 2015 attack on sanctions on the Castro regime, presents an opportunity to express dissatisfaction in former Secretary of State's jokes about the Cuban American community and Little Havana that appeared in an email exchange from 2009 now made public in 2015.

Candidates for public office in 2014 such as Charlie Christ who openly campaigned against the embargo and initially said he would visit Cuba, but then backed out of it lost in the governor's race in and Joe Garcia who had a double discourse on the matter did not get re-elected.

Just because Cuban Americans and Cuban exiles are not going to Versailles in large numbers to break Pitbull records doesn't mean that many are not upset and will boycott the artist in the future. For example, FCF has always rejected attacking artists or destroying music and will continue to do so. This is not an abandonment of principle but its full embrace as human rights defenders.

This does not mean that we cannot be critical.  FCF members joined together with hundreds of Cuban exiles in demonstrating their opposition to Obama's Cuba policy in December, January and June. This community has shown that we believe in freedom of speech, the right to dissent and now has a history of embracing nonviolent tactics, such as protests, boycotts, and the voting booth to respond in what we perceive as the best way to support the aspirations of the Cuban people to be free.

Continuing that tradition we hope to see you this Friday at 9:30am at Florida International University's Wertheim Performing Arts Center (WPAC) to greet Candidate Clinton who will be making her speech there at 11:00am with a nonviolent protest.

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