Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami is worth saving

"The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity." - William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming (1919)

Farewell Casa Bacardi?
 The Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies (ICCAS) has been an important point of reference for Cuban Studies based at the University of Miami with an international reputation that debunked disinformation and misinformation about the regime in Cuba. In 2017 the Center has published authors and academics Dr. Jaime Suchlicki, Dr. José Azel and Dr. Pedro Roig heading ICCAS.

Dr. José Azel with Yoani Sanchez at ICCAS
 World renown author and journalist Carlos Alberto Montaner annually gives a series of community lectures on the history of Cuba that are heavily attended.  The Institute opened its doors both to the Cuban American community and the Cuban dissident movement on the island.  All voices and views were welcome in an atmosphere of rigorous academic exchange.

Dr. Jaime Suchlicki with Rosa María Payá
 The director of the Institute, Professor Jaime Suchlicki is the co-editor of the tenth edition of Cuban Communism. Reviewers of the 901 page tome say that it "has widely come to be known as 'the Bible of Cuban Studies.'" The distinguished periodical Foreign Affairs said of it: "There is no handier guide to the Castro regime and the debates swirling around it." Dr. Suchlicki wanted "to create a place where young Cuban-Americans could come and learn about Cuba’s history and culture,” and for the last 18 years he created that space at the University of Miami. This tradition of academic excellence and seeking out the facts has made it a long time target of the Castro regime.

The Hurricane used cover for Castro's 2016 death but appropriate today with ICCAS
 Mike Gonzalez, currently a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation think tank, has written an important analysis of how foreign governments influence what Americans learn in college. The term "influence" is an understatement. He outlines how China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Cuba have successfully censored and propagandized what is taught at American colleges and universities.  The section of the article on Cuba described what is now taking place at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies:
Long a thorn in the side of the communist dictatorship in Havana, ICCAS has constantly received vituperative attacks by the regime’s propaganda outlets. Never before, however, has it come under the threat of the university’s own leadership. Frenk is a long-standing and well-known admirer of the Cuban regime’s health practices. As Mexico’s health secretary in 2001, he said Cuba had the best health indicators in Latin America, and Mexico would benefit from learning about Cuba’s success.
Unfortunately for Frenk, the ICCAS kept saying the truth about Cuba’s failed health system, as it did on July 20 in a report called “Cuba’s Silence is Dangerous to Your Health.” That report notes that “After a century hiatus, cholera, malaria and dengue have returned to Cuba.” I post the report here because it seems to have disappeared from the ICCAS website. The move to close the ICCAS by Frenk, whose wife Felicia Knaul was installed as the university’s director of the Miami Institute of the Americas after he became president, proved highly controversial in Miami. He now says he never wanted to close the center at all, but only to change its leadership.
Frenk’s version of events is disputed by Jose Azel, one of the academics whom Jaime Suchliki, the esteemed ICCAS director, had to summarily dismiss when he was informed by the university’s provost on July 9 that he had to close the institute on August 15. In an article recently in El Nuevo Herald, The Miami Herald’s Spanish-language edition, Azel says “I have verified that Dr. Suchliki’s termination agreement explicitly requires him to ‘effect the cessation of operations for the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies’.”
When I passed by the Institute of Cuban and Cuban American Studies (ICCAS) last week the moving truck was there and the movers were carrying everything out.  Last month when conflicting accounts emerged about what would become of ICCAS my experience in dealing with University bureaucrats as an undergraduate led me to believe Dr. Suchlicki, the faculty member with a half century of dedicated scholarship and service to the community, over Dr. Julio Frenk, the newly arrived bureaucrat with a fondness for Cuba's totalitarian healthcare system.

Dr. Suchlicki has not abandoned his mission but will now continue it outside of the University of Miami and that is a great shame. The lack of candor and coverup by the UM administration is an even greater shame and another black eye for academia.

Panel organized by the Cuban Democratic Directorate in 2015
For the record I was proud to have participated in several panel discussions over the years at the  Institute of Cuban and Cuban American Studies (ICCAS) and mourn its passing at the University of Miami.

Keeping ICCAS at the University of Miami and maintaining the tradition of critical inquiry established by Dr. Suchlicki in 1999 is sorely needed in today's academic environment where academic freedom is under assault. I pray that this little platoon of society against all odds is maintained at the University of Miami. Today is supposedly Dr. Suchlicki's final day at the University of Miami after a half century of service. I hope that this will not be the case and that Professor Suchlicki will be able to continue and oversee the transition to new leadership that will keep his dream alive at the University of Miami.



Sunday, August 13, 2017

#Charlottesville: When hate collides with hate

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." - Martin Luther King Jr.

Neo-Nazis and Neo-Communists clash in Charlottesville, Virgina
Neo-Nazis, white supremacists organized a series of events in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee there that had sparked a debate in the community. Sadly these groups sought to use the existing controversy to advance their racist, hate filled agenda and attract national media attention.

Marching with Communist and Nazi flags in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday
Giving Nazi salutes and waving the flag of the Nazi Third Reich they marched by torch light and the next day gathered in protest. At the same time communist red guards filled the ranks of counter-protestors with calls for violence and intimidation to be directed at the Neo-Nazis, and white supremacists. The stage was set for a collision between two hateful ideologies feeding off each other along with the glare of media attention.

Some necessary historical context
More than 400,000 Americans were killed by the Axis Powers, led by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. The Nazi swastika flag, in addition to its racist and anti-Semitic history, represents a regime that laid waste to Europe and killed tens of millions. An estimated 11 million non-combatants, of which six million were Jewish were murdered by the Nazis.

"Make racists afraid again..."
Meanwhile the counter-protesters carried red flags and signs with the Soviet hammer and sickle, a symbol of international communism. Over a 100,000 Americans were killed fighting communist regimes in Korea and Vietnam. Communism has killed over a 100 million people over the past century.


Protesters and counter-protesters clash in Charlottesville, Virginia
More victims of Nazism
These neo-communists also carried signs that read "Make racists afraid again." Violent clashes occurred, Heather Heyer, age 32, (a local counter protester) was killed run down by James Field, age 20, (a white supremacist from Ohio) who with a car drove into a crowd of counter protesters. Nineteen others were injured. Field has been charged with second degree murder.

The fact that in 2017 some would still wave either loathsome flag should give us all pause to reflect on what is going on and where we are headed. What is forgotten is that both share a common history. Both Fascism and Leninism emerged out of a crisis of Marxism. Marxist historians would prefer to forget that Benito Mussolini before starting fascism was a Marxist.

Nazi Foreign Minister Von Ribbentrop, Joseph Stalin, & Soviet foreign minister Molotov
Furthermore despite their anti-racist rhetoric in the United States during the Obama Presidency the communist regime of North Korea engaged in a racist screed against President Obama in May of 2014 that drew an official critcism from the White House.

Ten days from today marks the 38th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact when Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov and Nazi foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, signed a treaty between the Nazi Third Reich and the Soviet Union that became an alliance to conquer and divide Poland and the Baltic states between the two totalitarian dictatorships. It was responsible for the start of World War II.

German and Soviet Union soldiers greet one another in Poland (1939)
The Czech writer Milan Kundera observed that "the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting." This observation is especially relevant today when both the swastika and hammer and sickle are raised by young Americans  and this dark chapter of history must not be forgotten.

Day of Remembrance for Victims of Communism and Nazism 2017
Racism, slavery and white supremacy are historic problems in the American experience but throwing Nazism or Communism into the mix will not help. The events this last week in Charlottesville, Virginia demonstrate that. They are not opposites but mirror reflections of each other with a combined body count of over a 160 million dead.




Thursday, August 10, 2017

Why possibility of Castro regime harming U.S. and Canadian diplomats should not be a surprise

The Castro regime is an outlaw regime. 

Canadian Embassy in Havana, Cuba
Today, another shoe dropped, the Associated Press reported that Canadian government said that at least one Canadian diplomat in Cuba has also been treated for hearing loss. "Global Affairs Canada spokeswoman Brianne Maxwell said Canadian officials 'are aware of unusual symptoms affecting Canadian and US diplomatic personnel and their families in Havana.'" Spokesperson Heather Nauert in a State Department briefing yesterday revealed that two Cuban diplomats were expelled from the United States on May 23, 2017 in response to "incidents in Cuba." According to U.S. officials five U.S. diplomats were targeted by a "sonic weapon" that led to "severe hearing loss" that led to some of them canceling their tours and returning early to the United States.

Cuban state security agents have "pilfered car parts, slashed tires and smashed car windows" of U.S. diplomats in Havana and left "unwelcome 'messages' like urine and feces deposited in their homes." The reaction of disbelief and surprise in the media to this news story is shocking and reflected in the tweet below:
The government of Cuba is an outlaw regime that has a record of not only mistreating Cubans but also engaging in actions against others that should also raise concerns. The use of a "sonic weapon" would be something new, but attempting to harm a diplomat is not. U.S. diplomat Robin Meyers was subjected to cars being used against her as weapons in Cuba on February 23-24, 1996. Former Canadian ambassador to Cuba James Bartleman told The Globe and Mail today that he was "not surprised by this week’s reports, given his experience as envoy from 1981 to 1983. Halfway through his posting, a series of strange events occurred: His family dog was poisoned, a trade officer had a dead rat nailed to their door and the embassy started receiving threatening phone calls. Fed up, he called out the Cuban government."

Consider some of what the Castro regime has been doing in recent years:
Cuban intelligence agents who have murdered nonviolent dissidents and engaged in promoting terrorism abroad are more than capable of harming diplomats and should not be a surprise. What is shocking is that many journalists are and should know better. Then again looking at what has happened with the shuttering of the Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies at the University of Miami to get along with the Castro regime we should also not be surprised at the ignorance about the nature of the dictatorship in Cuba.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

US expelled 2 Cuban diplomats in May for actions against US diplomats in Havana

Were U.S. diplomats targeted and harmed by a sonic weapon in Havana?
 
Spokesperson Heather Nauert in a State Department briefing today revealed that two Cuban diplomats were expelled from the United States on May 23, 2017 in response to "incidents in Cuba." Cuban diplomats have had a checkered history in their postings overseas and reducing their number on U.S. soil is a positive development. In Cuba the totalitarian state security apparatus spies on everyone and carries out active measures against both foreign and domestic actors. According to U.S. officials five U.S. diplomats were targeted by a "sonic weapon" that led to "severe hearing loss" that led to some of them canceling their tours and returning early to the United States.

Cubans have played hardball before. U.S. diplomat Robin Meyers was subjected to cars being used against her as weapons by state security agents on February 23-24, 1996. The Miami Herald reported on it on November 24, 1996 after she had been expelled from Cuba:
"On Friday, Feb. 23, she was driving home from the U.S. interests section when a white Soviet-built Lada nearly sideswiped her car. She wrote off the near-miss to faulty brakes. Then it happened again. And again. She doubled back to the mission and had a U.S. security agent escort her home. The next day, she left for work, comfortably sandwiched between two U.S. escort cars. But another Lada, stuffed with her now-familiar baby sitters, tried to break into the chain of cars. She fled through an intersection on a changing light. The Lada tried to follow but was too late, and was slammed by an oncoming car."
This type of arranged accident was an innovation of the East German spy agency, known as the Stasi, who trained the Cuban State Security service known as "G2" and one of its standard tactics. Diplomats working in Cuba should not underestimate the dictatorship nor should those visiting the island for recreation or business.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Message to friends in Venezuela on the latest unfolding events

My prayers and thoughts are with the Venezuelan people in their struggle for freedom.

Yesterday at the Torch of Friendship on August 5, 2017
 As an outsider I do not pretend to know the intricacies of what is taking place on the ground in Venezuela but there are patterns and historical trends with regards to conflicts with parallels to what is taking place in your country today that alarm me.

Voices now gaining traction in Venezuela make the argument that violent resistance is now necessary to deal with the new political reality. Century of data and recent example of Syria shows belief that abandoning nonviolence for violence will speed up change is mistaken.

Non-violent expert Gene Sharp offers the following advice to a non-violent movement when military units start to defect or mutiny. Maintain non-violence, do not organize soldiers to use violence against the remaining army. That is suicidal.  Use the mutinous soldiers to persuade the rest of the soldiers also to mutiny - take the army away then the regime will come tumbling down.

Furthermore, among some Venezuelans, there is the mistaken idea that Cubans did not fight against the imposition of communist rule in Cuba. Cuban author and artist Juan Abreu who advocates violent resistance in Venezuela also does not sugarcoat the difficulty nor the fact that Cubans failed to overthrow the Castros despite a formidable armed resistance that lasted six years (1960-66) because the communists are experts in violence, torture and rewriting history.

Dear friends in Venezuela I offer this testimony with humility and ask you to take it into consideration.