Tag Archive | "Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies"


Cuba Experts Agree Trump May Undo Obama’s Rapprochement

The panel of experts met at Casa Bacardi before a large audience of academics and community members 

By Bárbara Gutiérrez
UM News


Pedro Roig makes a point as, from left, fellow panelists Jaime Suchlicki, Otto Reich, and Jose Azel listen.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (December 7, 2016) —Speculating on future relations with Cuba, experts who gathered at the University of Miami Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies (ICCAS) agreed that President-elect Donald Trump’s administration is likely to reverse the diplomatic détente the Obama administration established in July 2015, after almost 50 years of estrangement.

“I think there is a very good chance that Mr. Trump will fulfill his promise to reverse the deal or deals,” said Otto Reich, president of Otto Reich Associates, who held three diplomatic appointments during the Reagan years, including special advisor to the secretary of state. “There are a number of executive actions that can be reversed very simply by an executive action. This is one of the big flaws in the Obama foreign policy.”

Reich took part in the December 1 panel discussion titled “The Trump Administration and Cuba: What to Expect,” which also included Joe Azel, ICCAS senior research associate; Pedro Roig, senior research associate; and ICCAS Director Jaime Suchlicki, whose opening remarks elicited loud applause.

“By the way, Fidel Castro has died,” Suchlicki told the audience of about 50 academics and community members.

In his remarks, Reich went on to say that “the business community is living in a state of wishful thinking” about Cuba, given Trump’s repeated assertions that he will undo all the concessions the Obama government granted the island. “The entire Obama policy on Cuba is a house of cards,” Reich said.

Another indication that Trump will reverse Obama’s Cuba policies is his appointment of several conservative voices on the issue of Cuba to his transition team, Reich said. They include Mauricio Claver-Carone, executive director of a pro-embargo nonprofit in Washington, D.C., and Yleen Poblete, former chief of staff for U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

For his part, Roig foresees a “diplomatic confrontation” ahead. The Cuban leadership was surprised by the results of the U.S. presidential election and did not have time to plan how to position themselves. “They are now scrambling to formulate a policy,” said Roig.

He believes Trump already sent a “symbolic message” to the Castro regime that he will change U.S./Cuba policy when he visited the Brigade 2506 headquarters in Little Havana during his campaign. Cuban leaders view brigade members, who took part in the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion, as enemies.

Roig also thinks Trump may try to renegotiate conditions with Cuba—such as demanding the release of political prisoners and greater individual freedoms for the Cuban people—in exchange for maintaining the U.S. concessions granted Cuba last year.

Changing the subject a bit, Azel also said he believes Fidel Castro’s death gives the Trump administration a new opportunity. Now that Fidel, who was a “mentor and a de facto leader for the Latin America left,” is gone, the U.S. can take Cuba out of the picture in redesigning its policy toward Latin America, he said.


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ICCAS Presents ‘U.S. Policy Toward Cuba Under A New Republican or Democratic Administration’ on September 21

The Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies will host a panel discussion on “U.S. Policy Toward Cuba Under a New Republican or Democratic Administration” at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, September 21. Moderated by ICCAS Director Jaime Suchlicki, the panelists include Alfredo Duran, a Bay of Pigs veteran and former chair of the Florida Democratic Party, and Otto Reich, who served as a diplomat in numerous Republican administrations.

The forum, at Casa Bacardi, 1531 Brescia Avenue, Coral Gables, is free and open to the public, but space is limited. To attend RSVP at 305-284-CUBA (2822).

Suchlicki, the Emilio Bacardi Moreau Distinguished Professor, is also editor of “Cuban Affairs,” a quarterly electronic journal published by ICCAS, and the author of Cuba: From Columbus to Castro; Mexico: From Montezuma to the Rise of PAN; and Breve Historia de Cuba.

Duran, a Miami lawyer, former prisoner of war in Cuba for 18 months, and former president of the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association, has a longstanding record of participation in Democratic Party politics, including chairing the Florida Democratic Party from 1976-1980 and serving as a member on various DNC party committees and commissions. He has also served as a member of the Dade County School Board and as chairman of the Community Relations Board. He served on the Board of Directors of the Mercy Hospital Foundation, Inc., and was active in the NAFTA and Beyond Commission as well as other civic and community organizations. He is presently on the Board of Directors of the Cuban Committee for Democracy (CCD) and a member of the board of directors of the Center for International Policy.

Reich, president of Otto Reich Associates, LLC, of Washington, D.C., served as U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela from 1986 to 1989. In the 1980s, Reich received three appointments from President Ronald Reagan. As Special Advisor to the Secretary of State from 1983 to 1986, he directed the Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America and the Caribbean, receiving the office’s Meritorious Honor Award.

From 1981 to 1983, he was assistant administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in charge of U.S. economic assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean. He was the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs from 2001 to 2002. He then became President George Bush’s Special Envoy for Western Hemisphere Initiatives, reporting to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the National Security Council. He left government service in June 2004.


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Cuban Dissident Blasts Obama During UM Visit


Cuban Dissident Blasts Obama During UM Visit

In his first trip outside of Cuba, Oscar Elias Biscet received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from former President George W. Bush and the keys to Coral Gables from Mayor James Cason, formerly the chief U.S. diplomat in Cuba.

By Barbara Gutierrez
UM News

Noted Cuban dissident Oscar Elias Biscet holds a copy of Cuba's 1940 constitution,  which the Castro regime abolished.

Noted Cuban dissident Oscar Elias Biscet holds a copy of Cuba’s 1940 constitution, which the Castro regime abolished.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (June 30, 2016)—Holding a black and white photo of President Barack Obama shaking hands with Cuban President Raul Castro, noted Cuban dissident Oscar Elias Biscet condemned the U.S.’s rapprochement with the Cuban government, saying countries that “defend democracy should serve as examples.”

“How can you shake hands with an assassin?” Biscet asked at a June 29 press conference held at the University of Miami, referring to Raul Castro’s bloodied history, which includes ordering hundreds of firing-squad executions at the onset of the Cuban revolution led by his brother.

“When you see the faces of Fidel and Raul Castro you are not only looking at their faces, but at the faces of Stalin and Hitler, and they symbolize terror and death,” said Biscet, a physician who spent years in Cuban prisons for his advocacy.

During the hour-long press conference at UM’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies, the founder of the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights reiterated his longstanding belief that the Cuban regime was a dictatorship built on “illegitimacy.” As he noted, the Castro government abolished the 1940 Cuban Constitution, which, inspired by the U.S. Bill of Rights, granted basic human rights and freedoms to its citizens.

“The Cuban people want a complete change,” he said. “They do not want an evolution with this dictatorship. They want to be free.”

Biscet was introduced by Coral Gables Mayor James C. Cason, who, in presenting Biscet with the keys to the city of Coral Gables, called him “the true hero, one of the most principled, determined members of the opposition in Cuba.”

As head of the Cuban Interest Section in Havana during the early 2000s, Cason met Biscet and his wife, Elsa Morejon, and often tried to intercede on his behalf with the Cuban government.

Now 54, Biscet made his first trip abroad to speak out against the repression in Cuba, and to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from former President George W. Bush for his dedication to advancing human rights and democracy in Cuba. Bush awarded Biscet the medal in absentia in 2007, while he was in prison. Biscet accepted the nation’s highest civilian honor at a ceremony at the George W. Bush Center in Dallas on June 23.

Although repression in Cuba persists, Biscet said he felt the dictatorship is nearing its end because internal opposition is well defined and most Cubans are beginning to lose their fear of the government.

As a sign of the changing times, he noted that his Project Emilia, a petition initiative calling for the end of communism on the island, was gaining momentum. In what is a risky act in Cuba, about 3,000 Cuban citizens have signed the petition, giving their names, addresses, and identity card data.


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‘Jazz Latino’ Explores the Cuban Connection

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‘Jazz Latino’ Explores the Cuban Connection

UM News

Jazz.LatinoCORAL GABLES, Fla. (June 1, 2016) – The Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies (ICCAS) has produced and released  “Jazz Latino,” a video that tells the story of the music genre’s connection to Cuba through interviews and performances with prominent jazz performers, producers, and musicians, including such notables as Paquito D’Rivera, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Nat Chediak, and John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie.

“We felt that it was important to tell the story of Latin jazz from its infancy to its present state and to highlight the exceptional role that Cuba and Cuban musicians had in its development,” said Jaime Suchlicki, director of ICCAS. “It is a testament to Cuban creativity and talent.”

The 31-minute Spanish-language video is narrated by Jorge Sotolongo, a Cuban-American filmmaker and journalist who created the video and conducted several of the interviews. Using archival footage, historical pictures, and original interviews, the film chronicles the history of jazz, beginning with the blending of African roots and European and American influences and how it morphed into what today is known as Latin jazz.

In a candid interview, Frost School of Music Professor Raul Murciano details how  jazz Latino originated from different African rhythms slaves brought to Cuba, and how it was later married to European classical music and other American genres, such as spirituals and blues. The film provides a comprehensive overview of the jazz era and its influencers, including short performances by Louis Armstrong, Nina Simone, Ed Calle, and de Rivera.

The video features a seminal interview with Gillespie, in which the legendary jazz trumpeter reminisces about meeting Luciano Pozo González, better known as “Chano Pozo,” the famous Afro-Cuban percussionist and composer with whom Gillespie created Latin jazz.

The video is available for sale for $20 by contacting ICCAS at 305-284-2822 or iccas@miami.edu .





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Inaugural Cesar L. Alvarez Series Features Former Commerce Secretary


Inaugural Cesar L. Alvarez Series Features Former Commerce Secretary

By Barbara Gutierrez
UM News

Jaime Suchlicki, left, interviews former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez at the inaugural Carlos A. Alvarez lecture series.

Jaime Suchlicki, left, interviews former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez at the inaugural Carlos A. Alvarez lecture.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (May 20, 2015)—The University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies (ICCAS) launched the Cesar L. Alvarez Distinguished Series “Cubans in America” this month with former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutiérrez. Made possible by a generous grant from an anonymous donor, the series honors the Cuban-American chairman of Greenberg Traurig, LLP, who was the first Hispanic to lead a top-ten law firm in the United States.

The grant that funded the lecture series is part of Momentum2: The Breakthrough Campaign for the University of Miami, and will be used to bring prominent Cuban-Americans to campus to discuss their contributions to the U.S. Scheduled for Tuesday, June 2, the second Cesar L. Alvarez lecture will feature Cuban journalist and intellectual Carlos Alberto Montaner.

“It is an honor for our institute to hold this lecture series and celebrate the many accomplishments of Cuban-Americans,” Jaime Suchlicki, ICCAS director, said at the inaugural lecture on May 4. “Today we have one of those prominent Cuban-Americans here with us.”

At the discussion, Suchlicki interviewed Gutiérrez, who was born in Cuba and migrated to the U.S. with his parents in 1960. He grew up in New York and Mexico, where he married, started his family, and began working for Kellogg as a sales intern, selling products out of a Volkswagen.

“I wanted stability in my life and thought that the best way to do that was to work for a big American company,” Gutiérrez said. He never envisioned that 25 years later he would be CEO of Kellogg, stationed in Battle Creek, Michigan.

He said he owed his success to “following his gut” instead of following the advice of the many consultants the company had hired.

“I felt like all those years I was in a pressure cooker,“ Gutiérrez said. “I did not have a college degree so I felt that I had to work many more hours than those who had the degree.”

His transition to politics came after he met President George W. Bush in 1998 and turned down a position in his cabinet. Four years later, President Bush came calling again and offered the secretary of commerce position.

“Something in my gut told me I should take it,” Gutiérrez said, even though some in his family questioned the wisdom of accepting a 95-percent pay cut. Gutiérrez said it was the best job he ever had, in large part because he admired President Bush and respected his leadership skills.

“When things got bad, like in the Iraq war, for instance, he was more visible,” he said. “He would encourage people and tell them to keep their spirits up.”

Since leaving government, Gutiérrez worked at Citi, where he served as vice chairman of the Institutional Clients Group and as a member of the Senior Strategic Advisory Group. He is now chair of Albright Stonebridge Group, a premier strategic advisory and commercial diplomacy firm. He also chairs Republicans for Immigration Reform, the political action group he co-founded in 2012, and serves as a national trustee at the University of Miami and as a non-resident scholar at ICCAS.



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