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

Cuban Dissident Blasts Obama During UM Visit

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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

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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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ICCAS Researcher Testifies in Congress About New Cuba Policy


Azel.Jose4Jose Azel, a senior research associate at the University of Miami Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, testified against President Obama’s new Cuba policy at a recent subcommittee hearing of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in Washington, D.C.
Azel told the committee that the administration’s “gratuitous” normalization of diplomatic relations with an oppressive military dictatorship sends the wrong message across the region. “Every Latin American would-be dictator now realizes that suppressing civil liberties in their countries is not an impediment to having a good diplomatic and commercial relationship with the United States,” he said.
View his full testimony.

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As U.S.-Cuba Relations Thaw, ICCAS Hosts Historic Meeting

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As U.S.-Cuba Relations Thaw, ICCAS Hosts Historic Meeting


By Barbara Gutierrez
UM News

Among the 13 dissidents visiting from Cuba, Fernando Palacio speaks at the news conference held at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies. Photo Courtesy of el Nuevo Herald /Roberto Koltun

Among the 13 dissidents visiting from Cuba, Fernando Palacio speaks at the news conference held at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies. Photo Courtesy of el Nuevo Herald / Roberto Koltun

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (January 28, 2015) — The University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies (ICCAS) hosted a historic meeting last Tuesday of 13 Cuban dissidents—representing more than 30 groups on the island—who came to Miami to call for a dialogue with members of the exile community that they hope will lead to a democratic Cuba.

“We represent a wide range of the views inside of Cuba, and we want to send a clear message that Cubans living on the island and those in exile need to work together toward a democratic future for Cuba,” said Manuel Cuesta Morua, who heads the group Arco Progresista, or the Progressive Arc. “What matters now is our nation.”

Welcoming the dissidents to the UM campus, ICCAS Director Jaime Suchlicki said, “As an academic center, ICCAS will always welcome these Cubans who are fighting for freedom. Their mission is to unite efforts and create a common political platform, and we’re glad to open up our neutral venue so they may discuss their goals.”

Other dissidents at the meeting included Dagoberto Valdés, editor of the magazine Convivencia, (Coexistence), attorney Laritza Diversent, and Eliecer Avila, leader of Somos Mas, or We are More.

The dissidents, whose unprecedented visit was prompted by the U.S. decision to normalize relations with Cuba and the subsequent visit of American diplomats to the island, invited interested parties to another historic meeting that took place at the Cuba Ocho Art and Research Center in Little Havana the following day. About 150 exiles showed up to that meeting, where they called for an end to political repression in Cuba, the release of all political prisoners, respect for all United Nations human rights covenants, and the active participation of ordinary Cuban citizens in developing a new democratic society.

After much deliberation, Morua said, participants at the Little Havana meeting agreed to establish a working roundtable that would include members of the Cuban and Cuban-American community. They also agreed to create a website to keep communication channels open and to draft a proposal for the democratization of Cuba that could be presented at the 2015 Summit of the Americas in Panamá in early April. After many years of absence, Cuba is slated to participate in this year’s summit.

 

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