National Summit on Cuba

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Wed Sep 25 05:23:51 MDT 2002


(This report on the National Summit on Cuba
was posted previously to the Cuban American
Alliance Educational Fund list. It's a fine report
which I urge you to read thoroughly. It has been
reformatted it for easier reading in e-mail.)
==================================

From: kdworkin at andrew.cmu.edu
Date: Mon, 23 Sep 2002 22:41:33 -0400

(Pittsburgh, 9/23/02) I use this opportunity to send you a
small accounting of what took place in Washington, D.C. last
Tuesday and Wednesday, the 17th and 18th, respectively.

By the way, I am Kenya C. Dworkin, from Carnegie Mellon
University, a Cuban-American involved with the
Pittsburgh-Matanzas Sister City Project. We met in Bradford,
PA, at the college campus when the Pastors for Peace Caravan
was coming through, and then again at the Pastor Smith's
Monumental Baptist Church, also in Pittsburgh. Since then, I
have been receiving the EuroCubaNews.

Last Tuesday the 17th and Wednesday the 18th were historic
days for Cuban Americans in the U.S. and for the fight
against the U.S. blockade of Cuba. Over 300 Cubans (more
like 400) converged for a two-day activity involving an
all-day 'National Summit on Cuba,' where there were myriad
discussion about the need for change in U.S. policy towards
Cuba, an Advocacy Day, a full day of active lobbying of
congressional represenatatives and senators on Capitol Hill.

The 'National Summit on Cuba' was sponsored by the Cuban
Committee for Democracy, the Cuban American Alliance and
Education Fund, Puentes Cubanos, the American Farm Bureau
Federation, USA*ENGAGE, The World Policy Institute,
Americans for Humanitarian Trade with Cuba, and many other
organizations and individuals.

Among the many speakers were U.S. Senatore Chuck Hagel from
Nebraska, U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd from Connecticut,
U.S. Representatives Jeff Flake of Arizona, William Delahunt
of Massachusetts, and former U.S. representative Sam Gibbon
from Florida.

We also heard from General Charles Wilhelm, former Chief
Commander of the U.S. Southern Command on how Cuba most
certainly did not pose any terrorist threat to the U.S., and
from other parties, who despite their diverging ideologies
all agree that U.S. policy towards Cuba must change.

The Cuban Americans attending were of all generations, and
they were joined by other Cuba-loving supporters from D.C.
and around the 50 states, and elsewhere. Most dramatically,
on the Advocacy Day, a plane load of 300 Cubans flew in from
Miami and bus loads came from N.J. as well, all for the
purpose of participating in the lobbying, and the Senate and
Congressional panels.

Two of the organizations represented among this constituency
from New Jersey and Florida were Cambio Cubano and Yo Sí
Voy, groups who advocate a change in U.S. policy on Cuba and
the right to travel to Cuba, respectively.

Many from among the Cuban Americans who participated in
these events have evolved from their pro-embargo position to
now want the U.S. to change its policy towards Cuba. In
fact, many of them faced former colleagues, as well as
neighbors and friends, when our two groups faced off on
Capitol Hill, on the Advocacy Day.

When one activist, Father Ramón Hernández, from Tampa, was
asked by a member of the opposition what he was doing on
that side (the anti-embargo side), he answered "This is the
only side to be on!" (my translation). Many of us, hearing
shouts of "traitors," "communists," and other phrases of a
more impolite nature, just kept to our agenda, kept walking
and talking, so as to not engage the opposition with their
own tactics.

As for myself, when my passage was blocked by anti-Castro
Cubans at the National Press Club, where the National Summit
on Cuba took place, the woman with whom I was walking felt
quite worried about their aggression. So when the next
insult came, "Look, there go the communists!" I just told
her (loudly), "Look, there are the fascists!" I can honestly
say that the oppositions efforts to thwart our historic
meetings and advocacy were entirely unsuccessful.
Unfortunately, the media did not report any of this. In
fact, they essentially ignored the whole event, except for
Radio Martí.

The three point agenda for these meetings was to push for
the lifting of the travel ban for U.S. citizens, for a
lifting of the cap on remittances, and for the removal of ba
rriers to financed sales of food and medicine to Cuba. These
three points are relevant to the House Treasury Postal
Appropriations Bill, whose language was already approved in
the House. In essence, these amendments to the Treasury
Postal bill would eliminate U.S. Treasury Dept. funding for
their enforcement of a ban on U.S. travel to Cuba, caps on
remittances, and the ban on the financed sale of food and
medicine to Cuba. This is the most immediate and urgent
piece of legislation that is seen as a stepping stone
towards a total end of the blockade.

Although there are diverging opinions among the many groups
of Cuban Americans about specific issues relating to the
government in Cuba, human rights abuses, political
prisoners, etc., all parties involved in this event agree on
these three basic points. The most vociferous arguments
against the ban on travel are that it is unconstitutional
and inhumane. Likewise, the sentiments about the ban on food
and medicine sales, and the cap on remittances are that they
are both inhumane and human rights abuses in and of
themselves.

As I said earlier, the whole event was coordinated by
several different Cuban American groups from across the
country in cooperation with Sister Cities and other
like-minded entities, and I'm sure that Lisa Valanti could
give a much better accounting than I.

In my opinion, our efforts were a resounding success, even
if most of the talk in the air on the Hill was about the war
with Iraq. We had a press conference at 11:15 Wednesday
morning, on the steps of the Cannon Office Building, across
from the Capitol, where Representatives Delahunt, Flake, and
several other elected officials voiced there support to a
lifting of the three above mentioned restrictions.

Their words and our cheering and clapping were almost
drowned out by anti-Castro Cuban Americans who organized
across the street to shout obscenities and accusations of
communism and treason. The police intervened to assure that
we were allowed safe passage by the agressive group, who
taunted and insulted us as we walked by.

As I mentioned earlier, some of the same people had tried to
disrupt the day-long summit the day before, at the National
Press Club, by renting the room next door to ours and having
their own meetings. They also tried convening in the
hallways as if to restrict our passage back and forth from
the meeting room to the rest rooms. Needless to say, they
were not successful.

The most disappointing this about all of this is that the
media has just not bothered to pick this item up, despite
the fact that there was plenty of media presence both days.
The only they picked up were the falsehoods that assistant
secretary of state Dan Fisk shared with us at the summit,
during lunch. This is what Radio Martí sent to Cuba too.
Particularly the accusation that the Castro government has
been providing the U.S. with false leads about terrorism. To
my knowledge, only the Boston Globe has made any reference
whatsoever to the fact that any Cuban Americans got together
in D.C. at all.

I thought you should know this, if you already don't,
because it was a groundbreaking, historical event for
post-Castro Cuban Americans and many others in the U.S. Many
of the people who came to support a change in U.S. policy
have only recently migrated from the opposition; people of
all ages, elders, 1960s' exiles, and more recent
generations, who made the two-day effort by so many even
more meaningful.

We can only hope that this coalition realized that its work
has only begun, and actually, the organizers of this event
were forward thinking and provide mechanisms for feedback
and follow up.

We all realize that the war with Iraq and the election will
probably delay any immediate action in the Senate on the
measures I mentioned above, but nearly everyone who
participated agreed that a change in policy is due very
soon. Even the most conservative elements questioned about
this confirmed this sentiment.

Keep up the good work!

Kenya C. Dworkin





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