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From the Herald's Michael Vasquez:
Responding to an international media blitz and outrage from some members of the Cuban-American community, Miami city leaders Tuesday vowed to tone down a proposed large-scale, city-organized public event in the Orange Bowl when Fidel Castro dies.
And despite preliminary plans that included the possibility of musical acts and themed T-shirts, the city stressed that it had never -- ever -- intended to respond to a man's death by holding a party.
With their fealty to Ché Guevara, their revolutionary discourses peppered with ''proletariat'' and ''comrade,'' and their ''Read Lenin'' and ''Burn Your Bra!'' T-shirts, the Bolívarian Youth seem almost retro, a throwback to a more, well, unwashed time.
But these young people, like generations of students before them, believe they can change the world -- and they say their message is getting through in Miami, home to hundreds of thousands of exiles from Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, homelands they fled because of political repression they blame on leftist governments.
''What we are doing is important, because people see us and know that they're not alone,'' said Sonja Swanson, 20, a Florida International University student.
``We are growing slowly but surely, moving more and more people here to dedicating themselves to something bigger than the individual person.''
A spate of stories in the national media since Fidel Castro transferred power to his brother, Raul Castro, seems to have a common string: a focus on moderate exiles and Cuban Americans who shatter the image of the monolithic exile community. From the Houston Chronicle to USA Today, the national media are once again weighing in on Miami's Cuban exile community, what makes it tick, and its potential role in the post-Castro Cuba. Their analyses tend to focus on the fragmentation of exile political thinking, a trend quantified in local polls and reflected most clearly among Miami's business elite.
While a moderate political outlook -- which includes a softening of support for some or all U.S. economic sanctions against the island -- seems to be blossoming in Miami, it has not yet been reflected in the top political leadership. The biggest proponents of the hard line remain Miami's Cuban American Congressional Representatives: Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, all of them easily reelected last year. While Sen. Mel Martinez has had a few points of disagreement with the Diaz-Balarts over certain Cuba-related issues, he still remains a major supporter of the embargo.
The disconnect between the move toward the center on the streets of Miami, and the defense of current policy among the leadership could prove to be a point of political vulnerability for Cuban American leaders. The Democrats have noticed this and are making moves to capitalize on the disagreements among Cuban Americans on key points, such as the restrictions on family travel to the island. Holding a majority of Congress makes the Democrats more relevant to the Cuba debate than they have been in a dozen years. These days, we're as likely to read or see anti-embargo Massachussettes Democrat Bill Delahunt weighing in on the Cuba issue as we are to hear the viewpoints of the Diaz-Balarts.
The appetite for change on both sides of the Florida Straits could lead to some aperture, with both sides granting concessions. But for that to happen, new voices must rise both in Cuba and Miami to counterargue the seige mentality and find common ground and mutual interests. The national media has done a good job of identifying and quoting moderates who reflect the complexity of Miami's Cuban American community.
The question is, will the moderates empower themselves and steal the thunder from the hardliners as Cuba limps forward under Raul Castro?
At 37, she's a successful and politically active Gen-Xer, a rising star in Miami's contentious political scene, working to lure Cuban Americans away from the Republican Party.
With Democrats in control of Congress and Raúl Castro running Cuba the past six months as his brother Fidel remains ailing, some believe change is on the horizon. Last week, a bipartisan group, including Arizona Republican Rep. Jeff Flake, and New York Democrat Charles Rangel, once again introduced a bill in the U.S. House to allow travel to Cuba.
from Herald Reporter Michael Vasquez:
One day, very possibly one day soon, ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro will die -- and a nascent committee sponsored by the city of Miami wants to be ready.
So it's planning a party.
The event, still in the very early planning stage, would be held in Little Havana's Orange Bowl stadium -- and might include commemorative T-shirts, a catchy slogan and bands that will make your hips shake.
The stadium is a bittersweet landmark in South Florida's Cuban-American experience. After the 1961 Bay of Pigs fiasco, more than 35,000 exiles gathered there to hear President John F. Kennedy promise a free Cuba.
Decades later, the bowl served as a camp for Mariel refugees.
City Commissioner Tomás Regalado, a Cuban American, came up with the idea of using the venue for an event timed to Castro's demise.
Lexington Institute's imagined farewell letter from Fidel to Bush:
Thank You and Farewell
The Council of State Havana,
Cuba December 2006
The Honorable George W. Bush
The White House Washington, D.C.
Dear Mr. President: My final battle is nearing its end.
I have led the revolutionary struggle for so long that I have seen nine American Presidents leave office. But now it is certain that you will be the one who sees me give up my post in favor of my brother Raul, whom history commands to lead our noble Revolution and pass the torch to our next generation.
Before I relinquish my post, I must thank you for the steadfast political support you have provided for six years.
Mr. President, I have had lots of time recently to think about history. I conclude after careful analysis that not since President Kennedy has an American President done as much as you to help sustain our revolutionary project.
When President Kennedy decided to invade Cuba in 1961, it was not self-evident that we would emerge strengthened from the experience. The Revolution was young and vulnerable. We were fighting to cleanse our mountains of bandits and counterrevolutionaries. We had no allies to help us resist a full application of American military power.
But Mr. Kennedy chose to rely on Cuban mercenaries. He landed them at the Bay of Pigs, separated from the rest of Cuba by vast swamps and far from any conceivable source of support. He left them defenseless. Soon they surrendered in humiliation, and our moment of peril was shortlived.
Victory reaffirmed my personal leadership at home and throughout the Americas. But what mattered most was that President Kennedy's decision allowed me henceforth to paint internal opponents of the Revolution as instruments of U.S. imperialism. My pledge to safeguard Cuban independence was no longer a reference to history; it was the Revolution's response to an immediate threat. I made sure that this message was never lost on the Cuban people.
I do not wish to inject myself into your country's political affairs, Mr. President, but something else was truly remarkable about President Kennedy's conduct. After shamefully abandoning those men on the field of battle, he went to the Orange Bowl in Miami to bask in the applause of the survivors and their families. He accepted their flag and promised to return it "in a free Havana." It did not matter, apparently, that his strong intentions were paired with weak measures and terrible results. Results were not required to win the support of those Cubans among you who live in hatred of me. I believe that you have taken this lesson to heart.
Jan. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Charles Rangel, the chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, is betting that with Cuban leader Fidel Castro in failing health and Democrats in control of Congress, lawmakers will scale back trade and travel embargoes on the communist island.
Rangel, a New York Democrat, introduced a measure Jan. 24 to end the U.S. ban on travel to Cuba. He and others say they will offer measures to relax limits on sending money to Cuba and payment restrictions on the sale of farm goods.
``Being in the majority, I think we can be successful this year,'' Rangel said in an interview. Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland, and all but one of the new House committee chairmen voted in the past for easing the embargo, according to the U.S.-Cuba Trade Association."
John Stewart weighs in on reports that Castro has an artificial anus:
Stewart concludes: "I don't feel bad for that dude. He's not a nice man. He deserves, I think, the artificial anus that he got."