End the Travel Ban on Cuba

Cuban Americans for Engagement Make Third Trip to Washington

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Cuban Americans for Engagement (CAFE) came to Washington, D.C. this week to advocate for a re-establishment of relations between the United States and Cuba. CAFE was represented in Washington, D.C. by members from all over the country, including North Carolina, Texas, Washington, Colorado, Illinois, and Florida. The group attended meetings with various congressional offices, governmental agencies, and the Cuban Interests Section. Members of CAFE expressed new perspectives on U.S-Cuba relations and addressed the need to see improvement in the dialogue between the two nations.

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Poll Shows the Changing Dynamics of Cuban-American Miami

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The recently-released 2014 Florida International University (FIU) Cuba Poll shows major changes in the attitudes of the Cuban-American population in Miami-Dade County, Florida on issues surrounding U.S. policy toward Cuba. Researchers at FIU have been polling this community for over 20 years, beginning in 1991. This year, the findings prove that the loudest voices in the Cuban-American community do not necessarily reflect the views of the entire community and that a majority of the community would be open to a change in U.S. policy.

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Cuban-American Miami is Not What is Used to Be

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Florida International University released a new pollFIU 2014 poll on Tuesday that surveyed how Cuban Americans in Miami view U.S. policies towards Cuba. Over the past few years we have seen poll after poll show the changing opinion of the majority of Cuban Americans—who now favor engagement with the Cuban government and a change in U.S. policy. FIU's latest poll blows all the other polls out of the water. The most impressive finding from the poll is the clear shift of younger Cuban Americans, ages 18-29, who present an even larger majority in favor of engagement and U.S. policy change towards Cuba.
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Alberto Gonzalez was "Born to Translate Cuba"

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Born to translate CubaIf any of you have had the opportunity to travel to Cuba with LAWG or our partner organization, Witness for Peace, or had any interactions with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Center in Marianao/Havana, then you have probably had the distinct pleasure of meeting Alberto Gonzalez, an interpreter for the MLK Jr. Center. Besides being the best Cuban interpreter we have ever run across, Alberto has become the friend of many who have learned from him. He's written a memoir, and we'd love to share with you how you can get it. Alberto is the same age as the Cuban revolution; his book is written from that perspective, and it is as lively and filled with humorous stories as is Alberto himself. The memoir, Born to Translate Cuba, is newly printed and available on Amazon.com. You can order it here.

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Will the Release of Sgt. Bergdahl Set a Precedent for the Release of Alan Gross?

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The exchange of five Taliban leaders being held at Guantanamo Bay Detention Center for the freedom of U.S. Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl has added a new dimension to the discussion surrounding the imprisonment of former U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) sub-contractor Alan Gross, who has been imprisoned in Cuba since 2009. The U.S. State Department has rejected the prospect of a similar exchange involving Alan Gross and the remaining three imprisoned members of the Cuban 5, who were arrested in 1998 and convicted in 2001 of multiple charges including conspiracy to commit espionage. The Cuban 5 were working in Miami to monitor anti-Castro groups in an attempt to prevent them from carrying out aggressive acts against the island. Despite objections from their legal representatives, members of the Five were tried in Miami, an area directly associated with the Cuban exile community, and the group was convicted on all 26 charges filed against them. Some were even sentenced to life and double life sentences.

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Adiós, Formell

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homenaje a formellIt is difficult to think of an individual whose life’s work represents more on the modern Cuban cultural landscape than composer, bassist, arranger and Los Van Van Director Juan Formell, who passed away May 1, age 71. He will be missed in Cuba, throughout the world, and by me.

I’ve traveled to Cuba since the late 70s. My memories are inseparable from the music I’ve heard while I have been there. During my second visit in 1982, I was awakened each day by Sarah González’s “Girón – La Victoria,” celebrating the Cuban victory at the Bay of Pigs. Another number that was constantly in the air was “Tiburón” by Rubén Blades and Willie Colón, a New York salsa tune popular in Cuba – and banned in Miami because of its characterization of the U.S. as a “shark” set to devour “our brother El Salvador.”

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Cuba on the Terrorist List Again in 2013

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The State Department on Wednesday, April 30th released the 2013 Country Reports on Terrorism, which includes the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. Once again, Cuba remains on this list (along with Syria, Sudan and Iran), and the reasons are as absurd as ever:

"Cuba has long provided safe haven to members of Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Reports continued to indicate that Cuba's ties to 14 ETA have become more distant, and that about eight of the two dozen ETA members in Cuba were relocated with the cooperation of the Spanish government. 

Throughout 2013, the Government of Cuba supported and hosted negotiations between the FARC and the Government of Colombia aimed at brokering a peace agreement between the two. The Government of Cuba has facilitated the travel of FARC representatives to Cuba to participate in these negotiations, in coordination with representatives of the Governments of Colombia, Venezuela, and Norway, as well as the Red Cross.

There was no indication that the Cuban government provided weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups.

The Cuban government continued to harbor fugitives wanted in the United States. The Cuban government also provided support such as housing, food ration books, and medical care for these individuals."

So where's the evidence? Not only is the Cuban government facilitating the historic peace process between the Colombian Government and the FARC, but the State Department even recognizes that the Cuban government doesn't provide weapons or training to terrorist organizations. So why do they remain on this list, if half of the reasons for keeping them on the list are truly reasons to take them off?

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Alan Gross Makes Plea to Obama: "Bring me Home"

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Alan Gross’s arrest and detention in Cuba has been one of the major roadblocks to improvement in relations between the United States and Cuba since 2009. Gross was arrested while trying to establish a military-style satellite system that would provide Cubans with Internet, but he had no permission from the Cuban government to carry out this project. At the time, Gross was working for Development Alternatives Inc, a company affiliated with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The Cuban government charged Gross with committing crimes against the state and sentenced him to 15 years in prison.

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Tell President Obama to Take Action on Alan Gross

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Tell President Obama to Take Immediate Action to Secure Alan Gross' Release

Alan Gross has been a name related to any talk about Cuba on Capitol Hill since his incarceration in December 2009. He was arrested in Cuba for attempting to establish a military-style satellite internet connection for Cubans on the island without permission from the Cuban government.  At the time, Alan Gross was working for Development Alternatives Inc, a company that received a grant from U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), for “democracy promotion” programs in Cuba. The Cuban government charged Alan with committing crimes against the state for carrying out the “subversive USAID program” and sentenced him to 15 years in prison. In light of the most recent “Cuban Twitter” fiasco with USAID’s Cuban democracy promotion programs, it only remains clearer that democracy promotion programs in Cuba are unsuccessful and a waste of tax-payer dollars.

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What is Wrong with the White House’s Plan for Democracy in Cuba?

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ZunZuneo
or the “Cuban Twitter” continues to dominate headlines as details regarding U.S. Agency of International Development’s (USAID) failure to inspire a “Cuban Spring” through a “discreetly” funded social networking platform remain unclear. The Associated Press (AP) first broke the story on April 3, 2014 outlining the parameters of the USAID and Creative Associates International program to develop a bare-bones “Cuban Twitter,” using cell phone text messaging to evade Cuba's strict control of information and its restrictions of the internet. The idea behind the development of the social media platform, according to AP, was to create a credible news source for Cubans on the island. ZunZuneo drew more than 40,000 followers and gathered data (such as location, cell phone numbers) on its users which was hoped to be used for political purposes. According to the AP, the social network managers hoped to use this information to trigger “smart mobs” that would protest the current Cuban government and generate a “Cuban Spring,” head nodding to the “Arab Spring,” a series of protests and uprisings that swept through a handful of Arab countries from 2010-2013.

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