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Terrorism in Miami

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April 27, 2013, will mark the one-year anniversary of the domestic terrorist attack on my offices in Coral Gables, Florida. Three incidiary devices were put inside my office in the pre-dawn hours of the morning. The effects were total destruction; everything was reduced to ashes. As I watched the terrorst act in Boston, I could not help but find similarities but also differences in comparing it to my office fire bombing. Let me be clear, I am in no way equating the two acts, as the one in Boston was of much more significance and caused more destruction to the people, the city, and our country. But here is what I learned. Both bombings, Boston and my office, were carried out because of hate. I was lucky that no one died at my office, although the potential was there...

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Yoani Sanchez: One Piece of a Complex Cuba Puzzle

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She has been named everything from the "princess of technological communication" and the "most famous living Cuban not named Castro" to simply "Cuba's dissident blogger" in an array of headlines in newspapers across the nation from the Miami Herald to the New York Times. Bluntly said, if you follow Cuba news and have not heard the name, "Yoani Sanchez," you must be living under a rock. Regardless of your opinion of Yoani Sanchez, whether you think she's the greatest thing since sliced bread and "the voice of Cubans on the island," or think she's trying to milk her fifteen minutes of fame, she has elevated the media's attention to the broken U.S. relationship with Cuba, which is a step in the right direction, period.

3.20.2013_Yoani_Sanchez_2Marco Rubio, Yoani Sanchez and Bob Menendez in Washington, D.C. Photo: Office of Sen. Marco Rubio

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Why the U.S. Should be Paying Attention to Cuba

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One of the biggest complaints about the Cuban government from the exile community is that it “lacks transparency.” During a presentation given at American University by Dr. Jose R. Cabañas, the current Cuban Chief of the Cuban Interests Section (aka Ambassador) to the United States, it is clear that this new blueprint for economic reform in Cuba is quite the contrary, and actually very transparent. The “Proyecto de lineamientos de la política económica y social del partido y la revolución, (Communist Party’s Policy Guidelines for Social and Economic Reform) simply referenced as the “lineamientos” (policy guidelines), is essentially a rubric of reforms that have been proposed and approved by the Cuban National Assembly. There are over 300 reforms that have been approved and are now in the implementation phases. Some of these significant changes include the expansion of the private business sector, legalizing the sale of homes and automobiles and a implementing a less bureaucratic migration policy...

cabanasCuban Ambassador Jose R. Cabañas Photo Credit: American University

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Why Cultural Exchanges with Cuba Matter

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These remarks were originally presented at a congressional briefing on March 20th, 2013 titled “The New Miami-Cuba Reality: Is It a Game Changer?” This briefing by Cuban Americans from south Florida discussed the new Miami-Havana reality -- and why the U.S. and Cuban governments must seize the moment to start talking about solving their myriad bilateral disagreements.

In 2002, I participated in an exchange program organized by Silvia Wilhelm of Puentes Cubanos, which consisted of a small group of Cuban-Americans (all from Miami) and an equal number of Cuban counterparts in a weeklong intensive encounter at the University of Havana. There, we debated, discussed, expressed and exchanged ideas about what being Cuban meant to each one of us present. The focus on cultural identity and all the complex emotional issues it brought to the fore had far reaching consequences for everyone involved. In my case, this experience marked a before and after and one that has driven the thrust of much of my subsequent personal and professional endeavors.

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Cuba Schools Us on Self-Sustainable Agriculture

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In 2006, the World Wildlife Fund declared that Cuba is the only country in the world that qualifies as developing sustainably. I imagine that this may come as a shock to some people, who, when they think of Cuba, imagine old cars from the 1950s on the roads, crowded city blocks in Havana, or retrograde political leaders and systems that surely couldn't be so modern as to incorporate eco-friendly policies around climate change. However, once you know a little bit more about the history of Cuba, it makes perfect sense that this small country would be the only one around the globe whose ecological footprint isn't far outreaching its development index.

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Cuban-American Leader, Francisco Aruca, Dies

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Francisco Gonzalez Aruca – Rest in Peace. The Latin America Working Group’s Cuba team extends sincere sympathy to family, friends, and colleagues of Francisco Aruca on his passing on March 6, 2013. Mr. Aruca died unexpectedly of a heart attack in his sleep in Denver, Colorado, where he lived. He was 72 years old. You may read the post sent out today by Progreso Weekly announcing Mr. Aruca’s passing, here...

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A Journey, a Window, and a New Understanding: A Young Cuban-American Finding Her Identity

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As a first generation Cuban American, I have grown up hearing a wide variety of stories and opinions about this mysterious island that my family originated from. Some from my grandmother, who would talk about the farm that she was raised on called “La Juanita.” She always told me how she loved to ride horses. My mother, who grew up in Havana, would recount stories about her childhood. One story that stuck with me was about how my grandfather made a makeshift window that looked out onto the street so that my grandmother, who was a nervous Nellie, could watch my mother and her sister play outside. None of these stories was particularly negative or positive, pushing my opinion to one side or another. Then there was a flurry of stories about a young boy named Elian Gonzalez, who was about my age. Kids in my elementary school would say, “Oh you’re Cuban like that Elian Gonzalez boy.” And, people were talking about a man named Fidel Castro, and how he was an evil dictator. All of this coming at me from peers, family, friends, and media outlets left me very confused. As a child, it made me feel like I was weird because my family came from this country that “everyone” said negative things regarding it. I knew I was Cuban, but I had no idea how that played into my identity. At that point, I did not really know what to think or believe about Cuba or being Cuban American... 

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Obama Wants Progress on Cuba? Remove Cuba from the Terrorist List!

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Fifty-one years ago, the foundation for U.S. policy towards Cuba was made. On February 7th, 1962, the trade restrictions that we recognize today as the Cuban embargo were announced by President John F. Kennedy. President Bill Clinton later furthered the reach of the economic sanctions by signing the Cuban Democracy Act (Torricelli Act) of 1992 and the Cuban Liberty and Solidarity Act (Helms-Burton Act) of 1996 into law.

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Can Senator Kerry and President Obama Do More for Alan Gross and Cuba policy?

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Cuba policy faces a new era with a second Obama Administration and a State Department soon to be led by Senator John Kerry (D-MA). We could well have have some friends in high places, and that’s not at all wrong. President Obama has made some serious changes to U.S.-Cuba policy in allowing for Cuban Americans to travel freely to Cuba without restriction and liberalizing purposeful (people-to-people), religious, academic and cultural travel. Senator Kerry has been a strong congressional ally in advocating for a rational policy towards Cuba. In 2011 he placed a freeze on $20 million in USAID funding that was designated for “democracy promotion” in Cuba, until a report on the ineffectiveness of these programs was produced by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). While there has been progress made in the last four years in pursuing a more sane Cuba policy, there is still a cloud hanging over a real change in our relations with Cuba. That cloud is Alan Gross, a USAID subcontractor who has been detained in Cuba since December 3, 2009. Why? Well, Arturo Lopez-Levy shares some important facts in his piece on The Havana Note, “Is Obama Acting Pragmatically in the Alan Gross Case?”...

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Hurricane Sandy Devastates Eastern Cuba: How You Can Help

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While many of us are facing the difficult task of rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy’s devastation along the north Atlantic coast, there are many others who face this undertaking with few or no resources, even without food reserves to face the days that have followed. Those living in Cuba’s second largest city, Santiago de Cuba, and in other towns in eastern Cuba were directly hit by Sandy’s wrath a few days before she reached the shores of the United States. On October 25, winds of 110 miles per hour devastated homes, businesses, and agriculture in the eastern provinces of Cuba for up to five hours. Now the Cuban people, just like many here in the United States, are in the recovery stages.

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