To the editors:
Although the controversy over the invitation to a Cuban band to perform at the Viva Chicago Festival ended with the U.S. denial of visas to the band, the letter recently published in the Chicago Reader Newspaper by DePaul Law School professor Debra Evenson on this issue [April 28] still merits a response.
Ms. Evenson’s attack on the Cuban American National Foundation distorts the mission and positions of the CANF and contains outright falsehoods.
She brands the CANF a “right wing” and “extremist” organization. Would she then brand 81% of the American people “right-wing” and “extremist”? Because public polls from May 1960 to spring 1988 reveal that’s the percentage of Americans who have a negative view of Fidel Castro. The CANF counts among its many supporters a broad range of citizens from all walks of life, and all mainstream political tendencies. In fact, the CANF’s goals of a free and democratic Cuba are shared by an overwhelming majority of the American people.
Ms. Evenson’s assertion that the CANF receives money from the federal government is false. Period. This organization is funded by private individuals, foundations and others committed to our goals. Being a lawyer, Ms. Evenson should exhibit a better appreciation for the truth.
She argues that the CANF was the “source” for an “inaccurate” news report that Cuba is involved in narcotics trafficking. Here are other “sources”: various U.S. drug enforcement officials and grand juries, as well as the testimonies of defectors and narcotics traffickers themselves. In 1982, the chief of the Cuban navy and three other ranking officials were indicted by a Florida grand jury for smuggling cocaine to the United States. Already this year, two new federal investigations into narcotics trafficking into the U.S. have revealed Cuba’s cooperation with narcotics traffickers.
CANF’s position on Orquesta Aragon is likewise distorted. When Fidel Castro stops repressing artists, or when he allows those artists not “approved” by the state to tour the United States, or when those same “non-official” (i.e. dissident) artists are allowed to invite American performers to tour Cuba, perhaps then will the climate be more favorable to a visit by Orquesta Aragon.
Ms. Evenson asks if the CANF is “losing ground” in Washington and is now “staking a claim” to Chicago for a “last hurrah.” The recent pronouncements of Secretary of State James Baker on U.S. policy towards Cuba, which the CANF supports, and the recent passage of legislation for TV Marti in the U.S. House of Representatives, which the CANF also supports, is strong evidence to the contrary.
Ms. Evenson should realize that the problem in U.S.-Cuba relations is not the CANF, nor is it the U.S. government, but the behavior of the Cuban government. Until there is a change there, there will be no change in relations. Instead of criticizing those of us in this country who desire freedom and democracy in Cuba, Ms. Evenson might take a trip to Havana and attempt to persuade Fidel Castro to stop persecuting the Cuban people, stop shipping arms to terrorist groups throughout this hemisphere, and end the excessive militarization of that country.
One last point is in order. It is indeed curious that Ms. Evenson fails to note in her letter her apparent role and relationship with Orquesta Aragon in negotiations with the city of Chicago. This is an interesting omission, to say the least.
Luis F. Arencibia
The Cuban American National Foundation