Last week, German reporters Thomas J. Spang and Uwe Schmitt flew to Miami to report first-hand on FHRC’s academic scholarship program “We Are One People.” Their article was published this past Sunday in Die Welt, a major German daily newspaper which can be obtained in more than 130 countries. Below is the English translation:
EDUCATIONAL TRIP TO MIAMI
The law and economics crumble in Cuba and the communist leadership decides against old enmities allowing students to travel to the United States – with the right to return.
The blogger Henry Constantin has gone through three universities and now speaks with Miami Cubans as a statesman. The rapper Raudel Collazo once sang about poverty and crime in the slums of Havana and came to Florida to finally ” breathe freely , without fear. ” San Miguel Molina has seen the German film “The Lives of Others ” months ago and will never forget it. The group of young Cubans , mostly under 30 , is the vanguard of the island nation . But if you say you want to be a “patriot,” the term is contaminated . They see themselves instead as apprentices of reform, and swear that unlike other Cuban exiles in Miami, to return to Cuba.
On January 10th, the regime in Havana knew they were seventeen rioters, mostly wayward children and children of dissidents, with official exit visas, and let them go by Moneda Fuertes ( $) to study in Miami, the enemy territory. Half a year before the regime had made the freedom to travel possible, the U.S. Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba ( FHRC ) took the initiative to finance the project, leaving it up to opposition groups to select the candidates. “We did not want to import the children of the generals by mistake.” Two months after their arrival to Miami, what some call this city of two million migrants ” Western Cuba” we interviewed six of the 17 pioneers on the boardwalk in front of their hotel. They were looking at Messingfunkelnde yachts dock, Jaguars and BMWs parked on the streets. But the students talked about their longing for freedom in Cuba, and their desire to build a civil society
They have to arm themselves with courage after returning home to threats, retaliation, and interrogation. “It would not be the first time,” says Henry with a crooked smile. Maybe in his apartment in Miami there is already a man from Cuban State Security , where ” The Lives of Others ” live. However, much has changed. Cuba had never previously allowed students go to the United States – and in any case – only to spy in enemy territory. And the U.S. had never before pioneered students of a regime that is still considered a terrorist State. The bumps have a long history: Since 1960 the U.S. embargo prohibits travel, trade and financial relations , and in 1996 this was exacerbated again by the ” Helms -Burton Act.” Today, however , Hillary Clinton maintained the ban as false and anachronistic as it is providing the regime an image of the enemy and the U.S. is used as a scapegoat.
The student group meets in Miami with the Cuban exile community in transition: Veterans of the Bay of Pigs are disappearing , their grandchildren are totally apolitical. It is the middle generation, the children of the displaced, the Guard and Miami hard line have laid in Republican hands for decades. But even so the real fractures shows fatigue in politicians: Barack Obama , an opponent of the embargo , won in Florida, with two-thirds of the Latino and Cuban voices . But no one embodies the change in the attitude of the Cuban exile as convincingly as Carlos Saladrigas. The former private banker is a wealthy man, and he showed great courage in 2000 when he founded the “Cuba Study Group” to pull his old home in a dialogue, rather than re-take or starve . The hard line curse him as a traitor and of flattering Castro, others called him corrupt and wanted to destroy his reputation…some asked for his life.
Today he is again a respected man of change through rapprochement – but without illusions “Cuba is like a car that has increased its speed by 100 percent, from two to four miles per hour.” Carlos Saladrigas welcomes us in a fancy restaurant golf club overlooking the green. He must be in his early seventies and flirts with mature ladies at the next table . The EU could play a role of ” smart ” instrument in the opening of Cuba , he believes. Saladrigas compares Cuba and Miami, with the divided Germany. ” If Germany had operated a policy of blockade against the GDR, there probably would never have come unification.” Saladrigas has meetings planned with players in South Africa , Northern Ireland and Germany to learn models of reconciliation. The warrior has become a seer.
A few miles away from the golf club , the Rector of “Miami Dade College” Rolando Montoya sees the Cuban interior wall cutting through 367 km of Havana sea. The teacher is a fan of German unification, a piece of framed wall hanging in his home, along with photos of wall woodpeckers. “We follow exactly their union, and we like what we see. ” Half of the teachers are Cuban like him. Montoya is responsible for 175,000 students and he gets excited when he talks about the Cubans among them. Basic education on the island was excellent, especially in the natural sciences. Cubans adapt quickly , learn English quickly. Even young people who have reached on a refugee raft, are winning math competitions.” In the humanities , there were gaps in the communist indoctrination admits the professor. Students should take classes in ethics and morality.”
The “Miami Dade College ” is also the academic exile of the seventeen pioneers. Montoya was skeptical at first, but all have convinced him . Yet he seems questionable that all seventeen will actually return to Cuba. In any event he sees the project as a success. Isolation only leads to more hardening: “Look at North Korea,” the more students follow the first seventeen, the harder it will be to “continue to live the lie of the enemy of America” for the regime.
Media activists dialogue, such as what the 25 -year-old Raul Moas offers with the “Roots of Hope” group. Around 80 cheap mobile phones wait artfully stacked for their transport to Cuba. “They used to give 15 years in prison for possession of a mobile phone, today they regulate prices through an exorbitant monopoly of the state-owned telephone company who holds access. A week’s wages, the equivalent of ten U.S. dollars per call or short message, is a ruinous fee for Cubans.” Moas’ cellular phones are sold through the black market. Some U.S. foundations even pay the fees of the selected dissidents. “Hopelessness is the biggest problem,” Moas has noticed during his travels. “Some are surprised that we do not act like gangsters coming from Miami and who in fact care for them.”
Reactions in Miami of visitors from Cuba with a return ticket unsettle Eleanor Calvo, 21. Occasionally, they feel the painful rejection of the exiles in Florida: “They project their anger against the regime , but I’m the wrong one” she says . The thoughts of the students are free. And she weighs her words carefully. “If we let the government take on the reconstruction of civil society in Cuba ,” said Eleanor ” will take another 50 years. “
But what will they do when they return? There is fear among students to forge concrete plans . In Cuba, too many hopes have often been disappointed over time. “There is apathy when it comes to motivating people to defend their fundamental rights, to build civil society” thus describes Annia del Rio, 30, on the contribution they can make . She has studied law in Cuba , which is unthinkable without a certain proximity to the regime. It is meant to feel the conviction of belonging to an elite that will one day take Cuba to freedom. But it is not yet so far. One of the seventeen says goodbye : “Write about us in Germany , which is for our own protection when we return.”
The original published article can be found by clicking here.