Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Two prominent Cuban exile leaders dismiss conference in Havana

Posted on Wednesday, 01.27.10
Two prominent Cuban exile leaders dismiss conference in Havana

The president of the Cuban American National Foundation and a director
of the Cuban Liberty Council ridiculed a three-day conference that opens
Wednesday in Havana and has drawn about 450 Cuban expatriates from
around the world, including several from South Florida.

``It doesn't have any importance whatsoever,'' said Francisco ``Pepe''
Hernández, president of the Cuban American National Foundation. ``The
guys going down there have a right to their own opinion and good riddance.''

Added Ninoska Pérez-Castellón, a director of the Cuban Liberty Council:
``It's more of the same. The emigres are just those 450 authorized to
return to Cuba and who are supporters of the Cuban government.''

The reactions were the first by leaders of traditional Cuban exile
community organizations on the conference in Havana.

Those attending the event generally portray themselves as either neutral
in the struggle between exiles and the Havana regime or who sympathize
with Cuban government goals or seek reconciliation between exiles and
the regime.

Several participants from South Florida were called for a response, but
they could not be reached because they were either enroute to Havana or
already there. Those travelers include Max Lesnik and Francisco Aruca,
two longtime proponents of improved U.S.-Cuba relations who also
advocate a rapprochement with Cuba.

Lesnik heads a radio program called Radio Miami and hosts an Internet
website by the same name. On the website, Lesnik describes his radio
service as an alternative to other Spanish-language media which -- in
his view -- ``do not offer . . . accurate, impartial or objective
information about developments in the Americas, Cuba and the world.''

Aruca is also a radio host and owner of Marazul Charters, which operates
a charter airline service for trips to Cuba.

The Cuban government periodically hosts emigre conferences. The last one
took place in 2004, the year then-President George W. Bush imposed
travel and money remittance restrictions on exiles. The limits have
since been lifted by President Barack Obama.

A Cuban government statement on the conference said the goal is to
continue the ``frank and direct'' exchange of views between Cuban
officials and Cuban emigres. The statement, from deputy Cuban foreign
minister Dagoberto Rodríguez Barrera, also contained a passage that drew
derision from Pérez-Castellón and Hernández.

It said: ``We can affirm today with absolute certainty that there are no
profound problems between Cuba and the majority of its emigres.''

Hernández laughed when a reporter read the sentence to him.

``I only wish that were true,'' he said. ``Unfortunately, that is not
the case. It would be true if the Cuban government would give the Cuban
people the rights they deserve. But I would say that tremendous
differences remain between the Cuban regime and the Cuban-American

The conference opens Wednesday at the Palace of Conventions in Havana
and ends Friday. It is titled ``Meeting of Cubans Residing Abroad Who
Oppose the Blockade and Defend National Sovereignty.''

Blockade is the word used in Cuba to describe the U.S. trade embargo on
the island.

Two prominent Cuban exile leaders dismiss conference in Havana - Cuba - (27 January 2010)

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