Key West officials dropped plans last week to invite Cuban officials to the Conch Republic and hold events at the historic San Carlos Institute after a controversy erupted about the political implications of such an event. Here is the open letter to the Key West community sent by San Carlos board members:
We, a broad group of members of the Cuban community in Key West and the Keys, firsthand victims of the totalitarian Cuban regime, feel deeply hurt by myopic plans by business interests to welcome and fete in Key West the de-facto ambassador and deputy ambassador of the Castro regime as part of a covert campaign to promote business with the regime. We rely on the people of Key West, known for their unwavering defense of freedom and democracy, to act in accordance with their conscience to instead empower the Cuban people in the island and reject the fallacies of a regime that continues to repress human rights advocates and the most basic civil rights we enjoy in this country.
We, the undersigned, are members of the Board of Directors of the historic San Carlos Institute, an educational and patriotic center founded in 1871.
The San Carlos’ board is mostly composed of persons of Cuban descent who were either born in Key West or have been long-time residents of the Conch Republic. Many of us have families in Cuba and all of us care deeply about the welfare of the Cuban people. This letter is an appeal to the conscience of the people of Key West and the Florida Keys who value principle over profit and who take pride in the city’s history as a defender of human rights and as a beacon of freedom and hope for the Cuban people.
The Key West community is being bombarded with a propaganda campaign led by the Cuban regime and a few powerful local business interests that advocate for an “Open Cuba” policy with the Castro regime. As a part of this campaign, the head of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C., Jose Rodriguez Cabanas, and the First Secretary of said mission, Raul Sanchez Cordovi, will be visiting Key West this coming week to meet with local business leaders and attend receptions and cocktail parties in their honor. It is shameful that anyone in the Key West business community would extend a welcome mat or shake the bloody hands of Castro’s representatives.
The objective of the Cuban officials coming to Key West is to attract US investment in Cuba without making significant political reforms. The Castro elite wants to hold on to power in Cuba while making what appears to be economic reforms, which are already failing, to attract US investors. They want US investors to grease the repressive apparatus that keeps them in power.
To paraphrase the words of Baptist pastor and dissident Cuban blogger Mario Felix Lleonart Barrosol, who came from Cuba this week, the same communist elite who caused all the suffering, who took away Cubans’ freedoms and who led the economy to ruin now want to project themselves as its capitalist saviors. “They are the same people and the same communist party,” he said.
It hurts us deeply that those calling for an “Open Cuba” don’t seem to care about the suffering of the Cuban people under the Castro regime. They are calling for an “Open Cuba” where they can do business – not a Free Cuba where the Cuban people can enjoy the freedoms we can easily take for granted.