Fabiola Santiago

Are Miamians up for commuting on a high-tech Commie bus? Our county mayor says yes

A promotional image of a high-tech bus made in China that's designed to operate as a ‘trackless train,’ with a capacity of about 300 passengers, multiple cars and a network of rail-like stations with air conditioning and group boarding.
A promotional image of a high-tech bus made in China that's designed to operate as a ‘trackless train,’ with a capacity of about 300 passengers, multiple cars and a network of rail-like stations with air conditioning and group boarding. Miami-Dade County

In the peculiar world of Miami-Dade politics, it’s perfectly normal to eagerly pursue a deal worth millions of dollars — financed with taxpayer funds, no less — with the Communist Chinese government.

But the mere mention of professional contact with counterparts in Cuba, or of artists who live in Cuba exhibiting at the county-subsidized art museum, gets you a response that’s nothing short of “Are you crazy?” Whatever the proposal, when it comes to Communist Cuba, the chorus of detractors rises from the panicked cubicles of bureaucrats to the county commission dais, where the majority of commissioners are Cuban-Americans.

As is the mayor, Carlos Gimenez, who is eagerly planning to travel to China to visit a manufacturer of rapid-transit, high-tech buses, a company known as CRRC, which is owned by the Chinese government.

Repeat: This is not an independent manufacturer, but an official Communist state enterprise.

Just like in Cuba.

In a bid to alleviate traffic woes, Gimenez wants to purchase these buses, which look like trains, to run on dedicated lanes in lieu of a more expensive expansion of Metrorail. We’re talking about a potential multi-million dollar deal with a Communist government, financed with tax dollars that, whether they come from local, state or federal agencies, include taxes paid by Commie-hating Cuban-Americans in South Florida.

And that’s the kind of argument put forth whenever the issue of any type of relation or interaction with Cuba comes up.

An exhibit at the Pérez Art Museum Miami that includes island artists, for example, had to be handled with private funds so as not to offend Cuban-American taxpayers. And despite that, at budget time, the county commission slashed $550,000 from the PAMM budget and funneled the funds to the American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora, which exhibits only exiled artists.

Recently, I wrote about how Gimenez wouldn’t allow ZooMiami’s goodwill ambassador, Ron Magill, to represent the county at an international zoo conference in Havana.

Gimenez wouldn’t even look at Magill’s petition to travel in representation of the county, much less pay his way, even though his trip turned out to be fruitful for ZooMiami and other reputable zoos around the United States that have friendly exchanges with Cuba’s National Zoo and were in attendance.

So why doesn’t the county doing business with China raise an eyebrow?

China has an almost identical type of government to Cuba’s. All of the legal power belongs to the sole ruling Communist party. The legislative, executive and judicial systems operate as Cuba’s do with the same amount of secrecy, authoritarianism and lack of respect for human rights and due process.

Chinese dissidents and artists are harassed and imprisoned like the Cuban ones.

Cuba is off limits. Doesn’t all that make Miami-Dade’s dalliance with China outrageously hypocritical?

Not, apparently, when we have something to gain.

“Mayor Gimenez is exploring the use of new technology that could be less expensive and come online much sooner than other modes of transportation for Miami-Dade residents to reduce their commute times,” the mayor’s spokesman, Michael Hernandez, says. “The specific technology happens to be manufactured in China, which has economic ties with the United States, unlike Cuba.”

Hernandez also notes that Gimenez fully funded PAMM at $4 million in his budget, but it was commissioners Bruno Barreiro, Esteban Bovo, Rebeca Sosa and Javier Soto who reduced it and gave the half million to The Cuban.

As for ZooMiami, Hernandez said, the commissioners would have had to approve a memorandum of understanding for Magill to represent the county, and the mayor knew the Cuban-American commissioners wouldn’t allow it.

Exactly.

Cuba, 90 miles away from the Florida peninsula, is forbidden. China flies under the local radar.

The mayor doesn’t need permission to travel to China because funds have already been allocated for this type of business travel, Hernandez said.

If this technology were available in Cuba, I ask, would the mayor be traveling to the island to entertain the same deal?

He dodged the question.

That’s because the county’s double-standard isn’t based on ethics or facts, but political posturing. If we were consistent with our hatreds and our values, we’d contemplate Cuba and China with the same severity or tolerance.

Remember that when you’re riding on a slick made-in-China Commie bus along good old South Dixie Highway. Some poor Chinese dissident may be paying the price for your ride.

Just like in Cuba.

  Comments