A quarrel between the University of Miami and the outgoing director of the Institute of Cuban and Cuban-American Studies has spilled off campus and onto the Cuban exile community, with several organizations weighing in on growing speculation that the center may be changing course.
At issue is whether Jaime Suchlicki’s departure will mean an end to ICCAS’ profile, which for nearly two decades has served as an academic weapon against the Castro regime.
UM has named an interim director and announced that Suchlicki is retiring next month. Suchlicki has said that he resigned amid strong disagreement with the direction the university is taking as it relates to Cuba studies.
“We at The Bay of Pigs Veterans Association Brigade 2506 are very concerned about the future of ICCAS where most of its members ... have been terminated when they have done a splendid job for the community intellectually and in keeping and maintaining the true story of Cuba for all these years at the University of Miami,” states a letter sent to UM President Julio Frenk and read by Brigade 2506 President Humberto Díaz-Argüelles during a press conference this week at the organization’s Little Havana headquarters.
Another from the board of directors of Facts About Cuban Exiles (F.A.C.E.) called for a “productive dialogue” with Frenk and defended the accuracy and “impartiality” of Suchlicki’s sources and reports.
“Casa Bacadí was not only ICCAS’ home, but also the intellectual home of Cuban exiles. If it is no longer led by Dr. Suchlicki, and instead led by someone willing to live with the fantasy of a ‘post-Castro Cuba,’ then it will be a fantasy that Cuban scholars in freedom cannot abide by,” stated the F.A.C.E. letter.
The letter was sent without notifying various board members, including Alexandra Villoch, Miami Herald Media Company president and publisher.
On Thursday, Frenk responded to the group’s request and scheduled a meeting for Aug. 18, “where we can come together with members of the Cuban exile community to discuss the future of Cuban and Cuban-American studies at the University of Miami.”
Since it was founded in 1999, ICCAS — housed at the Casa Bacardí on campus — has served as a venue for many political organizations, including members of the island’s dissident movement. ICCAS members also have issued strong criticisms against the Cuban government in the form of articles and research papers.
Last week, UM appointed founder and former senior fellow Andy Gómez as interim director, who emphatically stated that ICCAS was not closing and pledged to launch a search for a permanent director.
That has done little to quell the controversy.
Several organizations that make up the Cuban Resistance Assembly also are not pleased with the selection for interim director. Without mentioning Gómez directly, they said in a statement that UM “cannot appoint an interim director or any incoming directors who may associate with companies that trade with the Castro regime, since this Center, by definition, cannot be under the influence and interference of Havana’s totalitarian regime.”
In the statement, they ask UM to study “the truth about Cuba, without compromise or ambivalence” toward a regime “that has committed and continues to commit serious human rights violations.”
Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres