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      Stop Harassing Cuba Solidarity Activists in Miami
      Puentes de Amor Stronger Than Even

      By Pete Seidman

      MIAMI—Puentes de Amor leader Carlos Lazo condemned the call by U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) for the FBI to investigate him as an unregistered agent of a foreign power at an August 13 news conference here. Organized by the Miami Caravan Against the U.S. Blockade of Cuba, another target of Rubio’s call (along with the well-known Cuba solidarity organization Pastors for Peace), Univision, Channel 23, a major Spanish-language TV station here, broadcast a report on the event the next evening.

      The Foreign Agents Registration Act had its origins in the run up to World War II and was part of the U.S. government’s efforts to suppress, intimidate, and subdue domestic opponents of the war within the labor, Black, and religious communities. It has been kept on the law books ever since and used against supporters of the Irish freedom struggle, the Cuban Five, RT America, and others.

      “Puentes de Amor, denounces the McCarthyite tactics of Senator Marco Rubio,’ Lazo said. “Rubio's attitude is denigrating, indecent and un-American, in opposition to values affirmed by the U.S. Constitution. It is aberrant and absurd for a senator to slander, to intimidate citizens and civil society organizations, who seek the lifting of the sanctions that punish the Cuban family.”

      Lazo, a schoolteacher in Seattle, rejected Rubio’s charge that meeting with Miguel Diaz-Canel somehow makes him an agent of the Cuban President.

      “I will meet with whoever I have to meet to ask for the lifting of sanctions against the Cuban people” and to ask for better relationships between my native country, Cuba, my mother, and my adopted country, America, my father.”

      “I have had no qualms,” he insisted, “about meeting with anyone who is in a position to lift, relieve, or influence ending the sanctions that for so many years have punished the Cuban people, here and there. During all these years I have met with more than one hundred and fifty members of Congress,” Lazo explained, “including with then-Senator Mel Martinez, with Congresswoman Ileana Ross Lehtinen, and even with Congressman Dan Burton (co-sponsor of the Helms-Burton Act). A few months ago I had a little respectful dialogue with Senator Ted Cruz. And I would also meet with Senator Marco Rubio to explain these issues.” Lazo said, noting that the Senator, “has never been to Cuba, has never walked the streets of Havana, and does not know the Cuban family.”

      Lazo stressed that “Rubio’s witch hunt reveals, “the Senator’s fear of losing his seat. Fear that more and more Cuban-Americans in Florida and in the United States will realize that he is one of the most responsible for maintaining these cruel measures that punish the Cuban family.”

      Indeed, an August 16 article in the Miami Herald reported, “A recent spate of polls suggests Republican Sen. Marco Rubio might suddenly have a tougher-than-expected reelection fight on his hands.The paper went on to note how, “In the last two weeks, three polls have shown putative Democratic Senate nominee Val Demings [a Black woman who is a former chief of police in Orlando] either tied or leading Rubio in Florida. The most recent, a survey from the University of North Florida released Tuesday, found Demings receiving 48% support from registered voters, more than the 44% who said they backed the GOP incumbent. Seven percent of respondents said they would vote for someone else.”

      The possible spectacle of one of the U.S. Senate’s leading Cuban-American supporters of the blockade losing his seat in Florida is indeed proof of the growing opposition among Cubans here to the tightened sanctions and continuing blockade imposed by Trump and continued with a few minor tweaks by the Biden Administration. It is this objective shift in public opinion that has sustained the 25 consecutive monthly caravans organized here in Miami against the blockade.

      Expressing the growing confidence of caravan activists here, Lazo concluded, “Senator Rubio, I challenge you to debate these issues face to face. Fill yourself with courage and instead of walking from channel to channel, from station to station defaming a Cuban American, a decorated war veteran, a teacher, a father, and trying to intimidate those of us who call for an end to the blockade, agree to discuss these things face to face!

      Lazo stated that far from being intimidated, he will be back in Miami on August 28 for the next caravan here against the blockade.

      The Miami Caravan received numerous statements of support against Rubio’s threats. These came from among others, former Florida State Senator Dwight Bullard, current president of the South Miami-Dade County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Bullard wrote, “The people of Cuba deserve their rightful place in the world community. Free to engage with their neighbors in the just exchange of ideas and resources. Those of us who advocate for an open and free Cuba deserve a voice in the room, because all we want is human rights for all people, including the people of Cuba.”

      Another message came from Ira J. Kurzban, a prominent immigration and civil rights attorney in Miami. Kurzban stated, “Marco Rubio does a disservice to the people of Florida by ignoring the real needs of people in this State and instead by bullying people who do not agree with his position on Cuba…His threat regarding the Foreign Agents Registration Act is an old ploy and was made before against others…It had no legal basis then and it has none now.”

      Chris Small, President of the Amazon Labor Union, also wrote, “Based on Rubio’s definition, any citizen or entity that disagrees with U.S. foreign policy and organizes against it is considered a threat to the nation. The fact that a U.S. Senator would engage in such shameful, baseless and immoral tactics to target and silence U.S. citizens should be of concern to us all and should be viewed as a direct threat to our civil liberties.” Senator Rubio, he wrote, should “immediately cease his smear campaign and intimidation of Puentes de Amor. End the U.S. Blockade of Cuba!”

      Statements also arrived from Kevin C. Harris, a candidate aiming to unseat Democratic Congresswoman Fredericka Wilson in the 24th Florida Congressional District, Medea Benjamin of Code Pink, the Cuban-American legislative action group ACERE, and others.

      First printed on: https://world-outlook.com

      Pete Seidman is a social justice activist and organizer for five decades. He is one of the central organizers of Miami Caravan Against the U.S. Blockade.

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