This Spanish-language debate – video excerpts below – between Frank Calzon, director of the Center for a Free Cuba, and Dade County Democratic Chairman Joe Garcia is famous for its meltdown.
For sure, it’s a pretty good meltdown when Calzon leaves the set, but it’s also a pretty good debate about aspects of American policy toward
The first thing to say, especially since I expressed doubt that it would be aired, is that Polos Opuestos host Maria Elvira Salazar deserves applause – first for convoking the discussion, second for airing it on May 22.
She opens the show by addressing those who want to keep contentious discussions like this off the air. Contention is good for
Some points from the debate:
- Garcia sees direct monetary aid to the dissidents as a critical factor in increasing their power.
- Calzon says that more than aid is needed; dissidents need support from the
, Czech Republic , Poland , Slovakia , and elsewhere, and the Administration’s policy promotes this support. England
- Garcia says that the issues that matter are in play in
, and are not affected by U.S.-funded conferences in Havana Europe. He says 90 percent of funds for that purpose stay in the U.S. . United States
- Calzon takes that as a “defamation” – a personal one – and says that the vast bulk of his organization’s grants from the federal government are spent on radios, publications, and equipment that reach people in
, duplicating Western aid to democrats in communist Cuba . His funds also go to a campaign that reaches foreign governments and human rights groups. Poland
- Garcia criticized a
government decision, made under U.S. and preserved by Bush, that bans cash aid to dissidents. He says it costs three times as much to buy and send a radio to Clinton as to send the money for a Cuban to buy one himself. Cuba
- Calzon says Cubans cannot buy radios in
- Garcia advocates allowing Cuban Americans to travel freely to
. The Bush decision to allow only one visit every three years is politically counterproductive, he says, and “ends up perversely imitating the policies of Cuba in the 1960’s and 1970’s.” Cuba
- Calzon says there is “confusion” about the travel issue. He is not opposed to anyone traveling to Cuba if they do not stay in hotels where Cubans are not permitted to stay, which implies a change in policy to allow Americans to travel to Cuba and stay in homes of relatives or entrepreneurs who rent rooms.
- Calzon then says that “anyone who lives in the
can go to any country in the world that they want, legally,” including United States – as if Cuba travel restrictions did not exist. U.S.
- The problem, Calzon says, is that Cubans come to the
as refugees, fleeing persecution, and it makes no sense that they should go back to the country that persecuted them. United States
- Garcia points out that very few Cubans come as asylees or refugees, based on claims of persecution. The vast majority, he says – those who win the
visa lottery or come without visas by sea – are admitted without making any claim of persecution. Garcia is right. Confusion, indeed. U.S.
- Calzon noted that the Cuban government accuses him of being a CIA agent, and later barely stopped himself before accusing Garcia of being a Cuban agent. Earlier in the program, he said, “In both [
political] parties there are friends of Fidel Castro, and in both parties…there are good friends of the Cuban cause.” U.S.
...more on U.S. aid...
...this one discusses travel...
...and here's the meltdown: