Saturday, June 2, 2007

Video: Calzon and Garcia on Polos Opuestos

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 Cuba.

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 Miami’s political culture, she says, and she’s right.

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, England, and elsewhere, and the Administration’s policy promotes this support.

  • Garcia says that the issues that matter are in play in Havana, and are not affected by U.S.-funded conferences in Europe. He says 90 percent of U.S. funds for that purpose stay in the 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 Cuba, duplicating Western aid to democrats in communist Poland. His funds also go to a campaign that reaches foreign governments and human rights groups.

  • Garcia criticized a U.S. government decision, made under Clinton 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 Cuba as to send the money for a Cuban to buy one himself.

  • Calzon says Cubans cannot buy radios in Cuba.

  • Garcia advocates allowing Cuban Americans to travel freely to Cuba. 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.”

  • 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 United States can go to any country in the world that they want, legally,” including Cuba – as if U.S. travel restrictions did not exist.

  • The problem, Calzon says, is that Cubans come to the United States as refugees, fleeing persecution, and it makes no sense that they should go back to the country that persecuted them.

  • 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 U.S. visa lottery or come without visas by sea – are admitted without making any claim of persecution. Garcia is right. Confusion, indeed.

  • 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 [U.S. political] parties there are friends of Fidel Castro, and in both parties…there are good friends of the Cuban cause.”
This excerpt discusses U.S. aid...

...more on U.S. aid...

...this one discusses travel...

...and here's the meltdown:


Anonymous said...

I loved the program, I thought to myself, this is how we Cubans look to Americans,ridiculous and screaming at each other and refusing to listen to each other without insulting one another.
My observation is that ,
1. Joe Garcia was extremely rude and very sarcastic.
2.Calzon was very classy,until he finally could'nt hold his anger back(Garcia was successful in antagonizing him)and got to Garcia's level by accusing him of acting like a Castro thug.
3.Maria Elvira Salazar is the most gorgeous Cuban women in America,she's smart,beatiful and strong!
4.Garcia had some very good points,especially the point about the 3 Cuban congressman's from Miami as being inept,out of touch and needing to be replaced, and the point of the Bush administration not doing a damn thing for Cubans to change there situation.
5.I would love to see a debate between either Mas Canosa Jr. or Joe Garcia against Licoln Diaz Balart.Now that would be great theater!!!

Anonymous said...

Calzon lost big time, talk about a pathetic character.

leftside said...

On the substantive issues, the differences between the 2 boil down to the fact that Calzon is essentially a government employee, and therefore can't deviate from the official US policy that sustains him and his organization. The fact that he takes the critique so personally tells me he's had a hand in crafting some of the more idiotic elements of current policy.

Garcia is a crafty opportunist scoring cheap political points on relatively minor issues... whether the US gives the dissidents cash to buy radios and fax machines or we have them shipped for example. Where is the voice in Miami saying that ANY funding of opposition voices taints them in the eyes of 99% of Cubans and puts them squarely outside the boundaries of Cuban Law? There are ways to support the opposition without the appearance of buying their loyalty.

Anonymous said...

Hey, fellows, Calzon will be today in Oscar Haza's show, "A mano limpia".

Anonymous said...

Shortwave radios hard to find in the US, not for sale in Cuba. Might be a good idea to encourage Putin to send parts for the Old Selenas( very popular in Cuba in the 80s). Selenas were very strong shortwave radios Russian Made used by Cubans to access Voice of America, Radio Marti , BBC, and so many others. Very strong as well for FM and became very popular in Cuba’s beaches by young people listening to Key West and South Florida’s FM stations in the late 80s early 90s.
Eastern Europe countries could do a lot more. Those embassies in Havana a real pain in the “….” for Raul.
These two panelists should
It is prohibited in Cuba to have a foreigner as a visitor in a private house if you are not a registered renter, the law was modified and there is a provision that penalizes with confiscation of the house. All those houses still for rent and those “entrepreneurs” were passed by the filter of a special section of Cuban Ministry of Interior; they even have special hotline numbers to report about certain nationalities as a routine. New licenses are not issued anymore. Worst place to stay in Cuba right now is a private house; they have a more effective surveillance system than hotels.
Instead of spending millions in TV Marti they should send DVD players so more people can watch Polos Opuestos in Cuba.

Anonymous said...

And we wonder why the Cuban regime has been in power close to 50 years ...