Spoiling what could have been a fantastic project


Recently I contacted two of the students that arrived with a group of young Cubans who publicly oppose the Cuban government and its political ideas and have recently enrolled at Miami Dade College thanks to the work of “Center for Latin American and Caribbean Initiatives” (CLACI). I called Soandry Del Rio and Danilo Maldonado Machado (better known as “El Sexto”) – in hopes of collecting more information for the curious public. They agreed to be interviewed and discuss their personal impressions on the initiative without giving it much thought.

Later, though, and for some unknown reason, they shunned our cameras and evaded the get-together.

The group of students, here from Cuba, have been given full support by the U.S. government, Miami-Dade College, and the “Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba” (FHRC), which depends on the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) for its funding. It is expected that after about six months of studies here they will return to the island and thus impact society with their newly acquired skills and knowledge.

They will receive college credits for the lessons and their corresponding certificates. According to the media in Miami, each and every one of them will spend between $12,000 and $15,000, not just on classes but on transportation, food, housing, etc.

From what I’ve heard on local, Cuban radio stations, the exiled community isn’t taking it too lightly. Even though there’s a lot of confusion and lack of information many are infuriated with the so-called invasion and have spoken out against the project. Right-wing extremists are just plain allergic to anything that establishes contact with Cuba. And although the project is being directed by individuals who pose the right “exile” ideals, the extremists have been quick to repudiate (out of fear) what they don’t apparently understand.

I would like to believe that these young people are free and responsible, and that they do not fear the real American public or the alternative press. We should however bear in mind that they are eternally indebted, and for the time being dependent, to their patrons here in the U.S. They surely know they are currently privileged to be here only because of their activism against Cuba. Sadly this sort of relationship ends in complete submission to the old established order of exiled Cubans.

What would have otherwise been a fantastic project of real intellectual growth and contact between the two shores has revealed itself to be a mere selective filter for training future state saboteurs. These students were only selected for their ideological profiles. The project is indeed completely political in nature and expression.

It was created only to reward and spoil a certain type of Cuban who is unsatisfied with their country’s laws. This could very easily condition the conduct of those aspiring within the island to benefit from this career opportunity, which according to its promoters, is only for the civil society. In practice this will only benefit the enemies of the Cuban state.

When a political filter is used to select some candidates and reject others for their ideas then that project is corrupt since its creation. It is a pity, since for the first time real students can actually come from the island to study in this country by using the new migratory reform laws, yet clearly the civil society isn’t the predominant beneficiary.

Emilio Ichikawa’s blog states that the institution that will receive the group of students is currently led by a former Cuban bureaucrat who is also an ex communist and Cuban official turned vehement anti-communist. This is all quite scandalous. The general impression then is that the project is more of a political show than a real academic endeavor.

Still, I am glad that these students will study and better themselves during the coming months and hopefully someone will return with real knowledge of business dealings. Perhaps one will be inspired to start an independent enterprise of some sort with newly learned administrative skills. It would be good news to hear that one of them has incorporated him or herself into the growing private sector in Cuba and has been successful.

Of course, it would not be ethical if this were all one big plan to trick Cubans into thinking differently or attempting to interfere in the country’s sovereignty. The historical moment that U.S. and Cuban relations traverse is very delicate currently. Although there are glimmers of hope. Some bridges for establishing communication are necessary for this, so long as they are not contaminated by political meddling through seemingly inoffensive, but secretly planned, college programs.

[For a related article: Off to college, but in Miami]