CUBA BRIEF: U.S.-Cuba diplomatic ties: What a difference two years and a new president makes.

CubaBrief: The controversy between the University of Miami and outgoing Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies Director, Dr. Jaime Suchlicki is a matter of concern in the Cuban American community, according to an article by Nora Gámez Torres just published by El Nuevo Herald. The Bay of Pigs Brigade 2506 Veterans Association in a letter to Julio Frenk, UM’s president, compliments the outstanding work of the ICCAS and its efforts focusing on “the real history of Cuba during all these years.” 

Facts About Cuban Exiles (FACE) wrote to Dr. Frenk saying that “If [ICCAS] is no longer led by Dr. Suchlicki, and is 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.”

The Assembly of the Cuban Resistance in an obvious reference to Andy Gomez, who according to a UM release is to become “Interim Director” onAugust 15, said that “an interim director or a future director” should not work for “companies that trade with the Castro regime.” The Assembly which gathers Cuban pro-democracy organizations in the island and abroad said that the Institute “by definition, cannot be under the influence and interference of Havana.”

On the other hand, Andy Gomez says that “the Institute’s mission will not change,” adding that “I have to recover much of the academic credibility [the Institute] has lost.” Gomez told the Herald “that he has already began the modernization process of ICCAS digital site, which contained old information.”  It is a disturbing statement, because Gomez says he has begun to make changes at ICCAS before his start date of August 15th.  The date is significant because Gomez has said he is staying at ICCAS only while a search committee looks for a new director. 

After his key role in a forthcoming tourist cruise to Cuba was criticized Gómez told El Nuevo Herald that he “had cancelled a talk to Cuban American businessmen in a luxury yacht to speak about Cuba’s reality because a member of the Cuban government would be present.” It does not occur to Gomez that he can lecture “Cuban American businessmen” who share his willingness to ignore Cuba’s alliance with North Korea, Havana’s providing safe heaven to terrorists, the increased repression on the island, the expulsion recently of students and a teacher from Cuban universities for political reasons and the abysmal situation in Cuban hospitals any time. Just as troubling is the fact that the tourist cruise is scheduled for December and Gomez might be reappraising “his short term stay” as “interim director.”  

Gomez’s criticisms sound like sour grapes from a disgruntled former employee, when compared with UM’s president Julio Frenk’s statement about Dr. Suchlicki’s “extraordinary service to the University and the Miami community.” Dr. Frenk also said that Suchlicki “dedicated his career to the study of Cuba and has shared his wealth of expertise with generations of students, scholars and members of our community.”  

 Also in this CubaBrief the return to Cuba of cholera, malaria and dengue after a century hiatus.  The paper was written by Sherri Porcelain, Senior Lecturer of Global Public Health in World Affairs & Senior Research Associate at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami. 

Two years ago the United States and Cuba reopened embassies in Washington and Havana. The United States Interests Section had opened in 1977 by President Jimmy Carter. The hoopla about Mr. Obama’s initiative did not take into account that by the time Mr. Obama came to the White House there were more American diplomats stationed in Cuba than Spaniards, Canadians, Russians, etc. You may read here Mimi Whitefield’s article “U.S.-Cuba diplomatic ties: What a difference two years and a new president makes.”

 As we go to press we received the following article from The Miami Herald “UM president to meet with exiles following controversy over center for Cuban studies“ [July 21, 2017] We noticed the date of the proposed meeting is August 18. President Frenk says “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.” Presumably President Frenk realizes that the date he has suggested is three days after Dr. Suchlicki’s departure and the start of Andy Gomez interim appointment. But shouldn’t the discussion on the future of Cuban and Cuban American Studies at UM have occurred before the current director departs and the interim director takes charge? Early in the week we learned that others stakeholders such as Cuban American members of Congress had been ignored. The word on campus is that the relationship between ICCAS and Casa Bacardi was not fully understood, that some favor bringing Cuba Studies under the umbrella of Latin American Studies. Cuban Americans and scholars are properly concerned since Latin American Studies in many universities have a decisive leftist perspective. So much so that the most distinguished scholar on the Cuban economy, Professor Carmelo Mesa Lago is no longer active in the Latin American Studies Association (LASA).

It is late Friday afternoon, the time when in Washington announcements are made hoping that they receive scant attention. That might not be the case, but Dr. Frenk could do worse than to offer an appointment sooner. In the meantime an additional controversy has arisen: the “interim director” reacting to the overwhelming rejection by the Cuban community of his well-advertised talks on a luxury cruise to Cuba has decided not to do it.

Cubans and Cuban Americans are very conscious, even if some Havana apologists look the other way, about the arbitrary management of Cuban universities, the censorship of books, and the expulsion of students who do not believe in the government orthodoxy. It is unfortunate that some of those criticizing Dr. Suchlicki have remained silent on the plight of those young Cubans. It is that new generation, disenchanted with the regime and the misery they face on a daily basis that have spoken at ICCAS. They are the ones who live in Cuba and who should be able to decide. They are not the young and not so young Miami tourists who enjoy the mojitos at Hotel Nacional.


The Miami Herald, July 21, 2017

UM president to meet with exiles following controversy over center for Cuban studies

By Nora Gámez Torres

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


Focus on Cuba (ICCAS), July 20, 2017
Issue 341

NOTE: The following article represents the authors’ views and not necessarily the views of the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies or the Cuba Transition Project. 

Cuba’s Silence is Dangerous to Your Health
by Sherri Porcelain*

After a century hiatus, cholera, malaria and dengue have returned to Cuba. This is no surprise since Cuba’s deteriorated water, sewage, sanitation and housing systems all create the ideal environment for rapid disease spread. Dengue, a mosquito borne viral disease, and cholera, a bacterial infection contracted by drinking water or eating food contaminated with a strain of cholera, present threats to both the local population and tourists visiting the island.

Luis Suarez Rosas, a physician with Cuba’s National School of Medicine, accurately captures the paradox of Cuban health care today in using the term epidemiologic silence to describe Cuba’s official position on disease outbreak information. Cuba is a unique case study because of its long history of highly trained infectious disease specialists as seen in the yellow fever response in the early 1900s, and the prominence of the Pedro Kouri Tropical Medicine Institute founded in 1937. Yet, today, the policy to call dengue euphemistically as a febrile illness or cholera as a gastrointestinal illness represents an unethical national public health policy affecting individuals beyond their national borders. This choice to withhold information derails global public health goals to inform and protect travelers; it also encourages rumors and creates confusion. Suarez Rosas, using dengue as a recent example, explains how this artificial epidemiologic silence does not help patients, nor does it address the risk or the perception of the severity of the disease. Additionally, it does not respond to the culprit, the aedes aegypti mosquito, which also carries the yellow fever virus.

While both the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) provide health alerts and identify health problems, their information often relies upon the official reporting of information. However, the Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases (ProMED), operating under the International Society for Infectious Disease, is an internet-based information system created in 1994 with the purpose of sharing emerging and re-emerging infectious disease information. ProMED mail welcomes all sources of information, including independent journalists who have reported outbreaks long before the Cuban government forced to make an official statement. ProMED continues to share information about the re-emergence of cholera in Cuba’s Manzanillo (Granma) Province in 2012 that spread through eastern provinces, and reached the western capital of Havana.

Cuba’s policy to withhold information on infectious disease threats for the purpose of protecting their health image, or their tourism industry is unacceptable in an era where rapid and frequent transport across borders occurs.
In June 2013, an independent journalist from Hablemos Press reported approximately 30 cases of malaria in Cuba. The Cuban government claimed these cases are imported by tourists or from returning residents that traveled to an endemic area. Imported cases of malaria are not new; however, the history of Cuba’s denials of other re-emerging diseases compels one to question the veracity of the government’s official report.

Malaria expert John Beier, Professor of Public Health Sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, states that Cuba is receptive to malaria since the mosquito has not been eliminated. It is also important to acknowledge that local pocket of transmissions can exist through imported cases from other areas in the region, such as Hispaniola where malaria is known to exist. During rainy season, and when vector population increases, the risk of transmission increases as well. Still no official government report exists.

Sharing good epidemiologic evidence in a timely fashion is a reasonable expectation for global public health cooperation to be maintained. Promoting global health security begins with greater transparency on potential health threats. These are not state secrets as proposed during the 1980s and 1990s denial of Cuba’s dengue re-emergence, along with the incarceration of health professionals who released such data.

Cuba’s policy to withhold information on infectious disease threats for the purpose of protecting their health image, or their tourism industry is unacceptable in an era where rapid and frequent transport across borders occurs. International travelers and concerned citizens everywhere must realize that mosquitoes and microbes do not require their own passport stamp for entry into the United States, and the intrepid stowaways may arrive with their presence undetected.
Based upon what we know and don’t know-

We need to:

    Promote greater awareness about mosquito avoidance and cholera, dengue and malaria prevention for travelers to Cuba. While other countries may have higher reported cases, their risk is documented through transparency in their reporting. On June 27, 2013 the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, Cuba posted an alert message for U.S. citizens regarding road safety and traffic related deaths and injuries. This is an important health and safety message, so why not extend this to other public health issues such as dengue, malaria, and cholera?

    Become more proactive and use Rapid Diagnostic Kits (RDK) for early identification of diseases such as dengue and malaria. This could be especially important to Travel Medicine Clinics where licensed and trained health professionals have the ability to do accurate testing and patient histories. Dr. Kunjana Mavunda, Medical Director and Tropical Disease Specialist at International Travel Clinic in South Miami, Florida supports this approach. “I’ve been looking at these rapid diagnostic kits as part of the patient care and it is important that you get a good history of the patient and identify potential exposure risks.” She indicated that Cuba’s neglected infrastructure makes it ripe for potential disease spread.


    Generate a wider dialogue concerning Cuba’s epidemiologic silence. Notwithstanding the issues surrounding dengue, malaria and cholera, a bird flu spread remains a possibility. The 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronavirus scare originated in South China and today the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), another coronavirus, lurks nearby. Will anyone hold Cuba accountable for failure to report early outbreaks? What about possible impact in South Florida?

Global health security depends upon the rigor of good science, the willingness of nations to uphold policies to protect both their citizens and visitors, and the timely reporting of potential health threats. A world that is forced to rely on rumors puts everyone at risk. Consequently, silence is dangerous to your health.

*Sherri Porcelain is Senior Lecturer of Global Public Health in World Affairs & Senior Research Associate at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami. 


14ymedio, July 20, 2017

The Simple Story of Roof Sealant

By Yoani Sanchez

14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana 20 July 2017 — One day they came carrying rolls of roof paper to waterproof the roof of this concrete block where we live with more than a hundred families. Those state employees were deaf to the warnings. “We do not need coverage here,” some neighbors told them. “No apartment leaks when it rains,” said others. However, the installation continued its course without listening to the citizens, like all directions “from above.”

There was no way to convince the authorities that this multifamily building, built in the years of the Soviet subsidy, had other emergencies. Water pipes have collapsed over the years and the lightning rod has been inactive for decades. “What we have is a roof sealer and that is what we are going to install,” said the head of the team of workers who for several days toiled over our heads.

Shortly after, the cover began to breakdown in several places. The rainwater accumulated underneath and, as it could not evaporate in the sun, leaked into the houses. The residents on the top floors have suffered all kinds of problems as a result from that awkward decision. Short circuits in ceiling lamps, leaks and yellow stains that increasingly cover a larger area in the ceilings. What should have been a solution, has become a real headache.

Now the community is battling to remove the sealing sheets, but the authority to do so does not arrive at the same speed with which some bureaucrats ordered it to be installed. The most daring residents have ripped off the pieces above their own apartments, while the most cautious wait for official directions from above.

During the years the cover has remained in place, several areas of the roof have been filled with mold and have developed cracks due to moisture, a damage that, now, each affected resident must repair with the resources of their own pockets.

A few yards away, in the neighborhood of La Timba, several families have been demanding that they be given roof paper — at affordable prices — to repair their homes. With summer rains, their homes “get wetter inside than outside,” they say. Some have approached our concrete building to get what we obtained in the lottery of state inefficiency.

The history of this sealing or roof paper is just one of the thousands of absurdities that Cubans are forced to deal with every day. A sample of how the country’s resources are wasted on superfluous tasks designed to fill in the numbers or meet irrational goals while the real difficulties are avoided or hidden.

The useless roof covering has not only left significant damage in several apartments, but has further hurt the decision-making ability of a community, a group of neighbors that does not even have sufficient autonomy to remove the shreds of the mistake that remain on our roof. 

Family outing: Two baseball fans doing the wave

The Miami Herald, July 20, 2017

U.S.-Cuba diplomatic ties: What a difference two years and a new president makes

By Mimi Whitefield

As the clock ticked past midnight two years ago, the United States and Cuba officially reestablished diplomatic relations and later in the day that July 20, diplomatic missions in Washington and Havana once again became embassies.

During a flag-raising event at the Cuban Embassy in Washington D.C., Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez hailed the rapprochement, saying: “Today marks an opportunity to begin working to establish new bilateral relations unlike anything that has existed in the past.”

Three weeks later, the United States held its formal flag-raising event in Havana and the Stars and Stripes flew over the U.S. Embassy. Former Secretary of State John Kerry — the first secretary of state to set foot in Cuba since 1945 — hailed the event as a time to “unfurl our flags, raise them up, and let the world know that we wish each other well.”

But what a difference two years and a new president makes.

During a speech in Miami when President Donald Trump announced his new policy on Cuba, he said: “Now that I am your president, America will expose the crimes of the Castro regime and stand with the Cuban people in their struggle for freedom.”  [ More] 


Assembly of the Cuban Resistance, July 20, 2017



Miami, Florida- July 20, 2017. On behalf of the organizations members of the Cuban Resistance Assembly (ARC), as well as of the other organizations that work and collaborate with us, we declare the following:

1)  That the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance (ARC) recognizes the outstanding historical, cultural and informative education that Dr. Jaime Suchlicki, as Director of ICCAS, and his team have provided, with great distinction and integrity, for more than twenty years.  

2)     That the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance (ARC) recognizes the need for an academic center, especially at the University of Miami, to study the truth about Cuba, without compromise or ambivalence, and about a regime – the Castro regime – that has committed and continues to commit serious human rights violations and violations to the fundamental freedoms of the Cuban people, as well as crimes against humanity.

3)     We also recognize the need for an academic center at the University of Miami not only to study, but also to be a forum and a space for the cultural expressions of exiled Cubans, a community of more than two million who has had an undeniable influence in the United States.

Therefore, given this Institute’s mandate, we believe there is a need for the inclusion of representatives from the Cuban exile community as part of the “search Committee” that will appoint the new director, in order to play an important role in the identification and evaluation of candidates; and the ARC considers that according to the Institute’s mission, it 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. 

It is our greatest desire and interest that the Institute of Cuban and Cuban-American Studies continue to be a faithful exponent of the reality of the community it serves. 


Open letter to Dr. Julio Frenk, President of the University of Miami
July 20, 2017

Frank Rodríguez, Editor,


Miami, July 18, 2017

Dr. Julio Frenk, President
University of Miami

Dear Dr. Frenk:

We are writing to you to address the troubling issues unfolding at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies (ICCAS).

The Cuban exile community is grieving under a profound sense of loss. Exiles, by nature, are people who have had to leave their homeland often due to a totalitarian government. Your own family has faced this with your grandparents, therefore, you must understand Cuban exiles quest to “never forget”.

Nobody can erase “The Cuban Revolution,” but that doesn’t mean that the Cuban regime and its sympathizers will not try to rewrite history. Historian Jaime Suchlicki, Ph.D.  is a careful researcher who has dedicated 50 years to the truth about Cuba.

But, if there are to be two versions of the truth about the island, then his work needs to be continued unabated. He has lived the history he has written about, but always publishing with accurate statistics, footnotes and bibliography from impartial sources as well as from the regime’s own publications and official figures. Under his direction, the Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies, ICCAS, has served as a platform for the exile community on a global scale.

The reality is that we are not in a post-Castro Cuba as the Castro dynasty still holds power and will continue to do so even if behind a figurehead. Casa Bacadí was not only ICCAS’ home, but also the intellectual home of Cuban exiles. If it no longer led by Dr. Suchlicki, and is 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.

We urge you to have a productive dialogue to ensure a good outcome that will allow for the mission of ICCAS to continue.

Respectfully yours,

The Board of Directors of Facts About Cuban Exiles (F.A.C.E.)

Tony Argiz, Chairman; Alexis Abril; Frank Angones; Marilyn Borroto; Frank Carreras; Armando Codina; Fausto Díaz Oliver; Esteban Formoso; Ed García; Armando González; Sandra González-Levy; Adolfo Henriques; Aida Levitán; Raúl Masvidal; Carlos Migoya; Ralph Morera; René Murai; Eduardo Padrón; Emilio Palomo; Frank Paredes; Rafael Peñalver; César Pizarro; Jorge Plasencia; Sofía Powel-Cossio; Claudia Puig, Leonardo Rodríguez; Ray Rodríguez; Sam Verdeja; Enrique Viciana; Alex Villoch.

FACE Facts About Cuban Exiles