May 12, 2022
Dear Mayors Cava and Suarez,
We, the undersigned, represent the leadership of the Alliance for Cuba Engagement and Respect (ACERE), a coalition of groups around the country that work to end the embargo on Cuba and promote engagement between the U.S. and Cuba. We are concerned about the threats being made against the leadership and participants in the Caravan to End the Cuba Blockade in Miami that has been taking place monthly for the past two years. The largest caravan yet is scheduled to take place on May 29 in Miami, and participants and organizers are already being verbally threatened by troublesome Cuban-American media personalities in Miami, who accuse a peaceful caravan calling for diplomacy of being a “Communist provocation.” As we have seen in numerous incidents in the past, such incendiary rhetoric is designed to incite unnecessary aggression, putting people’s safety and well-being at risk.
The rhetoric being used by Cuban-American social media personality and provocateur Alex Otaola and others is designed to provoke a scenario of violence and intimidation. To allow for a return to the violence of earlier decades when anti-Cuba rhetoric and outright violence was encouraged and condoned as a means of preventing open civic dialogue on U.S. policies towards Cuba would be disgraceful and disastrous in a diverse city like Miami, where the principles of tolerance, respect and kindness towards our neighbors are the only one that will ensure citizens that their well-being and humanity are taken seriously by the elected officials entrusted to do so.
These vociferous opponents of an internationally known caravan of peace have called for a counter-demonstration in Miami by “hundreds of thousands of Cubans” on the same day, May 29. Given the well-documented history of violence in Miami by numerous actors who have utilized the same rhetoric to target those who support a path of peaceful, diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba – as well as the extremely concerning death threats made against leaders of the Caravan – we are writing to urge you to immediately take the necessary precautions to protect the safety of Caravan participants, as well as their rights of free speech and assembly.
While media personalities and provocateurs believe they speak on behalf of the Cuban-American community, the reality is much more nuanced and complex. Like all communities, Cuban-Americans have divergent views regarding the U.S. embargo against Cuba and its brutal impact on their families and friends. The imposition of hundreds of sanctions, the denial of remittances, restrictions on the right to travel and the lack of U.S. compliance with the family reunification program all give great pause to most Cubans who would like to see a different political relationship between the two countries they have called home. These voices have every right to express their deep frustration at the economic suffering and humanitarian crisis their loved ones experience, and to call on the United States to change its policies. As their local government responsible for ensuring their safety, we insist that any threats to their security and well-being be taken extremely seriously, and that their lawful right to assembly and speak be guaranteed in accordance with the Constitution.
We urge you, immediately and on the day of, to take all necessary measures to safeguard the Caravan participants and ensure equal access to constitutionally protected expression in Miami.
Natasha Ora Bannan
Félix Sharpe Caballero