Por Pedro V Roig, Esq.
On December 9, 2022, the Wertheim Performing Arts Center at the Florida International University (FIU) held an open discussion with Professor Susan Eckstein from the Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, and the author of controversial book “Cuban Privilege: The making of immigrant inequality in America” and the Cuban historian and Human Right advocate, Dr. Orlando Gutierrez-Boronat.
The discussion was attended by several hundred persons, mostly outraged Cuban exiles, deeply offended by the Academic dishonesty and insensitivity of Dr. Susan Eckestein’s profile of the Cuban exiles in America. In contrast, “Epic Journey” written by Sam Verdejas and Guillermo Martinez is an accurate portrait of the Struggle of Exiles for Truth and Freedom that could have enlightened Dr. Eckestein on the sacrifice and success of the Cuban exiles in Florida.
“Cuban Privilege” is lacking in historical and cultural depth. Fundamentally based on the shallow premise that attributed the multidimensional accomplishments of the Cuban exiles in the granting of immigration parole and work permits. Dr. Eckerstein ignores the Cubans’ goals, education, work ethic and behavioral traits.
The insensitivity of the author for the severe Human Rights violations in Castro’s Cuba, became evident in her statement on page 173. It said: “The Duvalier regime (In Haiti) was reputed to be the most repressive regime in America”. In the opinion of Dr Eckstein, Duvalier’s gangs of criminals ranked “Número uno” in America. Where does Fidel Castro’s, totalitarian, Marxist Leninist tyranny fit?
From the beginning of Castro’s Revolution, the Ministry of Interior (MININT) was created to crush the enemies of the regime. Minint officers were trained by the East German Stassi and the Soviet Union KGB. Among its security services was the Committee of the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) organized on every block of every city on the island. Not even the Soviets were capable of reaching that degree of control and vigilance. For the most part, the MININT officers form a highly disciplined, efficient, and ferocious repressive force. Professor Eckestein’s historical bias is evident by her acceptance of the validity of the rank of Duvalier’s corrupted and brutal despotism as the “Most repressive regime in America.”
In an unwise generalization we read in page 154 that: “President Reagan reached out to Cubans who were already in the United States to transform them into an important base for the Republican Party in Florida.” but there is a caveat. The Cuban voting patterns are related to the candidate’s stand on the voter’s political preference. Several Democratic candidates won their elections with Cuban American support, such as Raul Martinez, a popular and effective Cuban American Democrat, who was elected Mayor of Hialeah for 24 years. (1981-2005).
With a majority of Republican voters, Hialeah, the largest city of Cuban residents in the United States, repeatedly elected a Democrat Major. Another case is the outstanding political victories of Maurice Ferre, a distinguished and accomplished Democratic leader who served six tenures as Mayor for the City of Miami (1973 – 1985). The Cuban voters tend to be fairly open and independent in most issues except in our perception of a candidate that favors the Cubans narco terrorist regime.
Professor Eckerstein’s book is deceptive, and defamatory when dealing with the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) and its leader Jorge Mas Canosa. On page 159 referring to Mas Canosa, the duplicitous professor stated: “He became a born again influence peddler”. And on page 160, Eckerstein referred to the Cuban American Foundation directors in an open-ended defamatory statement saying: “some of them reputedly acquired their wealth in drug trafficking”.
For most Cuban exiles, Jorge Mas is dearly remembered as a charismatic, idealistic, courageous, and highly accomplished leader that was fully committed to a free Cuba under the Rule of Law.
It is a historical fact that at no time, any member, among the Directors of the CANF was indicted for drug trafficking, but Dr. Eckerstein forgot that in 1982-1983 Cuban Vice-Admiral Aldo Santamaria Cuadrado, head of the Communist Cubans Navy and three high ranking Cuban officials were indicted in a multi-million dollar smuggling operation that used Cuba as a loading station to get drugs into the United States. [UPI archives, November 5, 1982]. Terrorist-drug trafficking in Cuba and Venezuela is well documented.
Florida International University (FIU) is an institution of higher education in Miami-Dade County that provides an inclusive and sensible educational program to thousands of students. One of its former President’s Dr. Modesto Maidique was an active Director of CANF and under his enlightened leadership, FIU reached a national level of academic excellence.
While we understand and uphold the importance of freedom of speech, causing offense to a substantial portion of our Cuban American community through a deceitful defamatory publication that is insensitive and unprofessional. This book is thoughtless, inaccurate, and offensive to many in the Cuban exile community.
Pedro Roig: Historian, Attorney, former Director of the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), veteran of the Brigade 2506, former Director of the Office of Cuban Broadcasting, Member of the President’s National Board of Education, expert on the Cuban Military Oligarchy-Inner Circle of Power, and author of various history books.