Juan Carlos Chavez, El Nuevo Herald
About 20 groups of Cuban exiles and former political prisoners who oppose the upcoming Miami performance of Cuban singer Pablo Milanés asked Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez and county commissioners Tuesday to cancel the show.
Milanés is scheduled to sing for the first time in South Florida on Aug. 27 at the AmericanAirlines Arena downtown.
Emilio Izquierdo, general coordinator of the group Cuban American Patriots and Friends, one of those making the demands, said Tuesday that the arena “belongs to taxpayers.” He said that, for that reason, it cannot be used by those who oppose democratic interests and principles.
“The concert is an affront,” Izquierdo told El Nuevo Herald. “Milanés is an ideological agent of a enemy government that promotes terrorism. We don’t want him in the capital and heart of [Cuban exiles].”
The protest was issued Tuesday in a letter addressed to county authorities. Tiffany J. Eaton, a lawyer representing the exile groups, said that while no law could be cited to ban the concert, the county should listen to the concern of its residents.
“First, these people are taxpayers. Second, the power of the Constitution and freedom of expression gives them the right to be listened to as they expose the reasons why they feel offended by this concert,” Eaton said.
Giménez said Tuesday he opposes using taxpayer resources to support activities that promote exchanges with the regime of the Castro brothers. But he added that he has no legal authority to intervene because the county does not manage the arena’s operations.
“My personal objections remain invariable,” Giménez said. “However, after a preliminary revision of the contracts, the county’s legal office has confirmed that the AmericanAirlines Arena, which is county property, is operated by a private entity that has the exclusive power of decision.”
The arena is managed by Basketball Properties Ltd., a subsidiary of the Miami Heat basketball team.
Giménez said his office would coordinate with police to study the potential risks of going ahead with the show and make recommendations to guarantee residents’ safety.
Hugo Cancio, president of Fuego Entertainment and Cuba Business Development Group Inc., the enterprise in charge of Milanés’ tour, dismissed the exiles’ criticism.
“I am moved by their passion, but there will not be a cancelation of Pablo Milanés’ concert,” Cancio said. “Milanés not only comes to Miami to sing to his fellow Cubans, but also to hundreds of thousands of followers from Latin America who also live in this city and have their own rights. We Cubans are not the only ones here.”
The arrival of Cuban artists, intellectuals and university professors coincides with the more-relaxed policy promoted by the President Barack Obama’s administration since 2009.
John De León, president of the Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said his office was monitoring the situation to make sure nothing interferes with Milanés’ concert.
“In a free and democratic country, the way to express opposition to an idea is by demonstrating, not canceling,” De León said. “Those are tactics used by totalitarian countries like Cuba. Here there is freedom and, legally, the show cannot be canceled.”