New Group Favors Esing U.S. Policy on Cuba
ALFONSO CHARDY Herald Staff Writer
Cuban exile groups struggle against Fidel Castro on many fronts, but the principal battle-ground is the U.S. capital.
The Cuban American National Foundation largely has dominated the Cuba debate in Washington. Today, a new exile organization challenges the foundation's grip on the debate right on its own turf.
The Cuban Committee for Democracy, an organization that advocates a change in Cuba policy, will hold its first major public conference in Washington today at the Capital Hilton Hotel.
Designed to persuade President Clinton to modify Cuba policy, CCD members hope to show that the United States could benefit from easing its trade embargo on Cuba and opening negotiations with Havana. While these positions are at odds with the views of the foundation and other traditional exile groups, CCD hopes that its one-day conference will show that exiles are changing, that more and more of them support dialogue.
"We are a new voice, a very strong voice with a progressive position," said Marcelino Miyares, a New York TV executive and president of CCD, which was formed in August and now has about 100 members. Other CCD leaders include University of Miami professor Enrique Baloyra, Miami attorney Magda Montiel Davis, and Miami-Dade Community College Professor Maria Cristina Herrera.
In a telephone interview Wednesday, Miyares said the CCD meeting will be a sort of coming-out function for pro-dialogue forces.
"There are many Cubans who feel that U.S. policy toward Cuba is wrong, completely wrong," said Miyares. "There is a strong assumption in U.S. public opinion that exiles are monolithic, but this is not true. We are pluralistic."
Jorge Mas Canosa, the foundation chairman, did not return phone calls. But leaders of other traditional exile groups said the CCD is off base if it believes that exiles favor dialogue with Havana.
"You have to live outside Miami to doubt that exiles oppose dialogue with Castro," said Hernan Santiesteban, a spokesman for Cuban Unity, which organized an anti--dialogue demonstration in Miami Oct. 9 attended by more than 100,000.
A State Department official said Richard Nuccio, a senior adviser on Latin American affairs, will attend the CCD meeting.
"This is a legitimate group," the State Department official said. "We share the same goals of bringing democracy to Cuba. Clearly, we have differences over the means by which to do that, but we respect their views."