New Group Seeks New Cuba Policy
ALFONSO CHARDY Herald Staff Writer
A group of Cuban Americans announced Thursday the creation of a national organization aimed at challenging the influence of the Cuban American National Foundation, until now the most politically powerful exile group in the United States.
The Cuban Committee for Democracy will lobby in Washington for a new Cuba policy, finance candidates in the United States and support dissidents in Cuba who advocate talks with the Cuban government for peaceful democratic change in the island.
"It is time for a new voice in the community," said Alfredo Duran, a Miami attorney and former Florida Democratic Party state chairman who is one of the founders and leaders of CCD. "For more than 10 years, only one point of view has been heard," said Marcelino Miyares, a New York TV industry executive who serves as CCD's temporary president.
Neither Miyares nor Duran, who spoke at a news conference in Little Havana, said CCD's goal was to compete with the foundation, which was launched in 1981. But CCD's methods to advance its agenda resemble those of the foundation.
CCD will open an office in Washington to lobby the White House and Congress. The group, which will have an office in Miami, also plans to make contributions to candidates who share its views. Membership will be limited to exiles who contribute a minimum of $1,000 each. CCD's goal is to enlist at least 300 members. Lilian Pubillones Nolan, CCD's Washington representative, said that so far about 50 exiles had paid $1,000 each to join the organization.
In the foundation, directors must give $10,000 a year and trustees $5,000. The foundation has more than 100 directors and trustees.
Jorge Mas Canosa, the foundation chairman, did not return a call to his office. But on Wednesday, foundation president Francisco J. Hernandez denounced the new organization during a talk show on Spanish-language WAQI-AM Radio Mambi.
Hernandez linked members of the new organization to efforts by other exiles to ease the trade embargo on Cuba and open a dialogue with Fidel Castro, positions that the foundation strongly opposes. Foundation goals are to bring about Castro's downfall through the complete political and commercial isolation of the Havana regime.
Miyares, the CCD president, said the organization still does not have specific positions on issues like the embargo or the structure or method of talks with the Cuban government. He said those positions likely will be worked out this weekend during organizational meetings at a downtown Miami hotel.
But at the news conference, Miyares voiced opposition to last year's Cuban Democracy Act, the so-called Torricelli bill written by Rep. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., which calls for the tightening of the embargo.
Documents given to reporters at the press conference said CCD would oppose any "further punitive economic measures by the United States and other countries against Cuba" because they harm the Cuban people.
The documents also outlined a CCD willingness to "meet with representatives of the present Cuban government if such contacts are deemed useful in facilitating the end of authoritarianism in the island."
CCD is the latest exile group espousing a negotiated, peaceful transition in Cuba to emerge since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
The most recent example, prior to CCD, was Cambio Cubano, a group formed late last year under the leadership of former exile commando fighter and ex-political prisoner Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo.
Here are brief biographies of some of CCD's founders and most prominent members:
* Marcelino Miyares, a New York-based Spanish-language TV industry executive. In 1990 he helped found the Cuban Democratic Platform, the first exile group to call for dialogue with the Cuban government since the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
* Enrique Baloyra, a University of Miami professor of political science who also was a Cuban Democratic Platform leader.
* Alfredo Duran, a Miami attorney who has been a prominent member of the Democratic Party in Florida for years. From 1976 to 1980, Duran served as Florida Democratic Party state chairman.
* Magda Montiel Davis, a Miami attorney who last year ran unsuccessfully against Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla. Montiel Davis' critics often accuse her of sympathy to Fidel Castro because her husband, lawyer Ira Kurzban, has represented the National Bank of Cuba.
* Marifeli Perez-Stable, an associate professor of sociology at the State University of New York at Old Westbury in Long Island. Once a strong supporter of the Castro revolution, Perez-Stable has changed her views and now is more critical of the Havana regime.
* Lilian Pubillones Nolan, a longtime Washington activist and former staffer at the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs. She will work full time as executive director of the CCD office in Washington.