Another day, another myopic missive from a Cuban American legislator decrying a visa given to a Cuban artist. This time is Ileana Ros Lehtinen, who has sent a letter to Secretary Clinton urging her among other things, to “suspend all educational and cultural exchanges with the Cuban regime”.
Yes, Vicente Feliu is part of a propaganda tour sprinkled with not very good music, advocating for the liberation of the five Cuban spies, and attended by the usual suspects. And Vicente Feliu –besides being an unpopular and mediocre representative of La Nueva Trova, with only one good song to his name– has acted despicably inside Cuba. So what? How is that “undermining our foreign policy and national interests”? Dissent and protest are American values, as precious to the functioning of our democracy as any other. The beauty of living in a democracy is that the citizens can be informed and make up their minds about who to believe, and can separate art from propaganda without a member of Congress telling them what is what.
I have no issues with the congresswoman sending press releases or picketing every concert if she wants. In fact, I wish that instead of writing letters, she would go on the media in New York and San Francisco and expose how Feliu has made an opportunistic late career revival out of standing for the repression of peaceful dissidents in Cuba. What I have a big issue with is making political hay out of this, and exerting her influence to ban any other Cuban acts from coming. (Ironically enough, under her views Pablo Milanes, whom Feliu excoriated over his declarations critical of the Cuban government while in Miami, would have been denied entry.) And also with her puerile interpretation of national security, that presumes that a singer wailing to cuatro gatos is a grave threat to our country, and by extension the valuable cultural exchange programs should be eliminated.
Let the Cuban government be the one who bans singers from concerts and the airwaves, Congresswoman. Unless you are ready to be considered as their equal in intolerance, don’t be afraid to enter into a war of ideas with Vicente Feliu or anybody. Don’t you believe we are demonstrably better?