The Miami Herald, June 15, 2015
Cuba Sells Tombs
While reading the June 9 article Family stunned as tomb of Cuban patriarch ‘sold’ – the remains have been removed – I kept thinking about the lyrics to the song by Kansas: “All we are is dust in the wind.”
Some may find it horrifying and unfathomable that a family member’s gravesite is sold and their remains are tossed into a mass grave.
However, those who follow Cuban affairs understand that this practice is commonplace.
What everyone should understand, especially those whose ancestors are buried in Cuba, is that this degrading act is not only perpetrated against prominent families such as the Valdés-Faulis and Pedrosos.
This horrible act is perpetrated against anyone whose family members went into exile.
It is ironic that, as the flagpole that will presumably fly the Cuban flag at the Cuban Embassy in Washington is erected, the monuments to Cuba’s hallowed dead are being destroyed.
If the current regime will not let our dead rest in peace, what should we expect of their treatment of the living?
Daniel I. Pedreira – Miami
The Miami Herald, May 28, 2015
Emilio Ochoa: An architect of Cuba’s 1940 Constitution
STREET NAMING: Emilio ‘Millo’ Ochoa was honored after a portion of Southwest Eighth Street at 88th Avenue was named after him in 2007. | nuri vallbona
When looking at Havana’s skyline today, the Capitol building is one of its most eye-catching sights.
Its symbolic dome has been covered by scaffolding since 2012, when the Cuban government began its restoration. Since March it has once again housed Cuba’s legislative branch, which, since 1976, has functioned as the Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular.
Today, many see the new U.S.-Cuba relationship as a positive step toward a better Cuba. They seem to forget and purposefully ignore that there was a Cuba before 1959 that, although imperfect, was on the road to progress. Most people forget that, prior to 1959, Cuba’s government was divided into three branches.
The Capitol housed the Cuban Congress, a bicameral body with a Senate and a House of Representatives. Within its chambers, Cuban senators and congressmen debated legislation as the Cuban people’s democratically and freely elected representatives. These men and women echoed the diversity of the Cuban people. Among its ranks were lawyers, doctors, labor leaders, and even a shoemaker.
It was in the Capitol where Cuba’s progressive 1940 Constitution was debated, drafted and enacted. In 1939, voters elected delegates to form a Constitutional Assembly. For months, delegates from different political parties debated key issues, and the new Constitution was proclaimed on the Capitol steps.
Of the many men and women who walked the halls of the Cuban Congress, one in particular was renowned for his honesty, dignity and patriotism. Dr. Emilio “Millo” Ochoa was a dentist by trade, a “guajirito,” or hillbilly, as he referred to himself, from Holguín in Cuba’s Oriente Province.
Ochoa participated in the student-led opposition movement that toppled President Gerardo Machado’s government in 1933. A founder of the Auténtico Party, Ochoa soon became one of its most respected and trusted leaders. In 1939, he was elected a delegate to the Constitutional Assembly, serving alongside former presidents and Independence War veterans.
Ochoa was elected to the Senate twice, in 1940 and 1944. But the Auténtico Party’s image was soon tarnished by corruption scandals, and Ochoa led a group of dissident Auténtico leaders that eventually left the party and founded the Ortodoxo Party in 1946.
Ochoa was elected to the Cuban House of Representatives in 1950, and in 1952 he was the Ortodoxo Party’s candidate for vice president for the elections scheduled for June 1 of that year. Those elections were never held, and he and the other members of Congress abruptly lost their positions on March 10 when Gen. Fulgencio Batista Zaldívar led a coup d’etat and dissolved Congress.
Soon Ochoa found himself heavily involved in the anti-Batista struggle, first through violent, and later through peaceful and electoral means. He was arrested and released several times for openly expressing his views, but never ceased in his attacks on the Batista government.
On Jan. 1, 1959, Ochoa and his family were exiled in Miami Beach when they found out about Batista’s departure. The anti-Batista “revolution” had triumphed, but while much of the Cuban population rejoiced, Ochoa was also opposed to Fidel Castro’s methods and tactics. When revolutionary leaders called him personally to ask him to join the new leadership, Ochoa refused, stating: “I will return to Cuba when I cannot be tied with that revolution because I know Fidel Castro and I know that if he needs to order his mother killed to justify his purpose, he would do so; and that is not the type of leader that I want for my homeland.” Ochoa did return to Cuba, where he worked against the new dictatorship.
Eventually he left Cuba, living in Venezuela for a few years and later settling for good in Miami-Dade, where he earned his living as a humble taxi driver and did some work as a dentist.
Ochoa passed away in 2007, one week shy of his 100th birthday. Known by many as “el último Constituyente,” the last surviving delegate of the 1940 Constitution, he never returned to his beloved Cuba.
Within the Capitol’s chambers, Ochoa attempted a better vision for Cuba. Today, Cuba is again at a crossroads, but are the lessons of the past at risk of being swept aside in the interest of profit and personal gain?
Daniel I. Pedreira has a master’s degree in peace operations from George Mason University and a bachelor’s degree in international studies from the University of Miami. He is the author of El Último Constituyente: El desarrollo político de Emilio “Millo” Ochoa.
El Nuevo Herald, 13 de febrero de 2015
Una Asamblea legendaria
Me dio mucho gusto leer La Asamblea Constituyente de 1940 [Perspectiva, 10 de febrero], el artículo de la doctora Uva de Aragón. Como ella destacó, mucho se ha escrito sobre la Constitución en sí, pero muy poco sobre la Asamblea Constituyente, seleccionada mediante elecciones libres en 1939.
En aquella Asamblea estuvieron representadas todas las vertientes políticas de la época y una gran parte de las profesiones y los oficios (incluyendo hasta un zapatero, Blas Roca Calderío). Los debates de la Asamblea son legendarios y han sido inmortalizado gracias a un libro escrito por el Dr. Néstor Carbonell Cortina titulado “Grandes Debates de la Constituyente Cubana de 1940”. Leyendo los intercambios entre grandes hombres y mujeres, uno se da cuenta que todos los delegados allí presentes tenían una meta en común: el bienestar de Cuba.
Hoy en dia los cubanos dentro de la isla y en el exilio se encuentran en una encrucijada similar. La Constitución de 1940 sirve de referencia para los proyectos que se puedan desarrollar en el futuro. Los cubanos también deben estudiar las vidas y obras de los distinguidos delegados a la Asamblea Constituyente y los debates que forjaron una nueva República. Quizás sirvan para inspirar a los cubanos a trabajar por un mejor país.
DANIEL I. PEDREIRA
El Nuevo Herald, 10 de diciembre de 2014
Al incluir la ceremonia del “cañonazo de las nueve” en la lista de Patrimonio Cultural de la Nación en Cuba [El Nuevo Herald, portada, 6 de diciembre], el régimen castrista convenientemente ignora su papel en la desaparición de otros aspectos del patrimonio nacional de Cuba.
El régimen comenzó despojando a los cubanos que partían al exilio de sus joyas y otros objetos valiosos. Dirigido por el Ministerio de Recuperación de Bienes Malversados y con el pretexto de realizar un “inventario” de los objetos localizados en los hogares, oficiales castristas se apoderaron de sus contenidos, muchos de los cuales incluían cuadros, estatuas y otros objetos de valor. En 1960, el mismo Ministerio celebró una Subasta de Joyas y Antigüedades en el Capitolio Nacional, donde muchos de estos objetos fueron vendidos.
Numerosos artefactos y obras de arte robadas a sus dueños han aparecido en diferentes países. Cuadros de los pintores Joaquín Sorolla en Barcelona y Adolphe-William Bouguereau en Londres, ambos pertenecientes a la colección del Museo Nacional de Cuba.
Cualquier persona con buen ojo para artefactos de origen cubano notará que muchos libros a la venta en los quioscos y las bibliotecas parisinas tienen el cuño de la Biblioteca Nacional. Además, cualquier persona con acceso a Internet puede visitar sitios de subastas cibernéticas para comprar medallas, banderas, estatuas, cuadros y otros objetos cubanos de valor histórico y cultural.
No olvidemos cinco décadas de saqueo del patrimonio nacional cubano con un gesto político disfrazado de cultura.
Daniel I. Pedreira
Fourth Estate (George Mason University), October 28, 2013, Page 15
Sun-Sentinel, April 10, 2010
We must support the Ladies in White
By Daniel I. Pedreira
Gloria and Emilio Estefan’s march in support of Cuba’s Ladies in White is over. The hype generated by it will also subside. However, we cannot forget that, in Cuba, these brave women continue to risk their lives to defend rights that we hold dear in the United States.
As Americans, our most important freedom is freedom of speech. The First Amendment to our Constitution grants us the freedom to say what we want to say, without fear of reprisal from our government or our fellow citizens.
Imagine yourself living in a country where your family members are arrested for speaking their mind or for reporting news unflattering to the government. After their arrest, these fathers, husbands and brothers are subjected to show trials, where their sentences, ranging from five to 28 years, are predetermined before they set foot in a courtroom. Then imagine your family members lingering in Castro’s squalid prisons. Moved to act, you — their wives, daughters and sisters — join others with imprisoned family members to walk peacefully through the streets of your hometown, wearing white and carrying flowers, to call the world’s attention to the violation of your family member’s freedom of speech.
Along the route, you are closely watched by government agents. That’s if you’re lucky. If not, the Cuban government will mobilize its Rapid Response Brigades, chanting insults and racial slurs. Then the physical attacks begin. These government agents, armed with clubs and brute force, will drag, punch, kick, jab you and throw you into a bus en route to an unknown location.
Only 90 miles away from our coast, Cuban citizens are being aggressively stripped of their right to express themselves freely. In the case of Cuba’s political prisoners and democratic opposition, the violation of this right is two-fold. First, the opposition leaders and independents are jailed. Second, their family members are harassed and beaten in the streets for denouncing the violation of their loved ones’ freedom of speech.
As freedom-loving Americans, we cannot turn a blind eye to violations of freedom of speech. We have a moral obligation to raise awareness about the violations of freedom of speech that have been taking place in Cuba during the last 50 years. The Ladies in White will continue to walk on. We must stand with them.
Daniel I. Pedreira is a resident of Miami.