Cuba, Miami Argue over Pablo Milanes

Fernando Ravsberg

Pablo Milanes. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES, Sept 7 — The controversy over the statements made by Pablo Milanés before his concert in Miami continues. First most radical exiles rejected him, then the moderates criticized him and now Silvio Rodriguez adds his opinion.

The decision of the singer to play a concert in the Cuban exile capital sparked the condemnation of anti-Castro organizations, which still see Pablo Milanés as a propagandist of the Cuban Revolution.

Not even the statements of the author of “Yolanda” in favor of the Cubans who live off the island and in defense of dissident rights to publicly protest in Cuba served to calm the enthusiasm of his detractors.

However, it did provoke the ire of other emigrants who also reside in Miami but who have more moderate positions with respect to Havana. Journalist Edmundo García wrote two open letters questioning Milanés.

Criticism and concerts

Pablo Milanés has criticized the Cuban government for years, however he continues to live in Cuba, performing concerts on the island and the national media continues circulating his songs.

The anti-Castro groups in Miami rushed to the street to protest against his concert despite that Milanés composed a song for “the Cubans who, for one reason or another don’t live in the country” which he called “a homage to you, a bridge of love”.

Pablo insulted the Miami-based Cuban journalist Edmundo Garcia. Photo: Raquel Perez

Days before the concert, giving an interview to Miami’s main newspaper, which has an markedly anti-Castro editorial line, Pablo repeated his criticisms about the lack of civil and political liberties in Cuba.

He also defended the right to publicly protest of the so-called Ladies in White, a group of dissidents originally composed of the wives of political prisoners who were released early this year.

The cross of the parish

The criticisms began to escalate when Edmundo García, a Cuban journalist in Miami wrote that Pablo Milanés “blasphemed the cross of his parish” emphasizing that the singer’s criticisms are one sided.

“In Miami they have conspired against your country, have blocked cultural exchange with Cuba, their Congress members want to limit travel to the island and have opposed his own concert. Of this Pablo said nothing,” writes García.

Pablo Milanés response was vicious, accusing the journalist of having been sent to Miami to divide and to foster hate between Cubans. Further insults by Pablo, due to their tone, are not even publishable.

The Cuban national online media has followed the polemic but the forms of media most consumed by Cubans, paper publications, the radio and TV, have not touched it. Neither has the government.

Crude and cold

The latest to enter the fray is singer Silvio Rodriguez, who responded to a question posed by a reader of his blog “Segunda Cita”. He affirmed that he shares many of the criticisms expressed by Pablo but does not agree with the manner or the venue in which he expressed them.

Silvio questions the manner and the venue in which Pablo made his criticisms. Photo Raquel Pérez

Silvio stated that he would defend Pablo even though he “includes me among the ‘despicable’ ones who continue to defend the Revolution.” He maintained that the problem is not the criticisms but they way they were conveyed, “which in addition to being crude appeared to be cold-hearted, without the slightest sign of emotional attachment.”

“Another thing that is painful is that he made these criticisms in Miami (…) just days before his concert that, despite ample promotion, did not sell out. And to top it off he made the statements to the publication that has branded as heroes terrorists who have blown up civilian aircraft.”

“It is important that those of us who live in this imperfect society-and this means with bad things as well as good things- continue criticizing, continue improving ourselves and not allow this kind of sad example to serve as a pretext for extremists to firmly close ranks”, Silvio conclued.