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Vol. 76/No. 20      May 21, 2012

Miami caravan denounces arson
attack aimed at travel to Cuba
(front page)
MIAMI—Defenders of democratic rights have mobilized to respond to an arson attack here that destroyed the offices of Airline Brokers, an agency that arranges travel to Cuba.

The fire occurred in the early morning hours of April 27 . “Law enforcement officials told El Nuevo Herald that the fire was ‘deliberate.’ They declined further comment, and asked for anonymity,” the Miami Herald reported later that day. The FBI says it is working with local police to investigate.

Airline Brokers is one of eight companies authorized to charter flights to Cuba under tight U.S. government restrictions. The agency recently arranged travel for a delegation from the Miami archdiocese as part of the pope’s visit to Cuba. According to Reuters, owner Vivian Mannerud “said she had not received any recent threats to her business, but said she was targeted in the early 1990s by Cuban exile extremists.”

As recently as the 1990s, counterrevolutionary groups here carried out bombings and other violent attacks aimed at defenders of the Cuban Revolution and opponents of Washington’s economic embargo against that country.

A protest caravan of about 80 cars drove through the largely Cuban community of Westchester in southwest Miami May 5 opposing the attack. The response from drivers passing by and people on the street was overwhelmingly positive, with many honking and waving in support.

“We cannot allow these criminals to continue,” said Oliden Martínez, a 25-year-old student and shuttle bus driver, who participated in the caravan after hearing it announced on the radio. “I support travel to Cuba. I grew up there and was educated in the revolution. Not everything is perfect, but everything is equal. There’s a lot of good things in Cuba that you don’t hear about here.”

“I think it’s wrong,” Marla Rodríguez, a waitress at a restaurant here, told the Militant when asked about the fire.

One of the customers, airport worker Alejandro Muro, agreed. Both he and Rodríguez are Cuban. “I’m for freedom of expression,” Muro said. “If you want to go to Cuba, you should be able to go.”

“We know that the most recent action was not aimed against a travel agency but the right to travel to Cuba,” Andrés Gómez, president of the Antonio Maceo Brigade and an organizer of the caravan, told the Militant. “We affirm the right of all U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba, especially Cubans.”

“We demand from the responsible federal and local authorities the rapid and thorough investigation of this terrorist act, as well as the arrest and prosecution of the terrorists who committed it,” Gómez told reporters at a May 2 press conference organized by Alianza Martiana. He called on elected officials to denounce the arson. “None of them has done it. Neither has the press in this city. This situation is truly shameful.”

Also speaking were Alianza Martiana President Max Lesnik, Elena Freyre of the Foundation for Normalization of US/Cuba Relations, and Tom Baumann, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Congress, District 17.

“Counterrevolutionary groups have a long history of carrying out deadly attacks against Cuba with the complicity of Washington,” said Baumann in his statement. “When five Cuban revolutionaries took assignments in the 1990s to defend their country and monitor these groups here in Florida, the U.S. government railroaded them to jail. The Socialist Workers Campaign calls for the immediate release of the Cuban Five, as these men are known today.”

Airline Brokers offices were boarded up two days after the fire. The building, which also housed some lawyers’ offices, was condemned.

In mid-April a billboard supporting the campaign to free the Cuban Five was removed the same day it went up after an adjacent restaurant received threatening phone calls.

As of May 6 the FBI has not announced any results of their investigation, and have declined to characterize it as a criminal act.

Tom Baumann contributed to this article.
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Australia art exhibit event wins support for Cuban 5  
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