By Pete Seidman
MIAMI — Puentes de Amor (Bridges of Love) leader Carlos Lazo condemned the call by U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) for the FBI to investigate him as an unregistered agent of a foreign power — a violator of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. (See “July Caravans: ‘End U.S. Blockade of Cuba!’ ”)
Lazo was speaking at an August 13 news conference here, organized by the Miami Caravan Against the U.S. Blockade of Cuba. The group is another target of Rubio’s smears, along with the well-known Cuba solidarity organization Pastors for Peace.
Univision’s Channel 23, a major Spanish-language TV station here, broadcast a report on the event the next evening.
The Foreign Agents Registration Act had its origins in the run up to World War II. It was part of the U.S. government’s efforts to suppress, intimidate, and subdue domestic opponents of the war within the labor, Black, and religious communities. It has been kept on the law books ever since and used against supporters of the Irish freedom struggle, the Cuban Five, RT America, and others.
“Puentes de Amor, denounces the McCarthyite tactics of Senator Marco Rubio,” Lazo said. “Rubio’s attitude is denigrating, indecent, and un-American, in opposition to values affirmed by the U.S. Constitution. It is aberrant and absurd for a senator to slander, to intimidate, citizens and civil society organizations that seek the lifting of the sanctions that punish the Cuban family.”
Lazo, a schoolteacher in Seattle, rejected Rubio’s charge that meeting with Miguel Diaz-Canel somehow makes him an agent of the President of Cuba.
“I will meet with whoever I have to meet to ask for the lifting of sanctions against the Cuban people and for better relationships between my native country, Cuba, my mother, and my adopted country, America, my father.”
“I have had no qualms,” he insisted, “about meeting with anyone who is in a position to lift, relieve, or influence ending the sanctions that for so many years have punished the Cuban people, here and there. During all these years I have met with more than 150 members of Congress,” Lazo explained, “including then-Senator Mel Martinez, Congresswoman Ileana Ross Lehtinen, and even Congressman Dan Burton [co-sponsor of the Helms-Burton Act]. A few months ago, I had a little respectful dialogue with Senator Ted Cruz. And I would also meet with Senator Marco Rubio to explain these issues.”
Rubio’s re-election challenge
Lazo noted that Rubio “has never been to Cuba, has never walked the streets of Havana, and does not know the Cuban family.”
The Puentes de Amor leader stressed that “Rubio’s witch hunt reveals the Senator’s fear of losing his seat. Fear that more and more Cuban Americans in Florida and in the United States will realize that he is one of the most responsible for maintaining these cruel measures that punish the Cuban family.”
Indeed, an August 16 article in the Miami Herald reported, “A recent spate of polls suggests Republican Sen. Marco Rubio might suddenly have a tougher-than-expected reelection fight on his hands.”
The Herald noted that “in the last two weeks, three polls have shown putative Democratic Senate nominee Val Demings [a Black woman who is a former chief of police in Orlando] either tied or leading Rubio in Florida. The most recent, a survey from the University of North Florida released Tuesday, found Demings receiving 48% support from registered voters, more than the 44% who said they backed the GOP incumbent. Seven percent of respondents said they would vote for someone else.”
The possibility of one of the U.S. Senate’s leading Cuban American supporters of the blockade losing his seat in Florida is indeed proof of the growing opposition among Cubans here to the tightening of U.S. sanctions imposed by Trump and continued with a few minor tweaks by the Biden administration. It is this objective shift in public opinion that has sustained the 25 consecutive monthly caravans organized in Miami against the blockade.
“Senator Rubio, I challenge you to debate these issues face to face,” Lazo concluded, expressing the growing confidence of caravan activists here. “Fill yourself with courage and instead of walking from channel to channel, from station to station, defaming a Cuban American, a decorated war veteran, a teacher, a father, and trying to intimidate those of us who call for an end to the blockade, agree to discuss these things face to face!”
Lazo stated that far from being intimidated he plans to return to Miami on August 28 for the next caravan against the blockade.
Numerous statements of support
The Miami Caravan received numerous statements of support in response to Rubio’s threats.
These include a message from former Florida state senator Dwight Bullard, who is the current president of the South Miami-Dade County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
“The people of Cuba deserve their rightful place in the world community, free to engage with their neighbors in the just exchange of ideas and resources,” the NAACP leader wrote. “Those of us who advocate for an open and free Cuba deserve a voice in the room, because all we want is human rights for all people, including the people of Cuba.”
Another message came from Ira J. Kurzban, a prominent immigration and civil rights attorney in Miami. “Marco Rubio does a disservice to the people of Florida by ignoring the real needs of people in this State and instead by bullying people who do not agree with his position on Cuba,” Kurzban wrote. “His threat regarding the Foreign Agents Registration Act is an old ploy and was made before against others… It had no legal basis then and it has none now.”
Chris Smalls, President of the Amazon Labor Union in New York City, also sent a message. “Based on Rubio’s definition, any citizen or entity that disagrees with U.S. foreign policy and organizes against it is considered a threat to the nation,” Smalls said. “The fact that a U.S. Senator would engage in such shameful, baseless, and immoral tactics to target and silence U.S. citizens should be of concern to us all and should be viewed as a direct threat to our civil liberties.”
Senator Rubio, Smalls wrote, should “immediately cease his smear campaign and intimidation of Puentes de Amor. End the U.S. Blockade of Cuba!”
Statements also arrived from Kevin C. Harris, a candidate aiming to unseat Congresswoman Fredericka Wilson in the Democratic primary in Florida’s 24th Congressional District; Medea Benjamin of Code Pink; the Cuban American legislative action group ACERE; and others.
Univision Coverage of August 13 News Conference
 The Cuban Five were Cuban revolutionists framed up by the U.S. government for being part of a “Cuban spy network” in Florida. They were arrested in 1998, convicted by a federal court in Miami on trumped up conspiracy charges, and imprisoned for about 15 years. Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González, and René González proudly admitted they had infiltrated armed counterrevolutionary Cuban American groups that operate with impunity on U.S. soil. They proudly exposed the 50-year history of these groups’ bombings, assassinations, and other armed assaults on supporters of the Cuban Revolution. They explained they were monitoring the plans of these rightist groups with a long record of armed attacks on Cuba from US soil. The Five proudly defended the right of the Cuban people to prevent such plans from succeeding.
A three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta overturned their convictions in 2005, citing the “prejudices” of many Cubans in Miami opposed to the Cuban Revolution. The full court, however, later denied the Five’s bid for a new trial and reinstated the original convictions. In June 2009 the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case. René González was released from prison on October 7, 2011, having completed 13 years of his sentence. He was allowed to return to Cuba for his father’s funeral on April 22, 2013; a federal judge allowed him to stay there provided that he renounced his U.S. citizenship. Fernando González was released on February 27, 2014. The other three were released on December 17, 2014, in a prisoner swap with Cuba for a U.S. spy. The Cuban Five are considered national heroes in Cuba.
RT America was a U.S.-based news channel that was part of a global news network operated and funded by the government of Russia. After losing most of its cable and satellite coverage following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, RT America ceased all live broadcasting on March 22, 2022.
 The U.S. Congress adopted the Helms-Burton Act, named after its original sponsors, in 1996. Then U.S. president Bill Clinton signed it into law on March 12 of that year. The legislation represented a substantial escalation of Washington’s economic war against the Cuban people.
Categories: Cuba/Cuba Solidarity
Excellent topic, article, and online publication.
Keep up the great coverage Mr Seidman.