Apartheid en Cuba
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    Human injustice vs. business as usual

    Posted on Mon, May. 21, 2007

    Human injustice vs. business as usual

    In her provocative May 16 column Rabble-rousers gravitate to easy
    targets, Ana Menendez initially correctly recognizes the gravity of the
    proposed award of a billion-dollar contract for the dredging of the
    Miami Port tunnel to a French infrastructure company that built 11
    luxury tourist hotels in Cuba as a business partner of Raul Castro's
    armed forces. While Menendez then proceeds to engage in unwarranted and
    divisive attacks against what she (just like the Castro brothers) refers
    to as the ''mighty Miami Cuban Mafia,'' this weighty issue may be just
    what our community needs to rally around a noble and worthy cause.

    As commuters in Miami-Dade County, we are all painfully aware of the
    pressing need for bold and innovative solutions to our traffic woes. The
    proposed Miami Port tunnel may be a significant step toward just such an
    important and necessary goal.

    In our zeal to solve our traffic problems, however, we should first
    reflect on exactly what is at stake here. The French-based Bouygues
    Construction Group, the lowest bidder for the port tunnel, also happens
    to be one of the most significant foreign joint-venture partners of the
    Castro brothers' Unión de Construcciones Militares and other state
    entities in building substantial infrastructure projects in Cuba. What
    does this imply?

    • First, these hotels were knowingly built by Bouygues on desirable
    properties stolen outright from their legitimate owners without any
    compensation whatsoever. Many of these dispossessed owners, on whose
    confiscated properties Bouygues is openly and unlawfully trafficking,
    are now U.S. citizens and South Florida residents.

    • Second, by the Castro regime's rigidly enforced rules, all of the
    Cuban employees at these hotels are paid exclusively by their own
    government in nearly worthless pesos, although Bouygues pays its Cuban
    military partner a vastly greater sum in euros for these dehumanized
    ''labor units.'' In allowing the Castro regime to essentially pocket
    this enormous wage differential, Bouygues is acquiescing in a despicable
    and indefensible modern form of slave labor.

    • Third, both partners in this unholy alliance closely collaborate in
    strictly enforcing a system of tourist apartheid, under which ordinary
    Cubans (even those bearing dollars from relatives in Miami) are
    forbidden from enjoying their own country's beautiful beaches. Is this
    not the type of practice that the international community correctly
    united against in hastening the end of the white-supremacist regime in
    South Africa? One definitely does not have to be a Cuban American to be
    offended by this basic human injustice.

    Certainly, under these appalling conditions, few of us are so morally
    jaded as to simply accept that ''business is business'' in Miami, as
    Menendez writes. In a misguided attempt to mitigate our traffic problems
    in this community, let us not now create a monument to insensitivity
    that may justifiably be dubbed the “trafficker's tunnel.''

    Someday soon, the Cuban people will regain their long-suppressed
    sovereignty. I do not ever want to be in a position to have to try to
    explain to them why we rewarded a major collaborator of their oppressor
    with more than a billion hard-earned taxpayer dollars in an effort to
    shorten our daily commutes.

    Menendez almost seems to be daring our community to urge our
    representatives to confront this proposed affront to our collective
    honor and dignity. I, for one, am confident that we will duly rise to
    meet this formidable challenge and hope to even have Menendez's
    persuasive pen on the right side of this public debate.

    Nicolás Gutiérrez Jr., an international business attorney, represents
    the owners of confiscated beachfront property in Holguín, Cuba, on which
    the Bouygues Construction Group built the Playa Pesquero Hotel in 2003.


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