Colombian singer/songwriter Juanes is organizing a concert in Cuba as part of his Paz Sin Fronteras (Peace Without Borders) concert tour. He has repeatedly said he is performing for the Cuban people, not the government, bringing a message of hope, love, and peace. Yet, he has also said that he will not speak out about Cuba’s poor human rights record, nor meet with members of Cuba’s opposition movement, in order to keep the event from becoming “political.”
While the Free Cuba Foundation (FCF) recognizes that Juanes has the right to invite whomever he pleases to sing with him, having both Amaury Perez and Silvio Rodriguez sends a mixed message. Both are staunch supporters of the Cuban Communist government and signed a petition justifying the regime’s imprisonment of 75 nonviolent dissidents and the execution of three young Afro-Cubans who tried to flee to the United States back in the spring of 2003. Although no one denies their artistic talent, poet Ezra Pound and singer Paul Robeson had their reputation tainted for endorsing Hitler and Stalin respectively. Whatever the quality of their art, it is immoral for artists to support injustice.
FCF is not concerned that this concert will grant legitimacy to Cuba’s totalitarian regime, because no unelected dictatorship could ever gain it from a pop concert.
FCF calls for respect for freedom of expression everywhere, and denounces any violence that stifles that freedom. Censorship imposed through violence and intimidation is routine in places such as Cuba. However, it should never be tolerated here in Miami, where many of the victims of this regime reside. That is why we are denouncing the threats made against Juanes. We respect nonviolent protests, but the destruction of Juanes CDs, conjure up images of book burnings in communist and fascist dictatorships. These acts send a false message not only to the rest of the world, but more importantly to Cubans on the island. These acts serve to feed the Cuban government’s propaganda machinery which aims to smear the exile community with the aim of generating divisions between ordinary Cubans living here and on the island.
Our organization believes that all individuals, including Cubans, have the right to take part in the arts and in cultural events, as enshrined in Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
If one is serious about peace then one should speak out against injustice and the absence of freedom. In Cuba, musicians who are independent or critical of the regime are censored, and there are many prisoners of conscience behind bars for exercising their human rights. These are not political issues. These are human rights issues and issues of human dignity. A concert like this could help foster freedom of expression in the arts the same way the late Pope John Paul II made gains in the area of freedom of religion, as he celebrated Mass before thousands of Cubans, and called upon them to not be afraid and to “do all that you can to build a future of ever greater dignity and freedom.”
Therefore FCF’s Message to Juanes is:
If you want to bring a message of peace, reconciliation, and impacting change to Cuba, then including artists that oppose the dictatorship is a logical necessity, and speaking up for human rights and the immediate release of all prisoners of conscience is essential. Only then will this concert truly live up to its name of “Peace Without Borders”, otherwise it risks being remembered as the “Censored Within Boundaries” concert. This is the concern raised by many Cuban artists both on the island and in exile, who insist the concert live up to its name.
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Denounce Death Threats Against Juanes