Yesterday one of my Twitter followers alerted me to the fact that the League of Women Voters Florida Chapter was visiting Cuba this week. While I had heard that they had indeed visited Cuba in the past, I figured it was a one-time thing they did as some sort of civics outreach project. I was wrong. So I decided to go ahead and dig a little deeper into their activities, and what I found was downright shocking and outrageous. Apparently, the League of Women Voters, which fancies itself a voting rights group, among other things, has organized multiple “delegation trips” to the Communist island since 2011 after Obama legalized so-called “person-to-person” travel. Traveling to Cuba under this system involves arrangements with U.S. and Cuban government-authorized operators and strict schedules of “educational” and “cultural” activities that are organized and led by Cuban government-approved tour guides. This is evident by the very videos, online brochures and other information that the League of Women Voters Florida has put out to promote these trips. A promo video released just three days ago by the League’s official YouTube account includes pictures of beautiful Cuban scenery, happy natives, impressive old buildings (built before Castro, of course), classic cars (American, and before Castro, of course) various tourist spots, smiling children in communist pioneer uniforms, and several images glorifying Communist butcher Che Guevara. Missing were pictures of dilapidated buildings, gulags, empty grocery store shelves, beaten dissidents, ration cards and food lines. I guess the tour guides didn’t take them to where the regular natives live. Oh, but the video does end with a web link to instructions on how to visit Cuba. Here’s the promo video: A recent trip agenda shows that “delegates” visited typical tourist attractions (old buildings, historic neighborhoods, restaurants, etc.), many of which regular Cubans are legally barred from visiting (call it Cuban apartheid). But the “educational” components of the trip all involved spending time with official Cuban government organizations and members of the regime’s intelligentsia, including lectures by university professors, meetings with members of the regime’s “Federation of Cuban Women” (a cadre founded by Raúl Castro’s late wife who is depicted on the organization’s logo), roundtable discussions with editors of state media, etc. Another video of a past trip shows League “delegates” meeting with Cuban National Assembly Members, which of course, are all communists, since that’s the only legal political party on the island (if you watch the video, be sure to mute it, as my ears almost bled from the horrific background “music”). In other words, every organized “person-to-person” interaction is decided by the regime. There is no time set aside for League of Women Voters Florida “delegates” to meet with struggling everyday Cubans or anyone who is actually fighting for voting rights–and human rights, and civil rights, and womens’ rights… you get the picture. By those, of course I mean Cuba’s dissidents who are beaten and jailed on a regular basis for doing what members of the League of Women Voters do every single day as a matter of mission and purpose.
- Have the League of Women Voters Florida set time aside to meet with independent journalists who are censored, persecuted and oftentimes imprisoned? No–they meet with state media.
- Have the League of Women Voters Florida set time aside to meet with Las Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White), Cuba’s internationally-recognized, award-winning all-woman civil rights group that regularly suffers persecution, beatings, and imprisonment by the very organizations that League “delegates” engage in roundtable discussions with? No–they meet with female apparatchiks.
- Have the League of Women Voters Florida set time aside to visit any of the countless political prisoners rotting in Castro’s gulags? How about the rapper “El Critico,” jailed for merely rapping about freedom? No and no.
- When the League of Women Voters Florida met with Johana Tablada, subdirector of the department that oversees U.S. affairs at Cuba’s Foreign Ministry, did they bring up–much less ask to visit–Alan Gross, the innocent American citizen Castro has been holding hostage for four years? No.
So exactly what person-to-person contacts are the League of Women Voters Florida engaging in? Any the Castro regime allows them to engage in. And this begs the question: Why would the League’s Florida director, Cuban-American (allegedly) and former State Representative Annie Betancourt allow this, much less continue organizing and touting these trips? Pulitzer Prize Winner Fabiola Santiago of the Miami Herald apparently had a similar question. In a fantastic column exposing the League’s hypocrisy with regards to this issue, which I encourage everyone to read, Santiago asked Betancourt why her organization had not met with Cuba’s Ladies in White. Fabiola Santiago writes:
Betancourt tells me that these abused women aren’t in the Florida organization’s agenda. “Never had that conversation,” Betancourt, a Cuban American and former state representative from Miami, writes me. “We do engage in other type of exchanges related to daily hardships, domestic violence, child rearing practices, elderly services, self-employment (all non-political).” So in the hierarchy of morality of the League of Women Voters, violence is not a problem when government goons beat, detain and jail women. It’s only an issue when their husbands do. “The travel license issued by OFAC [the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control] is for ‘people-to-people’ engagement; those are the rules,” Betancourt says. “This has nothing to do with morality.”
You’re right, Annie. This has nothing to do with morality. If it did, you and the Florida Chapter of the League of Women Voters wouldn’t be turning a blind eye to the abuses the Cuban regime commits. This isn’t about humanity, either, since you gleefully confer legitimacy on the the very despots that carry out such deadly repression by sitting with their affiliates to discuss American chauvinism over a cafecito. Right Annie? Such apathy is absolutely chilling and outright reprehensible. The League of Women Voters Florida should really reflect on its core mission, immediately cease this farce of a “person-to-person” program and fire its director Annie Betancourt. If they do not, as I suspect they won’t, then I challenge them to at the very least sit down with perpetually persecuted Ladies in White members who ACTUALLY struggle and shed ACTUAL blood for the basic ideals that League members have espoused comfortably and safely for almost a century. It wouldn’t hurt them to learn a thing or two from Ladies.
The Tampa Tribune has taken note of the League of Women Voters Florida increasingly non-voting political activities, including their junkets to Cuba.
In an article titled “League of Women Voters draws critics for nonvoting work” the Tribune mentions some of the political activities it has been engaged in, which are almost exclusively left-of-center, calling it “a progressive agenda at first blush.”
The article mentions my blog post above and notes that although the organization calls itself “strictly nonpartisan” on its website, another section of the website states that “the League is wholeheartedly political and works to influence policy through advocacy.” Except when it comes to a repressive regime, of course; in that case, they prefer to merely “open the lines of communication” between them and the agents of repression.
But I digress.
The article was also reprinted in the Naples News, and was titled “League of Women Voters goes political: pushes Medicaid expansion, Cuba visits.”
League of Women Voters BLOCKS Reaganista on Twitter
Apparently the League of Women Voters Florida does not appreciate all the attention I’ve given them lately, so they have decided to block yours truly on Twitter! Mind you, I can still read what they’re up to, but I just can’t have their tweets pop-up on my timeline. It also prevents my tweets about them to pop-up on their mentions list, although people can still do a separate search.
I’m sure I’ll figure a way to pick up the pieces and go on with my life after this devastating news.