Peace Without Freedom?

Saturday, August 29, 2009
By Miguel Perez
When the Colombian pop singer known as Juanes announced that he would take his music to Havana's Plaza of the Revolution soon to perform in a "Peace Without Borders" concert, I had some soul-searching to do. Surely it happened to most of my fellow Cuban-Americans.

We had to weigh all the facts and decide which side we were going to fall on. There was no gray area, no middle ground. We were going to either applaud Juanes for trying to reach Cuba's isolated youth or condemn him for demonstrating amazing ignorance in dealing with Cuba's highly manipulative communist dictatorship.

I fall with the latter.

In the past, I have argued against mixing politics with sports or entertainment. When Cuban athletes and entertainers have managed to come to compete or perform here, I have been criticized by some Cuban-Americans for supporting and even attending some of those events. In my mind, I was not only admiring their talent and feeling that nationalistic pride that only your countrymen can give you but also hoping they would find a way to defect. And many of them did! I applauded baseball player Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez and musician Paquito D'Rivera long before one became a New York Yankee and the other an icon of American jazz.

But this is quite different. I see no reason to clap for Juanes, who clearly lacks the cojones to say he is going to Cuba to perform in a concert for freedom instead of peace.

When Juanes and other artists performed in a similar concert in war-torn Colombia last year, calling for peace made a lot of sense, especially because his country was facing growing friction with neighboring Ecuador and Venezuela. But the only war in Cuba is the war of the government against its own people. Will Juanes ask for peace in that war? Will he call for respect for freedom of expression and other human rights that really would allow the Cuban people to live in peace?

Don't count on it!

While Juanes calls "Peace Without Borders" "a politically neutral organization," this concert is by no means independently produced. This spectacle, scheduled for Sept. 20, will be entirely staged by the Machiavellian Cuban government. It will be used as another propaganda tool to tell the world that it is OK to accept Cuba in its abhorrently repressive state. After all, Juanes has!

Those images of young Cuban people taking breaths of freedom at a concert for a couple of hours will be used to manipulate the news media and to fool the world, to make us forget that those same young people instantly would have cleared the Plaza of the Revolution if Juanes had announced the presence of enough boats on the Havana shore to take them all to Miami.

Does Juanes not see the hypocrisy in a peace concert for people who don't have freedom? For a musician who has written some smart lyrics, he is surprisingly dumb when it comes to politics.

Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass in the plaza and still couldn't get the Cuban government to release the people from its satanic grip. Yet apparently, Juanes thinks that by singing a few songs, he can perform miracles.

The concert, featuring communist Cuban performers along with visiting artists, has ignited a heated debate among Cuban-Americans, especially in cyberspace. Bloggers and e-mail writers passionately have been expressing feelings that range from calls for reconciliation to death threats.

At one extreme, you have those who argue, quite hypocritically, that Juanes should not be "censored" by Cuban-Americans for performing in Cuba. Mind you, this is a country where everyone in censored and where a Cuban-American singer, such as Miami's Willy Chirino, never would be allowed to return to perform his songs about freedom.

At the other extreme, you have a few pinheads who not only overreacted but also used Twitter to post threats against the singer's life, giving the whole controversy much more attention than it deserves. You also have those Miami Cubans who held a demonstration at which they smashed and burned Juanes CDs, apparently forgetting that the dictatorship they abhor began with similar angry bonfires.

And yet there are those who rightfully question the double standards of Juanes and other politically left-leaning performers. They never would perform for a racist regime or right-wing dictatorship but are willing to overlook the atrocities of a leftist ideologue, even when that leftist has a history of sponsoring bloodshed abroad, including in Juanes' Colombia.

Would Juanes have performed in the right-wing Chile of Augusto Pinochet? Would he and his fellow concert headliners, Puerto Rico's Olga Tanon and Spain's Miguel Bose, have gone to South Africa to perform during apartheid? Do they know that the Nelson Mandelas of Cuba are still in prison? Didn't Juanes recently cancel a "Peace Without Borders" concert in Honduras because he didn't want to legitimize the temporary government there? Doesn't the 50-year-long dictatorship in Cuba exude enough illegitimacy? Does Juanes really want to help legitimize the same evil force that drives the FARC guerrillas in his homeland?

Let's face it; those are just too many hard questions for a young lad who wrote a few good songs and somehow thought it gave him the wisdom to delve into politics. Juanes has demonstrated that he is just one more extremely naive and gravely misinformed "useful fool" — the kind of person who allows himself to be used by leftist despots.

As long as it is done in pursuit of the useful fools' elusive "peace," you can count them in — forsaking even freedom!

© 2009 Creators Syndicate.