Commentary: Cuba is on top of Estefans' agenda with Obama

The Miami HeraldApril 15, 2010 

They have visited with six American presidents. Traveled from China to England to speak to ambassadors and heads of state. Seen the pope.

At each stop, they have talked about their pain. About growing up without his mom for eight years because she was forced to stay behind in their homeland. About having her dad give all for his country and be imprisoned.

Now Emilio and Gloria Estefan want to share the story of Cuba's 51-year dictatorship with President Barack Obama, put human rights at the top, give the island's 11 million people hope.

The Republicans who marched with the Estefans in solidarity with the Ladies in White two weeks ago in Miami read about the couple hosting an eye-popping $30,400-per-couple fundraiser and feel used. The nation's political divisions -- the tea partyers who call Obama a communist, the birthers who insist he was born in Kenya -- become magnified in older exiles' hearts into irreconcilable differences with the Democrats.

Yet when Jorge Mas Canosa was alive his Cuban American National Foundation had the gumption to go to the Soviet Union -- the USSR for heaven's sake! -- when Mikhail Gorbachev was talking glasnost. And CANF always gave money to Democratic and Republican candidates. All in an effort to help end Cuba's dictatorship.

It hurts the Estefans to hear some question their integrity now. Emilio agreed to host Obama about a month ago, when the White House asked, he says. The Estefans seized on a chance to get Obama's ear on Cuba. The Miami march sprang from the attacks on the Ladies in Cuba, not from some Machiavellian plot to help the Democrats.

"We don't win anything with this," Emilio told me last week. "We're independent, always have been. . . . I voted for Obama, but I also voted for [George W.] Bush. There are people with good intentions in both parties."

To read the complete column, visit www.miamiherald.com

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