Gloria Estefan interviewing Obama for a Univision Christmas special last December
BY LESLEY CLARK
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama conveyed his harshest rebuke yet of Havana’s government last week and, hours later, Gloria Estefan protested repression in Havana from the streets of Miami.
Now, they’ll be together again when the Cuban-born singer and her husband, Emilio, host Obama at their Miami Beach home April 15 for a Democratic National Committee fundraiser, when the president comes to Florida to talk about cuts to the NASA space program.
The $30,400-a-couple cocktail reception is the Estefans’ first political fundraiser, said Democratic consultant Freddy Balsera, who advised Obama’s campaign on Hispanic issues and is close to the couple. The Estefans — who were traveling and unavailable Thursday for comment — orchestrated a massive march through Miami’s Little Havana in support of Cuba’s Damas de Blanco, or Ladies in White, peaceful dissidents who were attacked by government security forces in Havana.
“They’re both at a place in their lives where they believe giving back is important and patriotism is important,” Balsera said. Obama will also attend a fundraiser at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Miami that same day. Tickets for that event start at $250 and $1,250.
Though they’ve kept a low political profile, the Estefans are no strangers to the White House. Gloria performed at the inaugural festivities for President George W. Bush in 2005, following Bush’s 2002 appointment of Emilio to the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities and the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts.
Emilio met with Obama at the White House last May, according to the Washington Times, which reported at the time that Emilio hoped to have Obama over for dinner to talk about U.S.-Cuba relations.
“We just want freedom,” he told the newspaper.
In September, Obama appointed Emilio to a commission to study the feasibility of a National Museum of the American Latino, and Gloria Estefan — along with Marc Anthony, Jose Feliciano and others — performed at the White House in October as it celebrated Hispanic music. The president quoted Gloria in his welcoming remarks, noting that in her words, “the most beautiful things in this country have the flavor of other places.”
Gloria also scored a pre-Christmas interview with Obama for Univision.
The pair chatted about Santa and reindeer, with Estefan prompting Obama to deliver a holiday message in what he jokingly called his “flawless” Spanish.
Obama’s reception in Florida may not be entirely celebratory. He’s convened a conference on the Space Coast that day to defend his plans to cancel a NASA space exploration program — a decision that has prompted howls of protest from Florida’s congressional delegation.
RESPONSE FROM CUBA CENTRAL
Center for Democracy in the Americas
PO Box 53106 NW
April 2, 2010
According to news reports, President Barack Obama will travel to Miami, Florida later this month for a fundraiser at the home of Gloria Estefan, where couples will pay $34,500 in donations to the Democratic National Committee for the privilege of attending.
Ms. Estefan is a leader in the Cuban-American community and an outspoken advocate – as is her right – for hard-line policies against Cuba’s government.
Recently, she helped lead a march in the Miami community – also her right – protesting human rights conditions in Cuba. But joining her parade was Luis Posada Carriles, the man responsible for the first act of mid-air terrorism in our hemisphere. This took place on October 6, 1976, when a bomb exploded on Cubana Flight 455, causing the plan to plunge into the ocean and killing all 73 crew and passengers aboard, many of them Cuban teenagers. Posada Carriles continues to walk free, and the U.S. continues to list Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism.
And now that Luis Posada Carriles has marched with Ms. Estefan, Ms. Estefan is holding a fundraiser for the President.
Public Campaign reported last year that supporters of sanctions against Cuba have donated nearly $11 million to Members of Congress since 2004 in what the Miami Herald called “a largely successful effort” to prevent changes in the policy.
Now, thanks to Ms. Estefan, a sizeable chunk of campaign funds will land in the hands of the DNC and could help defray the costs of the President’s political activities and 2012 presidential campaign.
Normal people – and high-level donors – think that politicians are influenced by such massive contributions. One of them is President Obama.
The President has often said that he is committed to prying the hands of the special interests off the levers of government. At $34,500 per couple, the people lining up to attend the Gloria Estefan fundraiser better hope that he’s kidding. The rest of us hope that he is isn’t.
U.S. policy toward Cuba – flawed and failed as it is today – should reflect both the national interest of the country and the views of all Americans, not just the fortunate few who can pay the freight and get close, private access to the most important official who decides what the policy ought to be.
That, dear readers, would be change we could believe in.