Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Cool Cuban Heats Miami Tempers

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Cool Cuban Heats Miami Tempers

Article excerpt

IN the rapid-fire Cuban Spanish that peppers the airwaves of Miami, a lot gets said. But it's what doesn't get said that radio personality and businessman Francisco Aruca is about.

Mr. Aruca's moderate position supporting peaceful change in Cuba has long been viewed as treasonous in the white-hot anti-Castro politics of the Cuban-exile community. His is a perspective few voice publicly in Miami.

So the fact that Aruca's Radio Progreso has survived a year "with just a few windows smashed," he says, may be a sign of change in Cuban exile thought. More broadly, say others, it is a sign that the collapse of Soviet communism and its support of client states is having an effect, however slow, in softening the Cuban exile resolve about the violent overthrow of Fidel Castro.

The monolithic anti-Castro stereotype overshadows a wide spectrum of opinion in the Cuban community, says Mr. Aruca. He was recently in Washington to lobby against efforts to tighten the US embargo against Cuba.

An unabashed free-marketeer, Aruca has made a successful business out of bucking the Cuban-exile stereotype, first chartering tours to Cuba and now broadcasting a different point of view. He doesn't hide his entreprenuerial interest in getting an economic share in Cuba if relations thaw.

Is he anti-Castro? "The point is not what you're against but how you accomplish change," Aruca replies. "The best way to expedite change is to engage them {Cuba} in economic trade. Allow trade, allow travel."

The Cuban government now is hungry for foreign investment and, in the area of tourism, has signed more than 60 deals for foreign investment in recent years, he says.

"I find it hard to believe that if they are allowing private investors to come into almost any sector of the economy, and that they're allowing that investor to administer whatever project he's involved in, that that's not going to have a spillover effect on the political arena," says the small man, whose hands fly as he punctuates his energetic conversation.

Broadcasting this point of view in Miami is a first. It has caused fewer problems than Aruca imagined, he says. Besides having some of its windows smashed, the station is frequently the culmination point for anti-Castro marches (Aruca has good-naturedly delivered lemonade to demonstrators). His commercial sponsors are regularly threatened for buying time on his programs; Aruca is vilified by other broadcasters as a Cuban agent. …

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