Posted on Mon, May. 21, 2007
MIAMI PORT TUNNEL
Human injustice vs. business as usual
BY NICOLAS J. GUTIERREZ JR.
In her provocative May 16 column Rabble-rousers gravitate to easy
targets, Ana Menendez initially correctly recognizes the gravity of the
proposed award of a billion-dollar contract for the dredging of the
Miami Port tunnel to a French infrastructure company that built 11
luxury tourist hotels in Cuba as a business partner of Raul Castro's
armed forces. While Menendez then proceeds to engage in unwarranted and
divisive attacks against what she (just like the Castro brothers) refers
to as the ''mighty Miami Cuban Mafia,'' this weighty issue may be just
what our community needs to rally around a noble and worthy cause.
As commuters in Miami-Dade County, we are all painfully aware of the
pressing need for bold and innovative solutions to our traffic woes. The
proposed Miami Port tunnel may be a significant step toward just such an
important and necessary goal.
In our zeal to solve our traffic problems, however, we should first
reflect on exactly what is at stake here. The French-based Bouygues
Construction Group, the lowest bidder for the port tunnel, also happens
to be one of the most significant foreign joint-venture partners of the
Castro brothers' Unión de Construcciones Militares and other state
entities in building substantial infrastructure projects in Cuba. What
does this imply?
• First, these hotels were knowingly built by Bouygues on desirable
properties stolen outright from their legitimate owners without any
compensation whatsoever. Many of these dispossessed owners, on whose
confiscated properties Bouygues is openly and unlawfully trafficking,
are now U.S. citizens and South Florida residents.
• Second, by the Castro regime's rigidly enforced rules, all of the
Cuban employees at these hotels are paid exclusively by their own
government in nearly worthless pesos, although Bouygues pays its Cuban
military partner a vastly greater sum in euros for these dehumanized
''labor units.'' In allowing the Castro regime to essentially pocket
this enormous wage differential, Bouygues is acquiescing in a despicable
and indefensible modern form of slave labor.
• Third, both partners in this unholy alliance closely collaborate in
strictly enforcing a system of tourist apartheid, under which ordinary
Cubans (even those bearing dollars from relatives in Miami) are
forbidden from enjoying their own country's beautiful beaches. Is this
not the type of practice that the international community correctly
united against in hastening the end of the white-supremacist regime in
South Africa? One definitely does not have to be a Cuban American to be
offended by this basic human injustice.
Certainly, under these appalling conditions, few of us are so morally
jaded as to simply accept that ''business is business'' in Miami, as
Menendez writes. In a misguided attempt to mitigate our traffic problems
in this community, let us not now create a monument to insensitivity
that may justifiably be dubbed the “trafficker's tunnel.''
Someday soon, the Cuban people will regain their long-suppressed
sovereignty. I do not ever want to be in a position to have to try to
explain to them why we rewarded a major collaborator of their oppressor
with more than a billion hard-earned taxpayer dollars in an effort to
shorten our daily commutes.
Menendez almost seems to be daring our community to urge our
representatives to confront this proposed affront to our collective
honor and dignity. I, for one, am confident that we will duly rise to
meet this formidable challenge and hope to even have Menendez's
persuasive pen on the right side of this public debate.
Nicolás Gutiérrez Jr., an international business attorney, represents
the owners of confiscated beachfront property in Holguín, Cuba, on which
the Bouygues Construction Group built the Playa Pesquero Hotel in 2003.