Freedom suffers as anti-Castro fever reaches new heights

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The sacking of a local arts board member who advocated allowing Cuban musicians to play in Miami has brought debate over freedom of speech in this fervently anti-Castro city to a crescendo.

Pop star Gloria Estefan, whose father was an officer in ousted Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista's security forces, joined the chorus against intolerance yesterday, saying in a Miami Herald opinion piece that all should be allowed to voice an opinion without fear of reprisal. "As an American I am frightened to see one of the most basic civil liberties being trampled on in the march for political gain," she wrote.

The issue boiled over after Miami hosted an international trade fair showcasing and Caribbean music last month. Dade County authorities refused to let Cuban artists attend.

Last Tuesday, Peggy McKinley, a member of the county's film advisory board, was sacked for suggesting the ban should be lifted. Commissioner Bruce Kaplan, who sacked her, said her comments were "totally inappropriate and insulting to the community I represent."

And Ninoska Perez, of the Cuban American National Foundation, called her remarks "an affront to the many victims in our community who are survivors of Fidel Castro's human rights atrocities".

-- Reuters