Saturday, October 9, 1999 Published at 15:18 GMT 16:18 UK
Cuban concert sparks outrage
Los Van Van: Branded the official band of Fidel Castro
By Malcolm Brabant in Miami
Noisy protests are expected in Miami when Cuba's most popular dance band, Los Van Van, finishes its American tour with a concert in the south Florida city.
A million Cuban exiles from Fidel Castro's regime live in Miami, many of whom vigorously oppose the concert. Yet the US Government approved the band's tour as part of an attempt to improve relations between the two countries.
Promoters thought the improving climate between Havana and Washington would eliminate any trouble but they were wrong.
Meanwhile, Spanish language radio has provided another vehicle for protest.
Talk show host and Ninosko Peres, who is also a spokeswoman for the anti-Castro, Cuban American National Foundation, accuses Los Van Van of playing for Castro while opponents were being sent to concentration camps.
Many older Cuban Americans in Havana's Little Miami district support that argument.
They are disappointed that the Florida branch of the American civil liberties union invoked America's constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech to secure a venue for the concert.
But many more moderate Cuban exiles are expected to stay away from the concert for fear that their businesses and personal lives could be threatened.
Opponents of Los Van Van have said they will videotape concert goers, the implication being it will be used as incriminating evidence in the future.
The concert has been organised by nightclub owner Debbie O'Hanion, who is capitalising on America's growing interest in Latin music, particularly Cuban salsa.
"I think the concept of people-to-people contact is great, " commented Ms O'Hanion.
"If this can help break down some barriers and maybe make people here aware of something that's going on on the island, something positive, the fact that Cuban music is so huge around the world - I think that's wonderful."
The Los Van Van concert has again highlighted the growing divisions within the Cuban exile community.
In general, young Cubans appear to approve of closer ties with Havana while their parents and grandparents do not.
Cuban community leaders have appealed for peaceful protests.
But in the past, venues that have hosted Cuban bands have been firebombed. So neither the police, nor the promoters can let down their guard.