Judge to Bar Miami-Dade County from Enforcing Culture Ban on Cuba

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
July 11, 2000 12:00 am

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MIAMI, FL — Vindicating the free expression rights of the arts community here, a federal court today said it would permanently block Miami-Dade County from barring artists connected with Communist-ruled Cuba from performing in Miami.

“Judge Moreno has initiated a new day in Miami for tolerance, diversity and freedom of the arts,” said Howard Simon, ACLU of Florida Executive Director. “We are pleased that he will remove Miami-Dade County from the business of foreign policy and end the persistent censorship of the arts in South Florida.”

Prior to Judge Moreno’s ruling, Miami-Dade County required all groups wishing to apply for County cultural grants or seeking to use County facilities for cultural venues to submit a sworn “Cuba Affidavit” pledging that they do not and have not done business with Cuba or those doing business with Cuba.

Last May, Judge Moreno issued a temporary order allowing arts organizations to submit applications for the County’s International Cultural Exchange Grants without complying with most of the provisions of the Cuba Affidavit. Today’s ruling makes that order permanent.

“The ACLU recognizes the intense feelings that led to the enactment of the Cuba Ordinance by the County Commission,” said John de Leon, Greater Miami Chapter ACLU President.

“Nevertheless, we are hopeful that this will lead to a new era in which the Miami-Dade County government will no longer dictate to people in this community who they may see perform in County venues, nor take action against non-profit organizations and arts promoters for sponsoring groups and individuals that the county government does not want them to present.”

The lawsuit, Miami Light Project v. Miami-Dade County, was filed by the ACLU on behalf of the Miami Light Project, GableStage, the Cuban Cultural Group, and concert promoters Debra Ohanian and Hugo Cancio. The organizations are not-for-profit and for-profit entities offering cultural events that might directly or indirectly involve Cuban nationals.

In a related development, last month the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously declared unconstitutional a Massachusetts law restricting purchases from companies that do business with Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). The state adopted the restriction in 1996, after Myanmar’s military regime was accused of drug trafficking, torture and slave labor. The Justices said that the federal government has exclusive authority to set foreign policy and regulate foreign commerce.

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