Archive for the 'Social Commentary' Category

‘Panama Papers:” Doomed to Oblivion? A History

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A Rake's Progress

Public memory is short, so is media editorial attention. With the release of the “Panama Papers,” Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson resigned.  In a world of impunity for the powerful, he will possibly remain the sole sacrificial lamb.  Britain’s conservative Prime Minister David Cameron finally admitted to a beneficial interest in his father’s offshore investment trust. Figures implicated in the Mossack Fonseca leak include a Spanish Infanta (another princess is being tried for corruption and hiding assets). The list of the notorious includes Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Petro Proshenko, the Qatari, Moroccan and the Saudi royal families, the Chinese Communist Party leadership and Venezuelan Chavista apparatchiks.

The revelations should come as no surprise. Italian journalist Roberto Saviano has recently published ZeroZeroZero detailing the operations and political tentacles of drug cartels and the Russian mafia. Money laundering through offshore accounts is their vehicle to power, political connections and luxury.

Hervé Falciani with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists made public extensive information about HSBC Geneva . The bank held over 181 billion € for close to 100, 000 individual depositors and 20, 000 offshore companies. Clients included Wellington Florida resident and former Chavista Alejandro Andrade, billionaire Alfred Taubman, Argentine socialite collector Amalita de Fortabat*, actor Christian Slater, designer Diane von Fürstenberg, among others. Socialist Venezuela ranked third among countries with the largest dollar amounts, the United States fourth with $13.4 billion (USD).

In a story that has gone cold, senior management of Banca Privada d’Andorra was arrested, the bank taken over after the US Treasury revealed that it was a “primary money laundering concern” for the Russian mafia, Chinese shady operators and Venezuelan corrupt officials. Matters became complicated when it was revealed that BPA had acquired Banco Madrid, a private bank in the Spanish capital. The country’s central bank took control of the entity. The United States had expressed concern over suspect operations and correspondent relationships with HSBC, Citigroup, Bank of America and Deutsche Bank. The results of the investigations were never released to the press. The identities of those involved remain a secret.

In 2012, Assistant Attorney General (a Clinton family friend, “FOB”) Lanny Breuer offered HSBC a sweet settlement deal after the British bank admitted to violating financial regulations, criminal law and federal statutes when laundering billions of dollars for Mexican and Colombian drug cartels. According to a Rolling Stone story, none of the bank officials were criminally prosecuted, their punishment: “deferred compensation bonus.” HSBC was recently sued by American victims of violent crime from drug cartel activity.

A “60 Minutes” segment aired on January 31, 2016 showed American lawyers’ inclination (including top-notch New York legal firms) to set up staggered corporate structures shell companies with offshore origins. They would be designed to invest funds in Manhattan real estate, yachts, airplanes and items of conspicuous consumption.

McClatchy Miami Herald investigators reveal that Mossack Fonseca retained the services of a Miami representative. Not without irony, Olga Santini worked out of a “Miami Vice”-featured Brickell apartment. The city’s luxury real estate market is awash with stories of corrupt Brazilians, Italian gangsters, Venezuelans and other colorful Latin Americans buying multi-million-dollar properties.  Interestingly, the paper has not revealed any Russian name from the resident Sunny Isles and Aventura plutocracy. Area politicians have objected to a FinCEN geographic investigation of high-value real estate transactions. Waterfront apartments on Brickell, downtown Miami, Miami Beach, Surfside, Aventura, Bal Harbour and Sunny Isles are all in the seven figure range.

With Espirito Santo Bank, Miami was the setting for another international banking and money laundering scandal. The parent company in Lisbon was taken over by the government, investigated, its CEO detained on suspicion of fraud, mismanagement and irregularities. The conglomerate was audited for evidence of money laundering. The empire included a diamond mine in Angola, Miami luxury condos and a Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) office and hotel (Conrad) skyscraper on Brickell Avenue. The tower was quietly sold for $142 million. The sale took place after Santo Espirito Bank had been sued for fraud and aiding and abetting money laundering. In February 2014, SSB agreed to a consent order with the FDIC regarding bank secrecy and anti-money laundering requirements. According to The Wall Street Journal, as recently as December 2014, New York prosecutors and a federal grand jury sought to ascertain if the Miami subsidiary had been used by a Venezuelan businessman to launder money and transfer large sums to the Cayman Islands and Switzerland. In July, 2015, Ricardo Espirito Santo Salgado, head of the empire, was placed under house arrest in Lisbon. In a surprise move announced in May of last year, a Venezuelan group headed by Salomón Benacerraf (owner of newspaper Diario Las Américas)  and the Cohen family of the Sambil Group (shopping centers in Curaçao, Dominican Republic and Spain) purchased Espirito Santo Bank Miami for $10 million. It is has been rebranded as Brickell Bank.

Miami banking authorities and regulators are now looking at increased activity in bearer bonds from non-citizens and account-holders from non-resident corporate entities. It is often that offshores seek the anonymity of Delaware corporations to allow them entry into the United States.

Only The Guardian has reported on a common practice by offshore companies for portfolio diversification: art purchases. The British paper tells the story of currency trader, John Lewis, a former George Soros partner, who purchased the Ganz collection and using Christie’s changed the course of art world economics, the history of the auction house and the investment in visual arts as a high-value high-return asset for offshore agents. The ease with which art sales can take place, relatively unsupervised, to international companies – especially at the gallery level or within the context of international art fairs – makes this an ideal venture instrument, easy to transport, easy to hide and with a fast turnaround possibility as long as the provenance is legitimate and the piece is certified by a recognized expert. The very galleries or auction houses that sell the pieces to an offshore corporation have no problems encouraging museums to showcase the works in special exhibits (further enhancing the value of the asset) if in the collection of a corporate owner. This affords anonymity and legitimacy.

The “Panama papers” are evidence of a sense of entitlement and assured impunity. Socioeconomic status confers privileges on a ruling oligarchy. Politicians, sports figures, hedge fund billionaires, royalty, entertainers, powerful investors and bankers are actors in a global economy and a transnational financial system. It assures them profit and permanence. Laws and financial regulations are flexible and accommodating to hegemony. The major players in the system, multinational corporations and international financial institutions have evolved into a “transnational historic bloc” that exercises global power by controlling even the information released to the public through the media they control and the way justice is administered. Economic and financial structures respond to political patronage. With financial and power concentration in fewer hands, instances like the “Panama Papers” will provide short-term  entertainment but no real pressure for transparency and accountability.

The world financial system’s fragility was tested by fraudulently rated mixed mortgage-backed instruments. No systematic investigation and prosecution of culprits ensued from our Justice Department. Is one to expect any difference this time?

 

  • Pictures of the author with the late Amalita de Fortabat, Dolores Smithies and Mrs. Javier Pérez de Cuéllar were published in the New York media. No more than a social acquaintance brought the author together with Mrs. Lacroze de Fortabat, introduced by his friend Cuban-American socialite, collector and Sotheby’s employee Dolores Smithies.

Justice Has Been Done

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President Obama announces the news of Bin Laden's death

“To win that war, we need a commander-in-chief, not a law professor standing at a lectern.” Sarah Palin, 2008

The bully who promised to “smoke him out of his cave” and his pack of thugs (Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld) failed to deliver. A Constitutional law professor accomplished the mission. Three years into his presidency, Barack Obama’s CIA and Department of Defense did away with the mastermind behind the September 11th attacks on America.

Looking at this event, one cannot but notice the restraint of the US President, his terse prose, his gratitude to the servicemen and women who executed the operation. The flow of his sentences had the elegance of sound reasoning. His ideas were clear: “We did not choose this war; war came to our shore.” He added: “Our war is not with Islam.” There was an underlying theme in Obama’s speech: a nation committed to ideals will pursue them no matter the time or effort. He spoke with a sense of conviction and beckoned the nation to unity in time of crisis. A soft-spoken man offered closure where bravado failed. A sad chapter of our history started with hatred by others but was ended by the United States with the universal language of justice.

The rhetoric of Al Qaeda is overblown. Hateful tirades contradict the very essence of the Quran. Theirs is the appeal to nationalism, ethnocentrism and a limited sectarian view of Islam. The President’s speech was not about revenge but about the XVIII century Enlightenment principles that guided the Founding Fathers. Far from an exercise in might, the mission was not a First World nation using its military and financial prowess to do away with the enemy. Bin Laden was, after all, part of the privileged Arab ruling elite. The President articulated what happened today as the discharge of a moral obligation to innocent victims and the nation.

For tonight, the world looks beyond religion. What transpired tonight is a duty of justice: it is the fulfillment of a law, not a matter of personal ethics. Tonight we rejoice not in vengeance but in justice accomplished.

I Hear America Singing

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Tuesday’s victory for Barack Obama proved that poetry and justice are still vibrant possibilities. I hear America singing. Whitman, Thoreau, Martin Luther King still ring with authenticity. Could days of lies, unfairness, and blindness to inequity be part of our painful growth as a nation? Can a new leadership bring new optimism in the political process and the country’s economy? Can a healing force and a new transparency extend from the White House to the halls of Congress to Wall Street?

“I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear, The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing, Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else, The day what belongs to the day.”  Walt Whitman

 America, we rescued the dream; it marches on to the land of promise. Let unyielding hope be our hymn.

Miami’s Fake Princess Now Divorced from Greenberg Traurig Partner. Real Emperor Dies in Paris

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UPDATE
The marriage of Thi Nga Goldman (TiNa, her childhood name in Chatelet) to Miami lawyer Steven Goldman has ended. Court records indicate that the partner at Greenberg Traurig has filed for divorce.
GOLDMAN, STEVEN E   VS TANG TON, THI-NGA CONG
-2011-000030-FC-04 -132011DR000030A001CH -N/A FC17 (Section, FC 17) DOM 01/03/2011.

While the divorce of the faux Imperial Highness was finalized (a Miami Beach created by Ana Remos, Selecta Magazine and the Bass Museum), the death of His Imperial Highness Crown Prince Bao Long, eldest son and heir of the late Emperor Bao Dai, last Emperor of Vietnam, titular head of the Nguyen Dynasty, was announced in Paris.

In the press release made public by the royal family, Mrs. Goldman is obviously absent:

The Imperial Order of the Dragon of Annam
News

HIH Crown Prince Bao Long, the eldest son and heir of of the late Emperor Bao Dai, the last monarch of Vietnam, died in Paris on 28 July 2007 at the age of 71.

Prince Nguyen-Phuc Bao Long was born at the Kien-Trung Palace in the Purple Forbidden City, Hue, on 4 January 1936, eldest son of Emperor Bao Dai by his first wife, Empress Nam Phuong. He was educated in Vietnam and France, and underwent military training at the École Militaire de St Cyr (Coëtquidan, France) and the École d’Instruction de la Cavalerie et de l’Artillerie (Saumur, France).
Appointed as Heir Apparent with the style of Dong-Cung Hoang-Thai Tu, 17th September 1938, the Prince was invested in an elaborate Mandarin ceremony at the Palace of Can-Chanh, in the Purple Forbidden City, Hue, on 7 March 1939. Granted the style of His Imperial Highness on 18 June 1945, he came of age and was confirmed as Heir Apparent on 15 June 1954. The Prince represented Vietnam at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey, in London on 2 June 1953.
The Prince was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant in the 1st Armoured Cavalry Regiment of the French Foreign Legion on 14 July 1955, served in Algeria 1955-1958, retiring as Captain in 1958. Honorary Lieutenant Colonel of the Regiment of Musketeers, 1949; Honorary Colonel of Imperial Guard, Vietnamese Army. He received the Kim Boi medal 1st class, Grand Cordon of the National Order of Merit of Vietnam (15 June 1954), the Order of the Legion of Honour, the Cross of Military Valour with red, silver and bronze stars (1958), France’s North Africa Medal (1997) and the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal (1953).
The Prince retired from a long career in investment banking and lived quietly for most of his adult life in London and Paris. He succeeded on the death of his father as Head of the Imperial House of Vietnam and Sovereign of the Imperial Orders on 31 July 1997.

The following email is received from a friend of Thi Nga Goldman’s family who previously submitted a comment to this site: ngainguyen4@yahoo.fr

We have met all the family in their Chatelet Vietnamese restaurant in Paris.

The person adds:
We are friends of Ung Thi family , the VN restaurant in Place Chatelet is closed now , our son Ng Khoi was working there when he was a student for Sup Aero and Space ENSAE. It’s possible that there is a confusion of Ung Thi ‘s name , from our side we are certain that our friend Ung Thi is the father of Thi Nga (her child nick name was “TiNa”).

On September 3rd he adds:
You know better than me about some aspects of Ung Thi’s family and the big royal family of Bao Dai . I think you are right about some results of your reseach , HIH is not a correct title for Thi Nga . I am sure there are only 2 HIH princesses daughters of Bao Dai and Nam Phuong: Phuong Mai and Phuong Lien (one was working in a Hong Kong bank , the other was married to the French pilot of Bao Dai and divorced later on) . I have some difficulties to find the name of Ung Thi’s restaurant. I ‘ll try again with our friend Dieu Hy, (daughter of Vinh Du , a royal cousin ) after her summer holidays in Pyrenee until 15 /09/08 . I can tell you now that Thi Nga has two sisters and two brothers. I am trying to have some news from them.

A Geography Lesson for Dick Cheney

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After a speech in Dallas, a journalist inquired into Dick Cheney’s views on Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. His response: “the people of Perú deserve better… leadership.” The country begs to differ. The United States deserves better leadership. To help the Executive shape and articulate a foreign policy, our country requires a Vice President with knowledge of geography.

“We have refrained from making public pronouncements about Mr. Chávez — I think, for good and legitimate reasons. He’s a — obviously, an individual with his own agenda. And he spends a great deal of his time worrying about us and criticizing the United States…And the people of Perú (sic), I think, deserve better in their leadership.” Embarrassing! The “slip” or mistake is symptomatic of a mindset: our southern border is Finisterre, beyond it, the chaotic void of Latinalia.

A country experienced in embarrassment from the current administration, public displays of ignorance from its leadership are still not welcome. As the White House team comes to mind, Karl Rove, a senior advisor, does not have a college degree. Consistency, like world geography, is not one of Dick Cheney’s strengths. On a CSPAN interview of April 15, 1994 he stated that invading Iraq would create a quagmire http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YENbElb5-… , the same quagmire faced by our troops today. The Vice President seems to forget that no weapons of mass destruction, no connections with Al-Qaeda prior to our military intervention, and no civil war existed prior to our invasion. Three thousand of our boys and girls dead and a price tag of $300 Billion in taxpayer money has been the result of his inconsistency. The administration was charged with the duty to apprehend Osama Bin Laden. Where is he? Last we heard he was coiffing his beard while in the business of making videos. The Bush/Cheney White House has failed miserably in the task and has diverted the nation’s attention chasing giants and windmills in Iraq. Allowing General Colin Powell to embarrass himself in front of the United Nations and the world, pardoning a convicted felon (former chief of staff Libbey), the Bush-Cheney episode, soon to conclude, has been one of the darkest clouds in American executive branch history.

Fourth-world tyranny and “caudillismo” are characterized by secret tortures, prisoners of war, and lack of due process. The US now maintains prisons and torture chambers in Cuban territory (Guantánamo) rivaling those of Caribbean fossil Fidel Castro. Constitutionally protected civil rights are now a whim championed by “liberals.”

Since Dick Cheney’s days as Vice President are numbered, one can safely ask without fear of a holiday stay in tropical Guantánamo: isn’t his interview on CSPAN in 1994 and his present stance not evidence of the biggest “flip-flop” in Vice Presidential history. We can afford to offer the Vice President a geography lesson. Venezuela (Hugo Chávez’s fiefdom) lies north of Perú.

Children: Death and Abuse

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goya.jpgSongs on the Death of Children

Sully innocence. Squash naivete. Extinguish potential. Abscond with goodness. Self-loathing is a party in its own destruction. Self-annihilation extends to nascent life. Priests do it, policemen do it, “hicks” and “white trash” do it, alas, even stars do it. Child abuse knows no socioeconomic differences.

The American media, in spite of itself, has sensitized society to the horrors of missing, neglected, abused, and sexually assaulted children. Crimes against kids provide shock value and drama favorable to news consumption. Certainly, this is not an American aberration.

Germany, not to be outdone, reported a case of child cannibalism. The French government has instituted measures to control child pornography and internet seduction by sexual predators. According to our State Department, Belgium is both a transit point and a destination for trafficking in children.

According to the Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, child sexual abuse is reported up to 80,000 times a year. The number of unreported instances is far greater because children are afraid to relate the experience. The legal procedure for validating an episode is difficult. Instant celebrities John Coney, Earl Richmond, David Onstin, Wayne Williams, Harell and Michelle Johnson are now inextricably connected to the plight of their innocent victims. Sensationalist coverage has concentrated on the human tragedy and police investigative acumen; it has failed to find common characteristics among the offenders. No serious inquiry exists of their childhood experiences or proneness to act on their fantasies (impulse control disorder).

The DSM IV argues that paraphilic fantasies start late in childhood and could be the result of past or present abuse, sexually deviant behavior, or sex as a requisite for affection. Interpreting survey study data, Professor Jan Looman claims that child molesters are more likely to fantasize about children while in a negative emotional state or under stress. There is a marked trend to fantasize about a child as an inappropriate way of coping with dysphoric moods, thus enhancing dysphoria and leading to further inappropriate fantasies. A bizarre rock star stands accused of pedophilia after several multi-million dollar arrangements to buy silence from alleged victims. No sexual abuse case among the economically privileged finds its way into newsrooms. Does an Upper East Side address guarantee virtue and love of children? Wealth provides a way to hush these cases. Are childhood sexual traumas confined to Freud’s Viennese fin-de-siecle patients? Suffering, abuse, and neglect explain why 85 to 90% of the criminal population in the United States comes from foster care. Treatment of psychological cruelty and estrangement is confined to the bourgeoisie, able to afford the luxury of therapy. The sources of candidates for foster care do not provide an environment conducive for kids to go through the stages of moral reasoning. If not directly victimized at home, there is an exposure effect at the socioeconomic margin that makes violence a possibility. Lacking access to psychological treatment, healing and moral values come with religious experience.

While there has been a slight decrease in sexual abuse cases, mistreatment accounts for the death of three children a day. A child is reported missing or abducted in the United States every 40 seconds, 2,000 children per day, 800,000 a year (Department of Justice). Of this number 40% are killed, 4% never found, 71% taken by a stranger and 29% by family or a slight acquaintance. Family abductions stem from power struggles, quest for punishment, or incest. Most are abducted within a quarter mile from their home and, if ultimately murdered, 74 percent are dead within three hours of the abduction. A study by Becker and Murphy provides evidence that sexual offenders of boys have higher rates of abuse in their histories. Sexual victimization is not the necessary condition for this type of aggressive behavior. Most sexual victims never perpetrate the same crime against others. Abuse or murder of children voices rejection, isolation, sexual dysfunction, and social anger.

Alice Miller, a psychotherapist, argues that corporal punishment coupled with a Victorian early upbringing where sex is not discussed make the child ill-prepared for puberty. Psychosexual development is therefore a random product of hormones, social learning and conditioning. The contradiction between rearing practices, silent on matters sexual, and the media-supplied flood of erotic and violent imagery is a trite but necessary issue for discussion. Some could see a media-induced link between eros and thanatos. Powerful economic interests will keep this debate as a First-Amendment problem. Under what circumstances could children be “obscure objects of desire?” They become cathectic in their proto-sexual “purity” and powerlessness. The risks involved in breaking taboos can prove liberating and stimulate desire. An element of revenge and subversive social disruption is present in the abduction and sexual abuse of children.

Jonathan Pincus, an American neurologist, maintains that this type of aggressive behavior constitutes a form of retaliation: “systems of terror that get directed back at society… Even previously non-involved members… are being hurt and consequently have to suffer in the very same way the former child suffered.” Lives of rejection, fear, and paranoia beget today’s Saturns (devouring their clildren as in Goya’s opus). Their effort of survival, like Saturn’s, is through primal murder. Our cannibal gods devour children, symbolic castration of an alienating society (Ouranos) and punishment of a cruel family (mother Gaia). Our present-day infanticides act on the self-perception as “the most terrible of sons: the crooked and scheming Kronos.” Self-loathing turns lethal.

In this weather, in this roaring, cruel storm
they rest as they did in their mother’s house
they are frightened by no storm,
strong and are covered by the hand of God
Ruckert, Kindertotenlieder

Gays and Catholic Intolerance

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The Christian faith is one of epiphany and inclusion. Vatican-appointed inspectors will travel to Roman Catholic seminaries throughout the United States looking for “evidence of homosexuality” (“Instrumentum Laboris for the Apostolic Visitation”).

Scheduled to begin later this month, the “apostolic visitations” will include interviews with seminarians and recent graduates. Paranoia and intolerance are based on magisterium, not Biblical references. The costly witch hunt headed by Archbishop Edwin O’Brien extends “to those who have not been sexually active for a decade or more.” The Church must stay, he declared, “on the safe side,” anticipating a Vatican document that decides whether gays should be barred from the priesthood. Coincidentally, O’Brien heads the Archdiocese for Military Services.

The mission, not entirely clear, is either pastoral or exploratory. Is the identification of “same-sex-attraction seminarians” the main item on the agenda? How can one detect or evaluate matters sexual? How can one screen sexual orientation or “inclination” during the admission process (question B3.3)? Has the Church developed a new clinical method to be used in confidential interviews?

In a private institution, seminarians and professors hang certain constitutionally protected rights at the door. The inquiry seeks to reveal dissenting voices in the faculty (questions B1.1 and B2.7). A daunting challenge is posed when asking if “the seminary [is] free from the influences of New Age and eclectic spirituality.”

Another area of concern is the extent to which candidates “use the Internet, television, etc., with prudence and moderation (question B5.4). A legally problematic area is the monitoring of “seminarians’ behavior outside the seminary” (question B5.5). If one is to follow the American Church’s line of reasoning, heterosexual priests or candidates are exempt from carnal temptations unlike their “same-sex-attraction” counterparts. Catholics are left to wonder if “same-sex-attraction” is synonymous with incontinence and pedophilia. Does it rule out the possibility of celibacy? Is sexual orientation a matter of volition? Is there a category of Christians excluded from the fulfillment of a priestly vocation?

Ella Fontanals Cisneros: A Conversation

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A Brief Conversation with Ella Fontanals Cisneros

Justo J. Sánchez

JJS: How did your passion for the arts begin?

EC: I am the product of a musical family. My mother was a wonderful pianist and a great singer. My father was a poet and musically inclined as well. In Cuba, they would organize very serious musical “tertulias.” I thought, I would devote my efforts to the visual arts but upon leaving Cuba, my life changed. I tried to return to drawing and painting but found myself, instead, starting an art gallery in Venezuela in the late sixties, in the Chacaito region of Caracas.


JJS: Is this the period when your collecting began?


EC: Yes, exactly. The gallery began selling European art — Dali watercolors for example — American pop artists, and emerging Venezuelan and other Latin American artists. I started developing a collection. In Paris, I became very involved with artist friends like Soto, Gamarra, and others. My friendship with artists made me aware of artistic and social issues as well.

JJS: Now that you mention social issues. Are you socially involved in Venezuela?


EC: Well, there is my work with the foundations. I am actively involved with “Together” “Juntos por los Niños” that promotes an integral program to benefit children. During the early 90’s, we created “Sentido Común” (“Common Sense”), an organization to mobilize voters – especially young people – in an effort to have the Venezuelan Congress elected directly by the people. We raised awareness of direct representation. In two days we had collected over 66,000 signatures.

JJS: Why don’t we see this political fervor in Venezuelan universities any more? Why don’t we see alternatives to the political status quo from the academic setting?


EC: You have to understand, Justo, that those that had the political “fervor” became integrated into the established parties and machinery. Today’s students are more “professional,” career-oriented. They tend to follow the American, technical, specialized professional-training thinking about universities. The other thing that I notice within the university population and the younger generation is the lack of patriotism, the lack of a nationalistic feeling or political conscience that I saw during our mobilization efforts. Yet, Venezuela has shown incredible signs of courage and integrity.

JJS: The creation of MAC (Miami Art Central) has required a commitment from you (financial and otherwise). You have been active with the Miami City Ballet and other local organizations and yet you travel extensively; why choose Miami?


EC: Most people would say that my daughters are my anchors to this area. I think of South Florida’s proximity to Latin America, a region that is sadly ignored by the United States. In this country’s policy priorities, the Middle East, Europe, now Asia, occupy leading positions. The neighbors to the South remain sadly ignored. South Florida, at the risk of sounding trite, is the crossroads to the Americas: for Europeans and North Americans.


JJS: What made you want to invest your time and resources here?

EC: For 35 years I have been coming to Miami, and, frankly, it was just passing. The past ten to twelve years, the transformation has been remarkable and exciting. What truly makes South Florida special is the great new influx of Brazilians, Venezuelans, Mexicans, Colombians, Argentineans, New Yorkers, and Europeans that have enriched an already stimulating population and environment. This population shift is creating a complete social realignment. The building of the Miami Performing Arts Center will reshape and reconfigure the city. Look, Justo, even the public transportation trends are changing. You even see more people today using the monorail. That might push local authorities to improve public transportation.


JJS: What were your goals in creating MAC?

EC: I had three ideas in mind: an educational component, a community integration component on a multidisciplinary level, and, lastly, the visual arts component, with three or four major exhibits a year.

JJS: Do you plan to keep close links with the University of Miami?

EC: It is only natural since we are neighbors but also because President Shalala has been very supportive of our efforts. The University of Miami’s Arts Department has been and will be our partner in a number of projects.

JJS: Will MAC specialize in contemporary art?

EC: No. MAC will cover different periods, different artistic media. It will offer film series, lectures, jazz, etc. For example, Justo, let me tell you that in late April we will host the masterpieces from the Cintas collection. We will then show the work of the finalists of the Cintas Foundation Award. For next year — and I will keep you posted — we are working on a Latin American master who, although alive, is in the collection of leading museums. We are also working on a major exhibit of a different type of artistic genre. MAC is now finishing the application process on permits for a less restrictive schedule and to accommodate a larger number of visitors. The lineup of future activities is indeed exciting.