Singer Pablo Milanes urges more freedom in Cuba

Sun Aug 14, 2011 11:09am EDT
 
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By Pascal Fletcher

MIAMI (Reuters) - One of Communist-ruled Cuba's best-known singers, Pablo Milanes, said in quoted comments he would like to see more freedom to protest on the island as he prepared for a controversial concert this month in Miami.

Miami's Spanish language El Nuevo Herald newspaper published an interview on Sunday with the 68-year-old two-time Grammy award winner, whose melodic and evocative ballads are well known in Latin America and internationally.

Milanes' planned August 27 concert in Miami, a bastion of anti-communist Cuban exiles in the United States, has touched off a storm of discord between those who criticize him as a stooge of the communist government in Havana and many fans and supporters who defend his right to perform in Miami.

Ties between the United States and Cuba remain cool but cultural exchanges of Cuban and U.S. artists and musicians have increased as U.S. President Barack Obama has boosted people-to-people contacts through special licenses that can be granted under the longrunning U.S. economic embargo on Cuba.

Milanes, a privileged celebrity in Cuba where authorities allow him to travel and perform widely outside the island, said his Miami concert sought "peace and love" and he wanted to "hold out a hand to those who extend their hand to me".

"I'm not going to criticize anyone and I don't want to be criticized. I simply want to be heard as a man who sings his songs," he told El Nuevo Herald.

Describing himself as a "progressive, tolerant, left-wing revolutionary", Milanes made clear he believed there should more freedom of expression in Cuba, including the right to protest, and more freedom for Cubans to travel abroad.

"Every human being has the right to protest, and, what's more, has the duty to say what he thinks," he said.   Continued...