Mayor a media star as Cuba expert
Written by Susan Danseyar on February 11, 2015
In his own quiet way, Coral Gables’ own Mayor Jim Cason is a media celebrity now that he’s receiving calls at a fast and furious pace to hear his views on the US ending a five-decade Cuban embargo.
“The phone started to ring on Dec. 17,” he told Miami Today in reference to President Obama’s announcement of wanting to reunify ties with the island country from which a number of Miami residents have emigrated over the years.
“Having served for three years in Cuba [as chief of the US Interests Section in Havana from Sept. 10, 2002, to Sept. 10, 2005], I’m a local source who can talk about issues that are being discussed here,” Mr. Cason said.
Unlike those in the state department who might be limited in what they can say as it’s so early in the process, Mayor Cason is free to join the debate. He’s fluent in Spanish and said people often refer to him as the only “American Cuban in Florida.”
So far, Mayor Cason has been interviewed for local Spanish television and radio shows, National Public Radio (twice), Al Jazeera America, the New York Times, the Washington Post and a number of Florida newspapers. On his schedule are appearances before the John Hopkins University alumni club in Miami and the Dartmouth College alumni club in New Hampshire in May.
“At last count, it was 35,” Mr. Cason said this week of the interviews he’s conducted since December.
It’s no surprise to him that the calls and requests to speak keep coming in.
“Everyone knows my background [in Cuba] through Google,” Mr. Cason said. In addition, he serves as president of the Center for a Free Cuba, an independent, non-partisan institution established in November 1997 and dedicated to promoting human rights and a transition to democracy on the island. The center gathers and disseminates information about Cuba and Cubans to the media, non-government organizations and the international community.
Just as important is Mr. Cason’s relationship with Cubans here.
“The Cuban community here knows me and the issues being discussed are ones they know I’m familiar with,” he said. “When I walk around Miami-Dade, Cubans always come up to me and say ‘Thank you for what you did for me in Cuba.’”