A Tale of Two Musicians

As Juanes prepares to perform in Cuba, Gorki Aguilar wonders if he will be allowed back in

As Colombian rock singer Juanes prepares for Sunday’s concert in Havana, a Cuban musician touring the United States is unsure if he will even be allowed to return home.

Gorki Aguila, a dissident punk rocker who has served time in prison in Cuba, is on a 15-day tour promoting his latest anti-government CD, “The Faded Red Album.”

He says Juanes invited him to play in Sunday’s concert but was forced to decline because the Cuban government has banned him from public performances as well as the public airwaves.

"I do believe in Juanes' good intentions. I just think his intentions are very naive," Aguila said Friday.

Meanwhile, Juanes is still battling criticism for what will be the most controversial concert of his career. The Peace Without Borders concert will be live-streamed on NBC Miami starting at 2 p.m. Sunday.

While he has continually assured that his intentions are not political, it is impossible to avoid politics when it comes to Cuba.

In fact, he had to get permission from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton before he could even proceed with his plans.

And the concert will be performed in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolucion, which is overlooked by a giant Che Guevara image.

Also, Aguila’s U.S. visit was sponsored by the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group Global Cuba Solidarity Movement, an umbrella group for roughly 20 organizations in the U.S. and Eastern Europe, some of which receive federal funding.

Although Juanes’ plans have incensed some of the older Cuban exiles, he has gained support from the younger Cuban-Americans.

He has even gained support from Gloria and Emilio Estefan – who have always voiced strong opposition against the Castro government. And this despite the fact that the Estefans have vowed not to return to Cuba until it is a democracy.

But even then, he says he has received death threats and a group of Cuban exiles held a protest against him where they destroyed his CDs.

Aguila, the lead singer of Porno para Ricardo, or Porn for Ricardo, has a small but dedicated following on the island but is better known outside the country for his sexually explicit and irreverent criticism of Fidel Castro.

In 2003, he was jailed after a policewoman posed as a cop and baited him into giving her amphetamine. He spent two years in jail, claiming it was a government attempt to silence him.

He said that two months before his arrest, a government official came to his house and demanded he sign a paper rejecting his previous anti-government statements, as well as change the name of the band.

He refused.

After his release from prison, he became even more defiant against the government through his music.

In 2008, he was arrested on the charge of “social dangerousness” but was eventually released on a lesser charge after Amnesty International put pressure on the Cuban government.

He believes there is a chance that he may be denied re-entry to Cuba, which is something he does not want because he has a daughter there.

"I want to return," Aguila said. "I have my projects in Cuba, and more importantly, I have my daughter," he said, adding that he would hold the Cuban government responsible if he is denied re-entry.

The Cuban government has also limited visas for some international news outlets for Sunday’s concert, indicating that they are not as open to lifting the borders as Juanes would prefer.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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