Cuban Exile Raises about $13,000 to Replace Etecsa’s Controversial Billboard in Miami

Proposal to replace the advertising space that advertised telephone recharges with the Etecsa logo in Miami. (Telemundo 51/Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 25 July 2022 — “Cuban exile is respected!” will say the Miami billboard that briefly housed an advertising message from the Cuban state telecommunications monopoly Etecsa announcing its telephone recharges. “We don’t want more communist propaganda,” concludes the new text that its promoters want to put on the edge of the Palmetto highway when they get the funds to pay for the space.

The previous advertising poster was removed on July 14, after a campaign on social networks in which the content of advertising placed on one of the busiest highways in Hialeah, where a population mostly of Cuban origin lives, was described as an “insult.”

After the rejection of the community, activist José Alberto García called for fundraising in Miami-Dade County to place the new ad for one month at a cost of more than $11,000. “The initiative is for Cuban exile to unite and in this way give an answer to the front men of the Cuban dictatorship and let them know that we are here, and we are going to put up our anti-communist billboard,” García told Telemundo 51.

On the billboard that was removed, one could see the actress Tahimí Alvariño, the advertising face of the Katapulk company, which sells food and toiletries for emigrants to buy for their relatives on the island, in addition to telephone recharges from Etecsa, the Cuban State telecommunications monopoly.

“For me it was a mockery of exile and so many people who have sacrificed themselves and fled that dictatorship. Don’t let them come and put a sign in our face and stand idly by. That’s not going to be allowed,” García said.

The billboard advertised phone recharges to Cuba, but it was removed after pressure from opponents in Miami. (Collage)

Another phrase that will be put on the new billboard, for which more than $12,000 has already been raised, will be: “Down with the dictatorship. Homeland and Freedom” along with the hashtags #CubaPaLaCalle [Cuba[ns] into the Street] and #LibertadParaLosPresosPolíticos [Freedom for the Political Prisoners].

Cuban-American businessman Hugo Cancio, owner of Katapulk and one of the island’s emigrants who maintains closer commercial ties with the Havana regime, then responded to the controversy in a written statement sent to Telemundo, in which he stressed that Etecsa is not sanctioned by the U.S. Government: “This is an activity authorized by the regulations of OFAC (the U.S. Treasury office in charge of applying the embargo).”

“Etecsa is the telecommunications company in Cuba where all Cubans inside and outside the island process their recharges and buy their data packages for the use of the Internet and other services,” he said, adding that his company did not want to “cause attention or controversy… We decided to offer this much-needed service to our customers and, being new, we wanted to give legitimacy to this management.”

Katapulk belongs to Fuego Enterprises Inc., a company founded by Cancio on December 30, 2004 in Miami. Last year it was one of the entities authorized by the Cuban Government for registration in the registry of foreign companies that do business with the island.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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