Wednesday, August 9, 2017

ICCAS-gate: It’s the Cover-Up That Gets You

the AZEL


Commentary on Cuba's Future, U.S. Foreign Policy & Individual Freedoms - Special Issue

The Watergate scandal of the Nixon administration and President Clinton’s forcefully claiming “I did not have sexual relations with that woman…” are two of the most infamous examples of the “it’s the cover-up that gets you” dictum.
The suffix “-gate” has become synonymous with presidential scandal and cover-up. I introduce it here to expose the ICCAS-gate cover-up by University of Miami President Dr. Julio Frenk. The buck stops with the President, and I seek to show, responsibly and factually, that Dr. Frenk intended to dismantle ICCAS, and is now engaged in a cover-up of those intentions.
My association with the University of Miami dates back to the late 1960s when I was a business student. Over the years, I earned bachelors, masters, and doctorate degrees, becoming a three time UM alumni.  I am also a former adjunct business professor, and a member of the ICCAS team. This is to say, I wish only the best for my beloved Alma Mater and my community.

But, whether Dr. Frenk intended to dismantle ICCAS is, as Alexander Hamilton noted in Federalist No. 23, “one of those truths which, to a correct and unprejudiced mind, carries its own evidence along with it.”
The controversy surfaced with a July 10 Miami Herald article citing Dr. Jaime Suchlicki as having been instructed to effect the cessation of ICCAS operations. In June, Dr. Suchlicki wrote to his staff:
“This is to inform you that as of August 15, 2017, I will be leaving the University of Miami.
I have been instructed by the Office of the Provost to effect the cessation of operations for the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, consequently your position has been eliminated and you will be placed on layoff status as of August 15, 2017.”
I respectfully complied by, vacating my office, returning my keys, and retiring in sad silence. Now, compelled by the cover-up, I speak publicly for the first time on ICCAS-gate.
As instructed by Dr. Frenk the entire ICCAS staff was fired in June. Yet, the July Miami Herald article quotes Jacqueline R. Menendez, UM’s Vice President for Communications, caustically refuting Dr. Suchlicki: “the only thing that has happened is that Jaime retires on Aug. 15 there are no plans to close ICCAS.”
I will generously assume that Ms. Menendez was misled by her boss, President Frenk. Her statement that “there are no plans to close ICCAS,” when, in fact, ICCAS had already been effectively closed by the firing of all its personnel is patently false.
I hope Ms. Menendez would not be as callous as to consider the firing of the entire ICCAS staff a non-event as implied by her statement that “the only thing that has happened is that Jaime retires on Aug. 15.” Is the firing of all ICCAS personnel not a “thing”?
I have verified that Dr. Suchlicki’s termination agreement explicitly requires him to “…effect the cessation of operations for the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies.” Similarly, Ms. Menendez should have sought the truth from her boss to avoid misleading our community. She has now been made complicit in the cover-up. 
Those are the facts as I know them. Now we can ask: If Dr. Frenk’ did not intend to dismantle ICCAS, why did he find it necessary to fire, without the courtesy of an explanation, the entire ICCAS staff? Were they incompetent, or were they an impediment to the implementation of his plans? What were those plans?
Dr. Frenk had been formulating his Cuban studies ideas for many months, and he had commissioned a comprehensive study of options to his friend, Harvard Professor Jorge Dominguez.  Given this careful advanced planning, if there was no intention to dismantle ICCAS, the announcement of Dr. Suchlicki’s departure would have been accompanied with the announcement of the new interim director, or perhaps even the new director.
That was not the case, and the untimely appointment of an interim director appears to be an improvised, disingenuous cover-up to placate the community’s outrage.  Dr. Frenk has been untruthful with our community, and now, under pressure, he will meet with community representatives on 18 August.  I pray he uses that opportunity to come clean about his designs.  Our community deserves honesty, not an ICCAS-gate cover-up.   

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Lily & José
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This article was originally published in English in the PanAm Post and in Spanish in El Nuevo Herald.
José Azel, Ph.D.
José Azel left Cuba in 1961 as a 13 year-old political exile in what has been dubbed Operation Pedro Pan - the largest unaccompanied child refugee movement in the history of the Western Hemisphere.  

He is currently dedicated to the in-depth analyses of Cuba's economic, social and political state, with a keen interest in post-Castro-Cuba strategies. Formerly, a Senior Scholar at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies (ICCAS) at the University of Miami, Jose Azel has published extensively on Cuba related topics.

In 2012 and 2015, Dr. Azel testified in the U.S. Congress on U.S.-Cuba Policy, and U.S. National Security.  He is a frequent speaker and commentator on these and related topics on local, national and international media.  He holds undergraduate and masters degrees in business administration and a Ph.D. in International Affairs from the University of Miami.

José along with his wife Lily are avid skiers and adventure travelers.  In recent years they have climbed Grand Teton in Wyoming, trekked Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and Machu Pichu in Peru.  They have also hiked in Tibet and in the Himalayas to Mt. Everest Base Camp.

They cycled St. James Way (
El Camino de Santiago de Compostela) and cycled alongside the Danube from Germany to Hungary. They have scuba dived in the Bay Islands off the Honduran coast. 

Their adventurers are normally dedicated to raise funds for causes that are dear to them. 
Watch Joe & Lily summit Kilimanjaro.

Books by Dr. José Azel
In Reflections on FreedomJosé Azel brings together a collection of his columns published in prestigious newspapers.  Each article reveals his heartfelt and personal awareness of the importance of freedom in our lives.  They are his reflections after nearly sixty years of living and learning as a Cuban outside Cuba. In what has become his stylistic trademark, Professor Azel brilliantly introduces complex topics in brief journalistic articles.
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En Reflexiones sobre la libertad José Azel reúne una colección de sus columnas publicadas en prestigiosos periódicos. Cada artículo revela su percepción sincera y personal de la importancia de la libertad en nuestras vidas. Son sus reflexiones después de casi sesenta años viviendo y aprendiendo como cubano fuera de Cuba.  En lo que ha resultado ser característica distintiva de sus artículos, el Profesor Azel introduce con brillantez complejos temas en  breves artículos de carácter periodístico.
Compre Aqui
Mañana in Cuba is a comprehensive analysis of contemporary Cuba with an incisive perspective of the Cuban frame of mind and its relevancy for Cuba's future.
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Pedazos y Vacíos is a collection of poems written in by Dr. Azel in his youth. Poems are in Spanish.
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