With Fidel Castro seriously ill, the city of Miami is making plans to throw a party at a local football stadium when the Cuban president dies, complete with themed T-shirts.
The city commission earlier this month appointed a committee — whose official job is to "Discuss an event at the Orange Bowl in case expected events occur in Cuba" — to plan the party. Such a gathering has long been part of the city's Castro death plan, but the specifics have become more urgent since Castro became ill last summer and turned over power to his brother, Raul.
The Orange Bowl was the site of a speech by President Kennedy in 1961 promising a free Cuba, and in the 1980s it served as a camp for refugees from the Mariel boatlift from Cuba.
"(Castro) represents everything bad that has happened to the people of Cuba for 48 years," City Commissioner Tomas Regalado, a Cuban American who came up with the idea, told The Miami Herald newspaper. "There is something to celebrate, regardless of what happens next ... We get rid of the guy."
"Basically, the only thing we're trying to do is have a venue, a giant venue ready for people, if they wish, to speak to the media, to show their emotions. It's not that we're doing an official death party," Regalado said Monday.
The plans have been criticized on local Spanish-language radio, as many people would prefer to celebrate on the streets of the Little Havana neighborhood.
"This is not a mandatory site," Regalado said of the Orange Bowl. "Just a place for people to gather."
Ramon Saul Sanchez, leader of the Miami-based Democracy Movement organization, worries about how the party would be perceived by those outside the Cuban exile community. Even when Castro dies, his communist government will still be in place, he said.
"Although everybody will be very happy that the dictator cannot continue to oppress us himself, I think everybody is still very sad because there are still prisons full of prisoners, many people executed, and families divided," Sanchez said.
At the committee's first meeting last week, former state Representative Luis Morse stressed the need for an uplifting theme for the party — one not preoccupied with Castro's passing.
The committee discussed including such a theme on T-shirts for the event.