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Security Concerns Move Latin Grammys from Miami to Los Angeles - 2001-08-21


Organizers of next month's Latin Grammy music awards say the event will be be moved from Miami to Los Angeles, amid security concerns surrounding planned protests by Cuban exiles in south Florida.

For months, music lovers in Miami had looked forward to the Latin Grammy awards, a show that brings together the biggest names in Latin popular music for a blow-out extravaganza.

But now the glitzy event has been moved to Los Angeles. The reason? Cuban exiles intended to launch protests to denounce the inclusion of Cuban artists, who work within the island-nation's communist system.

Initially, Miami officials said protesters would have to stay several blocks away from the downtown arena where the music awards were to have been held. Sunday, however, city officials bowed to pressure from hundreds of Cuban exile groups, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union. Exiles were granted permission to demonstrate on the corner, directly opposite the arena literally a stone's throw from the entrance.

Organizers of the Latin Grammys say they were concerned the internationally-televised gala event would be upstaged and disrupted by the demonstrations. Of greater concern, they say, was the safety of both performers and attendees who would have to pass near the protesters to enter the arena.

Two years ago, hundreds of irate exiles hurled insults and a variety of objects at concert-goers attending a Miami performance of the Cuban group "Los Van Van." The near-riot conditions were not forgotten by organizers of the Latin Grammys, who said they were determined to prevent that from happening again.

Minutes after the announcement, Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas expressed deep regret that the Latin Grammys would be moved.

For their part, Cuban exiles say they do not hate the Cuban artists attending the event - but wanted to send a strong message to Cuban President Fidel Castro. "We are not against the Grammys," says exile Emilio Izquierdo." We are not against any event in this city. The problem is sending certain people chosen by [Fidel] Castro and manipulated by Castro."

Two years ago, Miami's image was bruised when protests of the "Los Van Van" concert turned violent. Now, the city appears to have suffered another black eye, with the decision to move an event elsewhere.