Fear that Cuban-American protesters would threaten the safety of guests at the Latin Grammys next month prompted organizers to pull the event from Miami at the last minute and move it to Los Angeles.
The move dealt a blow to Miami officials who had been lobbying hard to bring the Latin Grammys to the city this year. The show was expected to pump an estimated $35 million into the area economy.
Michael Greene, president and chief executive of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences and the Latin Recording Academy, made the announcement Monday after Miami officials agreed to let protesters demonstrate in a three-block area near the arena where the ceremony would have been held. Organizers wanted protesters to be kept farther away.
“The safety issues and reliability of delivering a live international telecast were the determining factors,” Greene said.
Greene cited protests held in 1999 when the Cuban group Los Van Van performed in Miami. Batteries and eggs were thrown at ticket holders as they arrived for the event, he said.
About 60 anti-Fidel Castro exile groups planned to protest against Cuban musicians and artists attending the Sept. 11 ceremony. Protesters also planned to infiltrate the ceremony, Greene said in a statement: “The Academy was made aware that protesters had secured tickets to the show and were organizing a disruption to the live telecast itself.”
Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas offered to create a half-block buffer between the protesters and a security zone established for people attending the event, but the offer was not enough.
Officials at CBS, which plans to air the show live, supported the academy’s decision.
“We support the Recording Academy’s decision to do what they believe is in the best interest of the performers, the guest and the event itself,” the network said in statement.
Organizers had considered holding the inaugural show in Miami last year, but civic leaders rejected the idea because Cuban artists would be part of the event. They cited an ordinance barring the county from doing business with those who have dealings with Cuba. The show was held in Los Angeles instead.
Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas and Cuban American National Foundation leader Jorge Mas Santos both helped strip the county ordinance in July 2000.
Mas Santos participated in the event’s nomination ceremony last month but within two weeks, about 20 foundation members resigned, citing the foundation’s failure to discuss the decision with them.
Mas Santos said he didn’t agree with the decision to move the awards show and said it would have been “the perfect opportunity to talk about lack of freedom of expression in Cuba.”
“This was handled very badly from the beginning,” Miami City Commissioner Tomas Regalado said. “Whoever gave Mr. Greene guarantees should have known better that this would have happened. We should have discussed this from the beginning and not at the last minute.”
Police and fire officials in Los Angeles said they should have been notified far earlier about such a change, giving them more time to work out overtime schedules and a public safety plan.
“Right now, we don’t have anything like that,” Inglewood police spokesman Heilano Mayorga said.