Ricardo Nuñez-Portuondo, One Less Cuban-American to Fight the Fight for Cuba’s Freedom


Having been raised in Northern Virginia, I never had an opportunity to meet or read article about the exploits of Cuban-American Ricardo Nuñez-Portuondo – who passed away at age 80 this week.

He had a stellar professional career that included appointments by two Republican presidents. President Gerald Ford named him National Director of the Cuban Refugee Assistance Program at the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (currently, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). This was quite an honor, as it represented the first time that a Cuban-American received a presidential appointment. President Ronald Reagan tapped him to run for Rep. Claude Pepper’s District 18 seat. Although losing the race, Ricardo garnered 40% of the vote – impressive accomplishment.

But it was not his professional achievements that impressed me the most after reading his obituary. Rather, it was his philosophy to bridge the differences of both political parties to get desired results. Former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator (Democrat) Bog Graham described Ricardo’s philosophy accordingly: “He was an example of the way politics used to be. People could be in politically different parties but that did not mean they had to be personal antagonists, nor did it mean they couldn’t collaborate on issues that benefited the public. In our case, that was particularly in areas of assuring full access and fair treatment of all voters in Florida.”

Ricardo’s philosophy mirrors my own when it comes to the struggle to restore democracy to Communist Cuba. Anyone who joins this cause is a friend of mine. I do not ask for identity cards that reveals the political affiliation of the card holders. Democrats and Republicans, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, rich and poor, Caucasians and minorities are welcomed to the tent of having a Cuba-Libre again.

To add supporters to the Cuba-Libre Campaign, we need coalitions of stakeholders. To restrict membership to like-minded individuals would result in a campaign made up of “tres tristes tigres.” And, it goes without saying that such campaign would fail in the end.