Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Honors Jesus A. Permuy, Architect, Urban Planner and Human Rights Activist
As attendees arrived and gathered, they expressed their admiration of a man who has been an impeccable and unassuming gentleman, a disciplined and focused leader and mentor, an outstanding father and grandfather, and an accomplished, experienced and insightful professional who has dedicated his entire adult life to raising awareness of the intrinsic value of man’s humanity and denouncing injustice and tyranny, especially that of the 59-year Cuban Communist regime.
Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen initiated the ceremony with a friendly greeting and introduced one of Permuy’s grandsons, Antonio, who thanked Ileana and her guests for coming together to honor his grandfather.
Tomás Regalado, former mayor of the City of Miami, was the first dignitary to speak: “It’s important for history be to written the right way,” he said. “Jesús Permuy started writing history about 50 years ago… and I was there. It’s important because of the human rights violations in Cuba. Today we know that there are people around the world that understand that Cuba is a country that has been forgotten, attacked by its own leaders for nearly 60 years.”
“However,” Regalado continued, “when Jesús began his quest, there were a lot of people that were hostile. Nobody wanted to listen. But he kept at it.” He spoke warmly of the early years of the Cuban exile experience, when Jesús Permuy became the leading voice in Geneva, Switzerland, and other human rights forums for thousands of objectors to Fidel Castro’s corrupt government, who were being summarily detained, tried and tortured in Fidel Castro’s gulags (political prisons) or were sentened to the paredón (put to death by the dictator’s firing squads throughout the island.
In the beginning, Regalado explained, the community helped make Mr. Permuy’s participation in human rights conferences possible through fundraising radio marathons —one dollar at a time! “In Geneva, about half of the countries of the world didn’t want to hear what he (Permuy) had to say. They stood up and left. But little by little, the human rights cause of Cuba became something of importance to the world. So when we write the ‘real Cuban history,’ we owe several pages to Jesús.”
Raúl Valdés-Fauli, mayor of the City of Coral Gables, also extolled Mr. Permuy’s integrity, dedication, values, and leadership, but especially his modesty and decency. “Es una buena persona, una gente decente”.
“Your human rights activities on behalf of Cuba have been significant, very influential,” added Mayor Valdés-Fauli. “It is a privilege for me to be here to honor you and present this key to the City of Coral Gables.”
Donald Slesnick, former mayor of Coral Gables, and wife Jeannett, close friends of the Permuy family, were also on hand recognize his work “for the world, for our community, for humanity. You are a great example for all of us. Human rights is something that seems to be taking the back seat today in many areas of the world and without the flame that keeps burning, it won’t happen. Thank you.”
Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen then focused on Permuy’s role as family man, rearing eight children who, in turn, have given him eleven grandchildren. Announcing that Permuy had celebrated his 82nd birthday “just yesterday,” she led the group in a joyful rendition of “Happy Birthday.”
Then came the highlights of the ceremony. First, Ileana spoke about her address last year to Congress (https://www.congress.gov/congressional-record/2017/10/11/house-section/article/H7959-4) celebrating Jesús Permuy’s life, contributions and service to the South Florida community and their native Cuba. Then she proceeded to present a commemorative plaque and an American flag flown over the U.S. Capitol expressly for Mr. Permuy.