The Man and the Microphone

In the turbulent and often virulent world of Spanish-language radio, two things are certain: Fidel will be the debate, and Tomas Garcia Fuste will prevail

Fuste is an American citizen. He knows he will not live in his homeland again, but like almost every Cuban American in Miami he longs to visit Cuba, to see where he once lived, to walk the streets, to taste the country that grows sweeter in memory even as it slips further into the past.

Of course, Fuste will not set foot on Cuban soil until after Fidel Castro. He could never live in a country ruled by a man he calls "that son of a bitch." But in a way, Fuste, like so many of his exile compatriots, lives with Fidel Castro every day. "I have been here in Miami for 34 years, and for those 34 years, every day I do something against the Cuban government, the Castro government," he declares. "Every day. I talk about it; I work against it. The worst thing that can happen to a human being is to live in a communist country. That is the worst thing that can happen, because it is the society taking precedence over you.

"After Fidel dies, the first thing that will happen here in Miami is that people will buy up all the Bacardi and all the Johnny Walker and there will be a big celebration," he continues. "Of course, I won't be here. I'll be in Cuba. I am planning to go to Havana as soon as I can. And then find an open microphone. If I die before Castro, then I feel sorry for myself. But I don't fear that; I am sure I will see the liberation of Cuba. When I left Cuba, I knew that I would be many years waiting. I will see it.

"Fidel is four years older than I am. Maybe he lives another twenty years, if he dies a natural death. But I think he has more people who want to kill him than want to kill me. That is the most likely way. He doesn't give the people a chance. No elections. He wants to handle everything in the country: the economy, the law, the politics. And what's the only way that it can stop? If somebody kills him.

"The first thing to know about Fidel Castro is that he is a liar," Fuste asserts. "He was the hope of the Cuban people. And if someone had told me 35 years ago that he would still be a dictator, I would not have believed it. But he closed all the doors. And his being dead is the only way for Cuba to be free."

Weekends Fuste is not on the air. But on most Saturdays he's in the office, working on individual visa problems, reading, writing editorials, thinking about potential guests for the week ahead. Around him on the walls hang awards, proclamations, letters of appreciation, along with dozens of photographs: Fuste with Ronald Reagan, with Bush, Ted Kennedy, Carter, Bill and Hillary, Somoza, Duarte, Oscar Arias, Chamorro, and dozens more Latin American leaders now long gone. There are no family pictures to be seen, no photos of his wife, his five children, or five grandchildren. This is his place of work, and he doesn't seem to mix business and familysentiment.

Once he left Cuba Fuste never again saw his mother and father. His father, Francisco, died in 1979, and his mother, Josefina, two years later. Over the past 34 years he has spoken to his sister Blanca and his brother Raul only a handful of times by telephone. She was married to a military officer, and has remained loyal to the revolution. And Raul, a laborer, had his own family and had made a quiet life for himself. Whether they or their parents ever heard their famous relative over the airwaves from Miami is not known. Fuste never asked. They were not close.

About two years ago, however, Fuste did hear from his brother, who is younger by ten years. Raul said he was divorced, alone, and in poor health. He was thinking about coming to Miami. For a man who over the last 30 years has helped thousands of Cubans settle in the U.S., and solved hundreds of personal problems by spending generously of his own energy, time, and money, the request might have seemed simple. Fuste has means, both financial and influential, and his brother, retired and ailing, is of no further use to the revolution. He would likely be free to leave the island.

But Fuste has always opposed family visits on the same grounds that he opposes tourism or trade with Cuba: that the infusion of U.S. dollars into the economy only perpetuates Castro's reign. And getting his brother off the island would require that he send several hundred dollars to Cuba for airfare and the documents required.

Fuste agonized over his brother's request. He brooded about it. He considered his loyalties -- to his family here, to the exile community, to the cause of Cuba. He tried to imagine his brother Raul here in Miami. "I don't know what he would do here," Fuste muses. "He doesn't know anybody here; he is not going to be able to work. It seems to me he would be better off to stay in Cuba."

Eventually the brothers talked again. And for the man who is a professional talker, no words ever came harder, or lingered with an irony more sad. Fuste said no.

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