Castro's Birthday Bash

Being named as an invited guest would be bad enough, but imagine having your Miami phone number included

Much less clear, however, was the reference to those "who couldn't be at Castro's" birthday party. A list of names followed, including two people who were described as deceased and four who were living in exile. Fuentes's name was there. So was his unlisted home telephone number.

Correa's intent remains unclear (he did not return calls seeking comment for this article), though one reading of the list would suggest it was meant as a joke -- dead men and exiles who've broken with Castro would not be likely to accept Fernandez's invitation, much less to fly to Havana for the party. But regardless of intent, the reaction among some readers of El Nuevo Herald was swift and unambiguous: Norberto Fuentes, they apparently thought, would have attended Castro's birthday festivities if he could have, and that was all they needed to know. The phone rang off the hook, the threats poured forth, and the family fled.

From his hideout in Key West, Fuentes made contact with an attorney who wrote a letter to El Nuevo seeking an explanation. A few days later publisher Alberto IbargYen responded in writing with an apology. "The list we originally obtained had a number of past and present telephone numbers," he wrote. "It was our intent to delete all numbers. In fact, all numbers but Mr. Fuentes's were deleted. It was an oversight, an inadvertent error, that his was not." Ibarguen went on to express regret and to stress that neither Correa nor El Nuevo Herald intended any harm to Fuentes.

Despite the apology, Fuentes filed suit last month against the Miami Herald Publishing Company (which publishes El Nuevo Herald) and Armando Correa individually, charging libel and invasion of privacy. Fuentes's attorney, G. Luis Dominguez, refuses to allow his client to speak directly about the incident, but he argues that the paper implicitly characterized Fuentes as a Castro confidant by suggesting he had been invited to the party. "In order to be invited to Fidel Castro's birthday party," Dominguez says, "you have to be among the most trusted people. Norberto Fuentes has never been invited to Castro's birthday party, or any of Castro's parties." According to Dominguez, Fuentes is worried that being perceived as a Castro supporter might adversely affect his wife's chances of finding work in Miami as a doctor, and could also affect the fate of his latest project, a book about the De la Guardia-Ochoa executions. El Nuevo's Alberto Ibarguen will only repeat that the publication of Fuentes's telephone number was "an unfortunate error.

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