By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
The Press Release
On May 28, 1997, media outlets throughout South Florida received a three-page communique, printed on simple stationery engraved with the legend "Government of the Republic of Liberia."
What follows is an abbreviated version:
"The Foreign Ministry of the Government of the Republic of Liberia have [sic] the honor and pleasure to announce that Mr. Alexander Antony Boada Cartaya has been appointed Ambassador-at-Large and Minister Plenipotentiary with special responsibilities for Maritime Offshore Trade and Finance to represent the Liberian nation. The announcement was made by the Foreign Ministry in the capital, Monrovia, on 21 May 1997.
"Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines' marketing director, Annette P. Hogan, praised the decision, saying, 'We feel the appointment is timely and reflects good and sound international business sense. It's a highly competitive market and Liberia scores a first in addressing the needs of the international shipping community.' She went on to [praise] the new Ambassador's records of public service.
"The new ambassador was born in Cuba, grew up in Miami and California, attended Belen Preparatory High School, and graduated from Florida International University. [He] went on to attain Law and Economics degrees in London, Liege (Belgium), Lisbon, and the University of Biarritz. He was formerly married to Anna Maria, Princess von Schonaich-Carolath, who has congratulated her former husband with a reception held at Rotterdam, Netherlands, stating, 'Tony is a born leader and I'm delighted for him in his new position -- his career has gone from strength to strength. He has always known only one way to move: and that is forward.'
"A poolside champagne reception for the new Ambassador's installation ceremonies will take place on the evening of 14 June at the new Liberian Diplomatic Mission on Brickell Key, bayfront, where some 300 guests and dignitaries will participate.
"The Ambassador, in his additional capacity as Commander of the Knights of Malta for the Caribbean region, will be honoring his long-time friend, patron of the arts and well-known Miami publicist, Charles Cinnamon, with a knighthood of the Order of the Knights of Malta.
"Also to be honored are [sic] Mr. Anthony Lammoglia, for his services to Art and humanitarian causes. The well-known, venerated Cuban-American broadcaster and journalist, Dr. Manolo Reyes, will preside as Master of Ceremonies. Senator Daryl Jones will deliver the keynote address."
Anyone who has enjoyed one of Royal Caribbean's cruises to the Bahamas has probably limboed past the red, white, and blue Liberian flag on the way to the Lido Deck. Often referred to derisively as a "flag of convenience," Liberia might be best known for selling its pennant to cruise ship companies, which escape many of the taxes and regulatory inconveniences imposed by stricter nations.
A republic about the size of Virginia, Liberia is located on the west coast of Africa, between Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast. It was founded in 1822 by freed American slaves. The experimental expatriation served two ends: It gave many former servants control of their destiny, while it removed them from the still-segregated United States. Curiously, Liberia's founders chose to mimic the government that had oppressed them, duplicating the U.S. Constitution and adopting a nearly identical flag.
While the two nations might seem congruent on paper, Liberia never flourished as a democracy. The primary problem has been the country's majority aboriginal population, which never quite grasped a bicameral system of checks, balances, and campaign finance reform. A century's worth of education could not bring these villagers into the fold, and over the past fifteen years Liberia has descended into a morass of coups and civil war. It is estimated that more than 200,000 people have been killed or died of war-related starvation since 1989.
"Right now it's difficult to even send a phone call over," reports John Kucij of the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group Friends of Liberia. "There has been a lot of confusion, and a lot of claims and counterclaims on who is running the country."
According to 1990 U.S. Census figures, only 248 Africans live in the City of Miami. Not one of them is Liberian. Local trade with Liberia is nonexistent. The South Florida Trade Zone, which covers all ports south of Orlando, received precisely zero imports from Liberia in 1996. Exports were only slightly higher: $2965 worth of goods were sent from here to Liberia last year, a figure exceeding shipments to only two other nations of the world: Niger and Suriname. "Jeez, that's not even a car," quips Jaap Dinoath, a researcher for the Beacon Council.
The Ambassador's Resume
On the coast of Maine, near the rocky beaches of Portland, lives a 71-year-old heraldic researcher named James J. Algrant. Guy Stair Sainty speaks well of his work, noting that Algrant is a former diplomat with broad knowledge of European traditions. For a brief time Algrant was the secretary general of the International Commission on Orders of Chivalry, a respected body that labored to authenticate chivalric orders. Like Sainty, he loves to expose the charlatans who traffic in phony titles and orders. And he knows Boada well. "I've been tracking him down for years," Algrant spits.
Around eight years ago, as he flipped through a glossy magazine about royalty, Algrant came across an ad for a book entitled Upward Nobility! How to Make It Into the Aristocratic and Royal Ranks: The Guide to How, How Much, and Where. The tome, said to have been written by a Marina Alexandrine de Feurstenzandt, cost $64. Algrant bought it.