Letters to the Editor

Letters from the issue of January 27, 2000

A Family Portrait,
Meet Luis and José Cid, Elian Gonzalez's Miami cousins, just a couple of good old-fashioned American criminals
By Jim DeFede, Robert Andrew Powell, and Lissette Corsa, January 20, 2000

Elian: Crime-Free and Proud of It
Paul E. Czekanski
Miami

In reference to "A Family Portrait" (January 20) by Jim DeFede, Robert Andrew Powell, and Lissette Corsa, the enlightened (joke!) Armando Gutierrez shows us just how in touch he is with this great country when he stated, "In every American family there is always someone who has been in trouble with the law. This is not a criminal family."

Let's have a round of applause for this stunning display of ignorance. First of all Mr. Gutierrez knows nothing about American families, ensconcing himself as he does with the most close-minded extremists in the Cuban exile community. Since when is Miami representative of the rest of this great nation we call the United States of America? Give me a break!

For your information, Mr. Gutierrez, in my own family (both paternal and maternal sides) no one has ever been arrested or in trouble with the law. That goes for most other American families I have known and grown up with throughout my 40 years.

Here you are parading around with this poor little boy, looking more like his jailer than someone who truly cares for his welfare. Elian is probably scared and bewildered beyond all comprehension. God only knows how he feels about the loss of his mother. And now you're denying him his father. And how nice it is to see him consorting with upright individuals such as Luis and José Cid.

Elian: Characters of Suspicious Character
Brian Deagon
via the Internet

I'm glad to see someone is finally looking into the background of Elian's relatives in Miami, as New Times did in "A Family Portrait." The character of the late mother's boyfriend, who piloted the doomed boat, also is suspicious. The only hope the Miami relatives have in keeping Elian in the United States is either to persuade his father to come here and stay or to demonize him as unfit.

If anyone is abusing young Elian, it is his Miami relatives. Shame on them.

Elian: Shame on Ileana
Karen Tuttle
via the Internet

Thank you for the story on the "Miami family" of Elian Gonzalez. These people have claimed that they and only they have a "right" to this child, but who has been investigating them?

What is happening to this country? Have we become a nation that will take a child from a parent simply because we don't like where they live? Well, then, we'd better make room for all those poor children in Russia and China. And who could deny the starving African children? They deserve help too. So I ask Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: Why not just offer mass citizenship to all of them?

Shame on you, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen, for your tunnel vision of only Cuban issues. These horrible people you are encouraging are parading around this child like a prized animal. Shame!

Elian: Miss Liberty Speaks (Sotto Voce)
Rich Foley
Rahway, New Jersey
The Statue of Liberty speaks to Elian: Give me your tired (as long as you come by airplane and bring money with you), your poor (as long as you have enough cash to pay off the politicos), your huddled masses yearning to breathe free (as long as your hot breath doesn't get too close to Washington, D.C., and create problems for Clinton and Gore), the wretched refuse of your teeming shore (as long as it's not the shoreline of Cuba). Send these, the homeless tempest-tossed (as long as you don't arrive half-dead by raft), to me. I light my lamp beside the golden door (in order to shine a light on that plane back home to Cuba).

Sorry, Elian. We used to be better than this.

Elian: Just Who Is Controlling Whom Around Here?
Linda Deshetres
Miami
Hats off to you, New Times. Miami television and newspapers can't seem to give the community the facts about corruption and the Cuban exile community. What are local media outlets afraid of? Why is New Times the only one that will give us the facts? Who is controlling the media in Miami-Dade County? Who is controlling Janet Reno in Washington?

The power the Cuban exile community has over this nation's top law officers is frightening. How does that happen?

Elian: Dear Stupid Readers ...
Robert Cannon
Miami
Lisa Edmunds must think all New Times readers are stupid. In her letter to the editor (January 13) she claims those who want Elian Gonzalez to remain in the United States are justified because the boy will have a healthier diet and greater opportunities here. By that rationale we should round up every child in every Third World country, as well as most of Asia and Eastern Europe, and bring them here. And why should children receive special treatment? Let's bring in all the adults, too, because America is the best country with the best standard of living and the best opportunities and, damn it, everyone deserves the best.

Ms. Edmunds insults our intelligence with her hollow excuses for manipulating Elian's unfortunate situation. It's not about health, economic opportunity, or even freedom. This is about politics, and Ms. Edmunds and all others of her ilk should be ashamed for making a six-year-old child their political pawn.

Martin Lee had it right: If you come to America to make it your home, then become a productive member of the society that has welcomed you with open arms. If your heart and mind still belong to Cuba, then quit playing in traffic and take back your country.

Elian: Climb Aboard the Slut Ship
Martin Alexander
Miami
Where will this parasite Spencer Eig be in twelve months? That's an interesting question, given the fact that just a few months ago this icon of freedom was an INS attorney in the deportation cases of many people who were attempting to emigrate to the United States.

Why, he must have become enlightened. Yes, he realized that if he wanted to become a winner in Miami Beach politics, he would need more than the Jewish vote. Elian Gonzalez presented him with the perfect opportunity to pull the wool over a very gullible Cuban electorate. So much for that.

But how can he explain the fact that while he is now the holier-than-thou challenger to the grandmothers of this exploited boy, his wife continues in her capacity as a part-time lawyer at the INS? He can't, which puts him in the same boat with other Miami-Dade political whores like Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln Diaz-Balart, who have taken their pint of blood from this kid and moved on to their next victim.

When will the Cuban electorate in Miami wake up and see they are merely pawns in the daily political circus going on around them? Everyone else in the United States sees them in the center ring, fodder for their elected officials to use and abuse at will.

Elian: In Search of Educated, Professional Cubans
Marisa Siervo
Coral Gables

When I first heard about Elian Gonzalez, I felt sorry for him. It was obvious he would become a tool for any politician in need of a quick fix for re-election, as well as every charitable lawyer wanting to become an overnight celebrity.

The boy's plight has attracted many Cubans who want to use him as a weapon against the government that made them exiles. When their demonstrations turned into road-blocking, violent frenzies, I knew that anyone who had ever hated Cubans to begin with would only hate them more after this. And so people have been asking me: "Why aren't the educated, professional Cubans more vocal about their community?" My answer is that the educated, professional Cubans have no need to get involved in demonstrations that cause chaos and disturb the peace. That is not the way they involve themselves in causes they find worthy. A lot of them think it's a shame Elian's mother died while bringing him to freedom, but if his remaining parent lives in Cuba, then that is probably where the boy should have been sent the minute he recovered from his ordeal, rather than to Disney World.

It is a shame Elian will be raised in a country that has been devastated by a mentally ill man who preaches about a governmental system that has failed in other countries. But we cannot make the boy our son because he is not an orphan. Elian Gonzales has a father.

Elian: Wealthy Atlanta Family Steals Child!
Clarence Johnson
Macon, Georgia
Can you imagine a wealthy family in Atlanta showering your son with gifts, a puppy, and trips to Six Flags, then deciding to keep him because they believe they can provide a better life for him? Does this make you tremble? Can you envision your family on a commando-style raid to get him back? Your rage would be so great that I doubt you would call the police before you and your family troopers headed for Atlanta.

Now let's talk of Castro. Can you imagine a dictator being able to drive at will anywhere in his country in a nonarmored vehicle without a large detachment of security? Castro does. This hasn't been a practical option for an American president since before Lincoln. Over the years I have spoken to many dark-skinned Cuban Americans and the general feeling is that the poor and people of color are better off with Castro than they were under Batista and previous regimes. They fear a return to the old ways by a Cuban-American-controlled government more than they fear life under Castro.

Can you imagine the potential of a country with as much talent as Cuba, a country that has lived through a full embargo by the United States? We even penalize countries that do business with Cuba, and yet Cuba still survives! When does this madness stop? Enough is enough.

Elian: Cuba's Own Toy Story
John Suarez, coordinator
Free Cuba Foundation
Miami
Let's pause for a moment in the middle of this media circus surrounding the tragic situation of Elian and look at what life is like for children in Cuba, and the role the Cuban government plays in that.

In Cuba it is almost impossible for families without hard currency to buy toys and gifts for their children. Corriente Martiana, a Cuba-based civic organization, initiated a national and international campaign to collect toys and clothing to be distributed to the neediest children on the Day of the Three Wise Men, which traditionally falls on January 6.

If the Cuban government claims to have mobilized its people out of humanitarian concern that a boy be reunited with his father, then how can it explain the confiscation of toys obtained legally in Cuba for distribution to economically disadvantaged children?

On Saturday, January 8, Victor Rolando Arroyo's residence was searched by Cuban state security and 150 toys confiscated. He was immediately arrested. His home was being used as a distribution center in Pinar del Rio for the Three Wise Men project. He had already distributed more than 100 toys. Arroyo was tried and sentenced to six months in prison for "hoarding toys."

We demand that justice be done, that an act of charity by people of goodwill on both sides of the Florida Straits not end in such an ugly manner. Free Arroyo and return the toys and clothing so they can be distributed to those in need.

Elian: Don't Generalize About My Neighbors
Allen Smith
Coral Gables
It's easy to spread hostility about Cuban exiles, as Martin Lee did in his letter to the editor (January 13), in which he generalized about them as if he knows them all. But those Cubans protesting for Elian are not the only ones in our community.

In fact there are many good, decent Cubans who would never jeopardize our community or cause any inconvenience, people you'll never see stopping traffic, who would never exploit anyone, who would never harass others, who came to the United States to make it their home and to honor it. On the other hand, those Cubans who have been protesting have a valid reason, and they also have the right to do so, just like any other resident of the United States. They pay taxes like everyone else in this community.

I believe people like Martin Lee need more information about Fidel Castro and his political tactics before generalizing about all Cubans. He also needs to remember that this is a free country composed of immigrants. My neighbors for more than twenty years are Cubans, and I love them. They are excellent people. They are good workers. They have united families. They are good friends. To me they are the best and I would not change them for any other.

Elian: Don't Generalize About My People
Amneris Pedroso
via the Internet

For years I enjoyed reading New Times. It was upbeat, had really interesting stories, and the ads were pretty cool, too. But over the last year or so I have found myself getting more and more aggravated. Now I expect each issue to contain another pack of stories (sometimes four at a time) about how bad we Cuban Americans are. All the bad guys seem to be Cuban American.

To add insult to injury, most of the letters to the editor are usually from people like Ira Kurzban or others who seem to know us so well they feel free to generalize about us in a way that mimics what Fidel Castro keeps saying about the exile: We are all right-wing Mafia. Cuba today is a paradise. We were all wealthy and left to come here to be politicians and rip off our neighbors. We are all measured by the Mas family.

It's obvious these people know nothing about us and never really cared to know. I was neither rich nor poor in Cuba. I have worked in this country since I was sixteen years old. I have been a citizen since I was able to become one. Yet to these people, I am a right-wing Mafia Cuban American.

To those who claim that Elian Gonzalez has been commercialized, I say this: It is incredible you still don't see how some politicians (regardless of background) take an issue and use it for their own benefit. So don't tell me that Castro all of a sudden cares for families, in particular for this kid's family. Don't tell me you can separate politics from family in a country like Cuba.

No reasonable person who has two cents for a brain thinks Elian would be better off in Cuba, where a tyrant has ruled for 41 years, where there are no elections, where kids don't get milk after they are seven years old, where there is no hope for a future (and that doesn't mean money; it means living life with some dignity).

If you really want to know, this is the bottom line of what we think:

•Castro must have nuclear weapons the United States is afraid of; otherwise why would we go around the world to make wars against tyrants and do nothing against this jerk who is 90 miles away?

•If we complain enough, maybe someone will hear us. It's funny, I see movies about Hitler from 50 years ago so it will never happen again, yet something that is happening right now is okay and we are just nuisances.

•The United States has denounced Cuba thousands of times for human rights violations yet it's okay to send back this kid because he had a good relationship with his father.

•We are alone. Cuba is only important to Cubans.

•As far as Castro goes, we are intransigent.

I'll tell you something, New Times, I'm going to be watching you like a hawk. Expect to hear more of our side of the story.

Elian: Don't Generalize About My People
Hector D. Morales
Miami
As an exiled Cuban I can say the biggest truth about all this is that Elian has been used as a political puppet by sectors of the exile community who long to rule Cuba "when Castro falls." Here are other things that are true:

•Not all Cuban exiles think the same way. I believe Elian should go back, and I have found more than a few who agree. So please do not generalize when talking about Cuban exiles.

•Some of my fellow countrymen are totally confused about when an issue belongs to the politicians of this country and when the issue belongs to the INS. They do not help matters by turning a family matter into a political circus.

•The only mistake the INS made was acting with its heart by sending this boy to his relatives here in Miami. The result is that next time a similar situation arises, the INS won't publicize it and will just send the child to the proper institutions until repatriation can take place.

He Came, He Lunched, He Left
Felonious former Miami City Manager Cesar Odio has been spending his free time hanging around Miami Beach. And you want to know why?
By Ted B. Kissell, January 13, 2000

Erratum

Owing to a reporting error, Ted B. Kissell's story "He Came, He Lunched, He Left" (January 13) incorrectly stated that former City of Miami finance director Manohar Surana had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit extortion and bribery. Surana did sign a plea agreement with federal prosecutors in 1996, though the Miami U.S. Attorney's Office will not comment on its terms. Surana has not yet entered any plea in court. New Times regrets the error.

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