The Great Divide

Correspondence from our readers

Mayor Penelas, you owe the citizens of Miami-Dade a big apology for addressing the nation as if you spoke for all of us and then deciding to let your emotions stand in the way of your duty to this county and to us, its law-abiding citizens. Shame on you.

José Gonzalez

Why don't you go right ahead and change the name of Jim DeFede's column to "The Anti-Penelas Weekly Rant & Rave." I'm starting to think DeFede's obsession with Penelas has something to do with the mayor being named sexiest politician by People magazine. Otherwise it's hard to explain his pathological fixation on Penelas. DeFede's hatred of all things Penelas blinds him to the point of writing ridiculous diatribes, consisting mainly of wishful thinking masquerading as political analysis.

Not content to only use words anymore, DeFede now cries for candidates to run against Penelas this fall. That is not only premature (not one of the three potential candidates he trumpets -- Ron Silver, Katy Sorenson, Maurice Ferre -- has announced any intention of running against Penelas), but it is also shortsighted and biased. He also compromises the journalistic integrity of the paper (not that there's much left) by suggesting he will play kingmaker and host a meeting among those candidates.

With the mayoral campaign just months away, Penelas looks unbeatable. Despite the efforts of the national press to ridicule and berate him for his (misconstrued) statements regarding the Elian issue, Penelas is doing what he does best: letting the criticism run its course while managing to stay in the public eye. And what happened the day before Easter has vindicated him to a point. After all, the federal marshals came in, took the kid, and left the mess behind for Penelas and Carollo to fix. They knew there would be demonstrations. It's a bit of a stretch to blame Penelas for them, much less disqualify him as a mayor as DeFede does. As for seeing his appeal to Cuban voters diminished: Get real. Cubans will rally behind him as they have done in the past, especially against a non-Cuban candidate. His appeal among Cubans of all stripes is the very reason Miguel Diaz de la Portilla won't be able to beat him.

The three candidates DeFede hopes for won't have enough time to mount a significant campaign against Penelas. The best of the bunch, Sorenson, knows she doesn't have the political capital or the popular support to win, and that Penelas is a better alternative than Diaz de la Portilla for the issues Sorenson cares about. Ron Silver is a virtual unknown south of Aventura. And Ferre, though still enjoying a good reputation and name recognition, had a rough time the last two times he tried to run for elective office. He will not spend any ammunition he has left in a long and bloody battle with Penelas, instead saving it for the day the mayor decides to leave for a cabinet appointment or a congressional race.

So I look forward to another four years of how-much-do-I-hate-Penelas-let-me-count-the-ways columns from DeFede. That is, if he doesn't break down and seek professional counseling before it's too late.

Alejandro Barreras
Biscayne Park

I've read all the letters that demonize Jim DeFede and raise Mayor Alex Penelas to the level of Christhood. Here's my take on it: The mayor has never really represented the majority in Miami-Dade. He is a puppet owned and paid for by the Latin Builders Association, the Cuban American National Foundation, and other fascist "exile" organizations. Those of you who disagree either haven't noticed or don't care that he is usually televised giving some kind of pro-Cuban-exile discourse on Spanish-language television, or at the radio stations, where he shows up weekly. He spends more time on Castro than on matters of this county.

For those of you who agree with him, I give you this to think about: The real Cubans on the island (11 million strong) have maintained Castro for more than 40 years. They are the only ones who hold the key to their destiny. If you are among the well-to-do Batista lovers who ran away a long time ago, you have forfeited your right to participate in that nation's destiny. Protesting and harassing the American public within our safe borders is most cowardly. Hell, even Castro returned to his homeland and changed the authoritarian government that had ruled there. Though I don't support his tactics or all his policies, he is the head of state of a sovereign land and we should deal with him as such, just as we do with China, Vietnam, and countless other countries.

If Ramon Saul Sanchez, Jorge Mas Santos, and the others want to bring change to Cuba, they have two options: Fund a revolution (though everyone knows that for each dictator dethroned another waits in the wings) or form a delegation to speak with Castro at the United Nations, pushing capitalism before democracy. When you look at the past 50 years, you can see the United States has influenced more nations through commercialism and pop culture than through presidential ramblings and cover CIA actions.

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