The Great Divide

Correspondence from our readers

Now the rest of the South Florida community, in fact the rest of the nation, is saying, "Whatever."

The African-American community knows a whole heck of a lot about unfair and random persecution. The Haitian community knows about escaping oppressive regimes and wanting a better life. The Jewish community knows about being rounded up for no reason. Many in the so-called Anglo community and the non-Cuban Latin community know about coming to a land of opportunity. Maybe if the Cuban-exile community had come out of the confines of their own arrogance and indifference, if they had dared to come out of their world to bond with their fellow South Floridians instead of looking down upon them, "Martes Muerto" would not have felt so alive.

Andrew L. Dixon, III

After reading Jim Mullin's "The Burden of a Violent History," Jim DeFede's "Elian's Legacy," and Brett Sokol's "Kulchur" column (all three in the April 20 issue), some questions come to mind:

1) Given New Times's passionate defense of the rights of others to express their opinions without intimidation, please point out the times you have quoted or otherwise represented the opinions of those on the other side of the Elian debate (i.e., those who think the boy should stay in the U.S.) without derision or condescension. I don't recall any in your copious coverage and commentary on the Elian affair, but I may have missed those rare instances in which you practice what you preach. In this last issue alone, Juan Carlos Espinosa's comments on ABC's Nightline have been dismissed as the "prattlings" of a "right-wing ideologue masquerading as an objective academic." You have defamed Espinosa simply because he has dared to express opinions different from yours. This is your idea of "tolerance?"

2) In the past you have vilified other news organizations -- including the notorious Miami Herald -- for not doing their job. Imagine my surprise when I called Espinosa and he told me that no one from New Times even bothered to call him, at the very least to get the facts straight. For starters, Espinosa told me the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami doesn't get any funding from the Cuban American National Foundation. The UM's North-South Center does, and their spokesperson on the Elian affair is Max Castro, hardly a "right-wing ideologue." Espinosa also told me that he has been showing movies made in communist Cuba at events and festivals he's organized since the early Eighties, including Lucía, Memories of Underdevelopment, Strawberry and Chocolate, and others. The most recent festival, referred to by Sokol, focused on exile films because these usually get ignored at festivals, which would explain to a rational mind why there weren't any Cuba-produced films in it (same as there wouldn't be films by male directors in a festival dedicated to movies by female directors; I hope such difficult concepts are within your reach). Finally Espinosa told me he's not involved in "producing policy reports." In other words, you have published a string of lies to defame someone whose opinions you don't agree with. Where did you people study journalism -- the Mussolini School of Communications? Perhaps the Goebbels Institute?

3) In Mullin's ardent roll call of violent acts presumably committed by Cuban-exile zealots, there is no mention of the names of persons who have been indicted or convicted for the bombings or murders. In the U.S. responsible organs of the press simply do not attribute crimes to people unless there has been a conviction, and never are these crimes attributed to entire communities. Causes, movements, or political factors are not held accountable without hard evidence or a group's taking responsibility for the crime in question. With your same dearth of facts, someone could "argue" that the murders and bombings you list were perpetrated by Castro agents, or by American liberals sympathetic to Castro and seeking to smear the exile community. That is, anyone could claim you were responsible for these crimes, for if you don't need evidence to support accusations, then neither does anyone else. If you know who committed these crimes, please call the FBI immediately. If you don't know, can you explain to your readers why you abandoned basic rules of journalism -- the ones about establishing the facts (who, what, where, when)?

4) You know perfectly well that the demonstrators who for months gathered down the street from Lazaro Gonzalez's home were mostly old women with rosaries. They were peaceful if passionate, and there were no ugly incidents. Even after the INS unlawfully and brutally invaded the Gonzalez home to snatch Elian, the demonstrators were remarkably restrained. Trash was burned in a handful of intersections, but no businesses were looted or torched, et cetera. The videos do show law enforcement officers clubbing old men and women and committing other abuses against peaceful demonstrators. Compare that day's disturbances with any other civil unrest in this country in recent years (the riots in L.A. and Liberty City, the WTO conference mayhem in Seattle, any number of sport-related riots, the latest Woodstock). How on earth can you say the Cuban-exile community is "lawless" and "proto-fascist?"

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