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
“Ma'am, have you signed the Cuba Affidavit stating that you or anyone you are associated with are not conducting business with Cuba?” I asked.
“I don't know,” she said. “What is that? I don't do business with Cuba.”
“Great!” I responded. “I just need you to sign this affidavit to that effect so you'll be compliant.”
“I don't do business with the county either,” she snapped, looking impatient. This officer explained that simply paying the toll is completing a transaction and is then, technically, “doing business” with the county. Before I could obtain her signature, though, she sped off. (Note: This officer again requests permission to carry a firearm!)
A second county employee, a female, entered the tollbooth. She asked to see my authorization. This officer pointed to my CACA badge and explained that I simply was ensuring the law is being upheld. I also noted that traffic was beginning to back up. This officer waved the next car up to the gate.
“I'm in a hurry. Can I sign it on the way back?” said the male driver when I sought his compliance.
“Sir, I don't think that's a good idea,” I said. “I think in order for you to legally cross the causeway, you should sign now.” The gentleman signed, though he did not print his full name or his address.
Throughout this exchange the female tollbooth employee kept pestering this officer for “authorization.” She informed me that her “manager” was on his way over from his headquarters at the Rickenbacker Causeway tollbooth. Rather than wait for someone I assumed would be a county police agent, I mentioned that I too am in a hurry. I returned to my vehicle and proceeded across the causeway.
LOCATION: MIAMI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, TERMINAL E
DATE: JUNE 15
TIME: 3:45 P.M.
REPORTING OFFICER: R. GUERRA
BADGE NO. 0001 NARRATIVE:Under the Cuba Ordinance as written and still in force, certain airlines are exempt from strict compliance. But this free pass does not apply to the shops and restaurants that sell sticky buns and I "heart" Florida keychains at the airport. During my regular morning phone calls, a spokesman for the airport explained that the proprietors of every gift shop and restaurant at MIA, from Cinnabon to Burger King to the sushi vendor near the airport's hotel lobby, has signed the Cuba Affidavit.
This officer wondered how the restaurants ensure total compliance with the county's law. The affidavit explicitly states that all entities doing business with the county cannot do business with anyone who does business with Cuba. Are the restaurants ensuring that everyone who purchases, say, a frozen yogurt from the airport TCBY, has not illegally traveled to or is not doing business with Cuba? A direct inspection was merited.
At approximately 3:51 p.m. this officer conducted surveillance under the yellow neon sign of the California Pizza Kitchen. (The aroma of the Thai chicken pie almost compromised this officer's objectivity.)
Not one restaurant employee asked if customers were in compliance. This officer could no longer stand idly by. I approached the subject, who claimed to be a stewardess. She had just purchased a barbecue chicken pizza. I asked her if she had ever signed the affidavit. Subject had no idea what I was talking about.
“How do I know you do not do business with Cuba?” I inquired. “Do you fly to Cuba?”
“No, I don't,” she huffed, growing angry, clearly unimpressed with my authority. “Look, I have to work with idiots on the planes. I don't want to deal with idiots here.”
Other customers were confronted. Yet less than three minutes after questioning began, a California Pizza Kitchen employee approached this officer. Employee declined to give name or answer questions about the ordinance. She said compliance wasn't her responsibility. Suspecting she might fear reprisal from her superiors, I leaned closer.
“Look,” I said in a low whisper. “This is an airport. A lot of people are flying to different countries. Some of them may be going to Cuba in violation of the embargo. What if one of them eats a pizza while illegally visiting Cuba?”
“So what if they eat a Cuban pizza?” asked a second employee (possibly manager, refused to give name). “So what if they then come here and eat a pizza? What's the problem?”
“Then they just did business with Cuba, and now they're doing business here,” I explained. “I'm sure the county would not be happy.”
Manager (??) asked if I worked for the county. Explained CACA and my duties. He repeated his question. I repeated my answer. With talks stalled, I approached another customer to ask him if he engages in business with Cuba. He ignored me.
“Do you have permission from the county?” interrupted alleged manager, asking the same question for the third time.
“No, I'm just here to help out,” I repeated, maintaining my composure. “I'm just a concerned citizen.”
“Why are you trying to get people to sign things by saying you're with the county?”
“I never said I was with the county.”
“You said the county would not be happy.”
“I'm sure the county would not be happy if your customers are indeed doing business with Cuba.”