Jiang Zemin Stuns World, Embraces Democracy

Letters from the issue of July 13, 2000

Lawbreakers Beware!
Until the county's Cuba ordinance is rescinded, it remains the law of this land. Which is precisely why we must support the Cuba Affidavit Citizens' Auxiliary.
By Robert Andrew Powell

Jiang Zemin Stuns World, Embraces Democracy
Chinese leader faced threat of South Florida trade ban:
The county's Cuba ordinance, tauntingly described by Robert Andrew Powell as “CACA” in his article “Lawbreakers Beware!” (July 6) is not a Cuban thing at all. In fact it's as American as apple pie. Article 1, section 8, clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution empowers Congress to “regulate commerce with foreign nations.” To imply that prohibiting one from doing business with a rogue nation violates one's constitutional rights is far-fetched.

The real issue: Should our laws (or ordinances) reflect the will of the people? If not, then the Supreme Court's decision banning the Massachusetts law should stand, and so should the ban on the county's Cuba ordinance. In this case the how becomes more important than the what (no matter how despicable the Cuba ordinance may seem to some). Today it's the ordinance that gets banned. Tomorrow it's free speech. Get my drift?

As a purveyor of First Amendment rights, I don't doubt that New Times means well. But to think that somehow -- through the power of osmosis, Scout's honor, or free-market idealism -- the ruling elite in countries like China and Cuba will give up their positions of power for the good of mankind (or even their own people) is naive at best. While the Cuba ordinance may evoke a pessimistic and distrustful view of human nature (too bleak for one never having experienced the unrelenting power of Castro's grip), it nevertheless is pretty darn realistic.

Manny Losada
Miami

Anatomy of a Quarantine
State officials are spending millions of your tax dollars to stop citrus canker. And they're making a mess of it.
By Kirk Nielsen

CHAINSAW BALLET
Try holding it with both hands:
Good article by Kirk Nielsen regarding the battle against citrus canker (“Anatomy of a Quarantine,” July 6). The situation is unfortunate for sure, but the crime is this: Who is getting that money being doled out?

Tons of taxpayer loot is being tossed to local firms that have no experience in cutting down trees, but nonetheless have been granted the opportunity to participate in the eradication activities due to favors of high-ranking officials. If I were to name names, that would be rumormongering, which I shouldn't do, so I won't. (For the record I am not an angry landscaper who is losing work to this firm. I'm just a citizen who smells something funny.)

I know of a firm that went out and purchased some 80 new chainsaws and hired as many as 100 people from the labor pool. The new workers (even through the efforts of interpreters ) were mostly illiterate, and now everyone is waiting for the limbs to fly -- and I don't mean tree limbs. This firm is well connected and has been noted in New Times on several occasions for its shady contracts (no pun intended). I'm sure if you dig around you could find out who is making a lot of money during this epidemic.

Please do not use my name with this letter. They are not nice people, and they scour New Times every week to make sure their firm is not mentioned. Thank you.

Name Withheld by Request
Delray Beach

To Serve and Protect
And in the case of the Miami Police Department: To Lose
By Jim DeFede

THE THIN BLUE LINE
It just got thinner:
Jim DeFede has done a public service with his column “To Serve and Protect” (July 6). In the finest tradition of American journalism, he has exposed injustices and inconsistencies in the way City of Miami police officers handle their duties.

Police brutality has become a national problem, an outrage. People are fed up with these acts of irresponsibility on the part of our supposed friends (as we all learned in grade school). DeFede also is correct when he points out that our men in blue are not immune to the pervasive racism that exists in American society. Even I have been threatened with physical harm by police officers when such action was totally unnecessary.

Those who should be our most trusted and responsible public servants must realize that gross misconduct will tarnish not only their badges, but the image of the nation they have sworn to protect.

Alan Gittelson
North Miami

No Tickee, No Jobee
Miami-Dade cop William Oertwig has paid for refusing to issue traffic tickets
By Tristram Korten

FORMER YIPPIE SPEAKS
Cops aren't necessarily pigs:
So I read Tristram Korten's article “No Tickee, No Jobee” (July 6), and I got past my intense distrust of born-again Christians, Freemen, the NRA, and other pools of intolerance and found that I might actually like Ofcr. William Oertwig, a Miami-Dade County policeman who won't blindly follow rules and refuses on principle to issue traffic citations. I'm a survivor of the streets of Chicago during the 1968 Democratic convention, when policemen dutifully lined up shoulder-to-shoulder and clubbed young people sitting quietly on the curb because Mayor Richard J. Daley ordered the streets cleared.

Now, after more than twenty years in the American West, where I found the police officers in Colorado, California, and Washington State to be more interested in public safety than in revenue-generation, I see in Officer Oertwig some important common sense. He can apparently make the distinction between a threat to society and his boss's pet peeve.

The article's closing comparison of firemen and police officers was striking. One is perceived as helping society, the other is just writing tickets. It's too bad we dislike the very people we need so much in our society.

Bernie Hourihan
Miami Beach

TRAFFIC TICKETS: INSURANCE INDUSTRY GODSEND
"We love speeders," says spokesman:
All hail Ofcr. William Oertwig! I'm sure traffic tickets were once a good deterrent. But as American values have changed (a lack of faith in government), the majority of us today realize that traffic tickets are a tremendously lucrative revenue stream for state and local money machines.

What kicks my ass is the unsavory (and probably unconstitutional) data sharing that goes on with my private insurance company. I can get radar-busted for speeding (which is pretty damn close to entrapment), pay a hefty fine, and then get punished for years to come for the same petty offense by a private company based on civil-offense records.

The sickening part of this is that good men like Officer Oertwig, who truly want to serve the community, are made to feel cheapened by “money-collection” duty. If his read on the situation today becomes the norm at the Miami-Dade Police Department, heads will roll in an insurance-lobbyist, cash-laden bloodbath.

Randy Nobles
Miami Shores

STAND UP AND BE COUNTED
So we can stamp the number on your forehead:
I salute Bill Oertwig in standing by his beliefs, but the system at the Miami-Dade Police Department doesn't tolerate such independence, nor does it approve of opinions that are contrary to what is politically correct. Anyone at the officer level who draws attention to an unfair situation -- or in his case, actually takes a stand -- gets a label, and once you're labeled in this department, forget about going anywhere.

I volunteered for my current assignment four and a half years ago (I have eighteen years with the department) and have received above-satisfactory or satisfactory evaluations. But I cannot get transferred back to the road, even after appealing as high up as a chief's office. An officer gets a label and everything is then an uphill battle.

I wish Bill Godspeed in his long road ahead.

Tom Taber
Cooper City

Death of a Maiden
Déjà was a survivor in Miami's perilous world of transsexual hookers -- that is, until she met a customer named Bowlegs
By Tristram Korten

LOVE THY CHILD
Sometimes easier said than done:
After I finished reading “Death of a Maiden” (June 29) by Tristram Korten, I wanted to express my appreciation. Even as a man who has accepted his own African-American gay identity for more than twenty years, the article enlightened me as to a perilous subculture I had only seen previously in snapshots during my work as a law-enforcement officer and within the gay community.

I do not want to add to the stereotyping of transgender individuals. I have known such people who lead legitimate, invisible, middle-class lives. But I was especially sympathetic to Dondre Johnson's mother, Clara Duncan. I wanted to place my arm around her shoulder and tell her she is not responsible for her son's sexual orientation, or the choices he made as an educated adult to engage in criminal conduct.

In a nation whose invidious laws show contempt for the idea that gay people have human rights equal to heterosexuals, Ms. Duncan is truly an admirable and courageous mother for expressing her unwavering love for her son. So many parents in similar situations basically disown their children.

Ambrose Sims
Carol City

Plowing Under the Cuba Embargo
A Spokane politician wants to make Castro pay -- literally
By Jim DeFede

LET'S TRY THE CLOSED-DOOR POLICY
From Botha to Duvalier to Fidel:
Jim DeFede did a good job of portraying the intentions of Rep. George Nethercutt and the farmers who want to sell rice and grains to Cuba (“Plowing Under the Cuba Embargo,” June 29). But he did not explain why the embargo was established in the first place, and whether those reasons have been resolved.

As for the reaction of the Castro government to Nethercutt's proposal, we saw another aggressive march full of U.S.-bashing and the usual “we won't change” official slogans. So much for any hopes of reform in Cuba based on our unilateral change of policy. Perhaps we should try really enforcing an international embargo. It worked in South Africa and in Haiti, but it hasn't been tried in Cuba.

Alicia Rodriguez
Miami

CAREER OPTIONS FOR AMERICAN FARMERS
Get off the dole and find a
real job!I'm so sick of reading ignorant journalism whenever New Times attempts to discuss anything related to Cuban Americans. In response to Rep. George Nethercutt's proclamation that the embargo against Cuba hasn't worked in 40 years, I say perhaps a key reason is that the embargo hasn't been enforced. Large corporations have continued to work in conjunction with the Castro regime without repercussions, without prosecution. Considering Cuba's booming tourism business, it seems somewhat ironic Cuban people are starving and suffering from antiquated housing, yet tourists have newly renovated hotel facilities in Havana with all-you-can-eat buffets. Let's get real for a moment here.

Farmers losing money in Washington State receive subsidies from our government to recoup lost income, and yet they still can't seem to make ends meet. May I suggest a career change? You are in the USA, you have that option, so get to it. If the wheel is broken, fix it.

What's really going on? There are homeless people in this country and there are a lot of lower socioeconomic neighborhoods that would more than welcome freshly grown crops. Why not try to better the situation here in the U.S. if we're so concerned with our citizens' welfare?

It's truly sad that so many people in the U.S. don't take the time to educate themselves about world affairs or listen to others who actually have experienced horrors in foreign countries. There is a deep divide between Americans, foreigners, and minorities. The fact that Cuban Americans were referred to as “hard-line exiles” throughout the Elian Gonzalez case attests to this. The majority of us have U.S. citizenship and pay taxes and vote just like “hard-line Americans.”

The portrayal of Cuban Americans during the Elian Gonzalez case was disgraceful. The truth is that a lot of Cuban Americans protested in a law-abiding fashion. The truth is that the food Representative Nethercutt proposes to send to Cuba will end up in the tourist hotels rather than in the mouths of the truly hungry. The truth is that Cubans live in a state of total fear for their lives, especially if they complain about how “things are pretty tough, a lot of farmers are going broke,” much less if that complaint is printed in a local paper. The misunderstanding here is that journalism exists to educate, to broaden people's perspectives. And therein lies its failure, which is especially evident whenever New Times covers the story.

Jacky Miqueo
via the Internet

IF WE COULD SIDLE UP TO STALIN
... we can cozy up to Castro:
The Nethercutt amendment has become the latest wet dream of the Diaz-Balart/Ros-Lehtinen syndicate. Why was it necessary for Nethercutt to lap dance before the repressive Cuban hard-liners? With all the compromises, his bill has evolved into a great first step backward.

Perhaps it's time for noncommunist Americans to adopt the political philosophy that was implemented by the U.S. during World War II. We allied ourselves with Stalin and the U.S.S.R. against a political system our country deemed a more clear and present danger. But the U.S. didn't adopt a communist philosophy as a result of being allied with Stalin. Can Americans work with Castro against sadistic elements of the Cuban community in the U.S.? Can we do so without endorsing the government of Fidel Castro? We were able to do so with Stalin, so why not with Castro?

As with the Elian Gonzalez nightmare, the Cuban hard-line right will drag this repressive embargo on and on while Cubans die in the Florida Straits seeking a better life they were denied, in large part because hard-line Cuban exiles displayed a let-them-eat-crumbs mentality.

Clyde Cates
South Miami

Dredge Dirge
Authorities are in a pickle over where to dump the toxic sludge soon to be scraped from the Miami River
By Kirk Nielsen

SLUDGE SOLUTION
Why not try the old pozzolanic binder trick?
When reading Kirk Nielsen's article “Dredge Dirge” (June 22), I easily noted that he stopped one letter short of what we should do with the sludge to be dredged from the Miami River. Mr. Nielsen missed option G, which I put forth in 1991 to Dade County Commissioner Alex Penelas, Florida Sen. Bob Graham, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Marine Council, the Miami River Coordinating Committee, DERM, the Army Corps of Engineers, the South Florida Water Management District, the Miami River Marine Group, and many other folks. What is option G? Many say it is not only the preferred method of disposal but also the best solution: stabilization or fixation of the contaminated dredgings.

Stabilization/fixation is the process of mixing contaminated dredgings with a pozzolanic binder (cement) to lock up the contaminants in a cementitious matrix. This would render them no longer transportable into, or hazardous to, the biosphere -- our soil, seawater, groundwater, and air. Once in the matrix, any identified toxins that will need to be dealt with from the Miami River would in fact be rendered inert. Someday we will be able to simply make them disappear, but today we don't have that choice so we need to go with our best option: stabilization/fixation.

Not only has this method been proven on Superfund sites around the nation, it has worked here at several sites in Miami-Dade County, the most notable being the Pepper's Steel Superfund site in Medley, where 160,000 tons of lead and PCB-contaminated material was stabilized in the late Eighties. This cleanup was successfully completed under the watchful eyes of the U.S. EPA, the Florida DEP, and Miami-Dade's DERM. Furthermore the contamination levels were several orders of magnitude greater than what we face with the Miami River. In fact stabilization worked so well locking up contaminates that the site's monitoring schedule was greatly reduced.

John Chiarenza
Miami

Park Raving Mad
This group of single moms thought it would be easy to revive their minipark. Then they encountered Miami's finest bureaucracy.
By Kathy Glasgow

ALL'S NOT WELL IN ALLAPATTAH
Just finish the dang park already:
We were all disappointed with Kathy Glasgow's article about our neighborhood's Allapattah Mini Park (“Park Raving Mad,” June 22). We appeared pushy, and the article suggested we should be grateful for a job half done. But we are not confused. Quite the contrary! We know about the history of the Allapattah Mini Park starting from the early Seventies and how the City of Miami neglected it until we got involved. We have spent time gathering information, doing research, and getting our neighborhood involved in shaping this park to meet the community's needs.

When we presented our vision to city parks director Alberto Ruder, his staff, and Commissioner Willy Gort, they assured us our simple request could be accommodated. They even committed to doing more! This commitment came at election time for Gort. After his victory (we did vote for him) we didn't hear from the parks department until we became more visible with visits as well as numerous calls -- just to get the promised updates. As a community organization and as residents of Miami, we believe we deserve to have promises upheld.

This article led people to believe there is no problem with the current status of Allapattah Mini Park. Wrong! Our park is not complete. Compared to the condition of many neglected parks in Miami, maybe ours does look good. But we want to have the park as promised, with new benches, new shelters, new grills, and freshly painted basketball courts ready and safe for every child to enjoy. We simply want to know from Mr. Ruder: It has been one year. When will our park be finished?

Allapattah-Brownsville Advisory Board
Miami

Demetrio's Rules
The world according to public school board member Demetrio Perez includes exile philosophy, Elian propaganda, and old-Havana-school politics.
By Ted B. Kissell

MAURICE WEIGHS IN ON DEMETRIO
On balance less bad than good:
Ted B. Kissell is a good reporter. He quoted me accurately, but out of context, in reference to my friend Demetrio Perez (“Demetrio's Rules,” June 15). In the same sentence I also stated that Demetrio's sense of honor, loyalty, friendship, and duty (as he sees it) are strong qualities of his character. Weighted properly, Demetrio does more good, by far, than bad. There are no perfect public servants. We all have faults.

Faults and all, exile philosophy and old-school policies, Demetrio Perez has left a positive legacy in our community. Miami is better off for his public service.

Maurice A. Ferré
Miami

Equal Opportunity Dissident
Julian Jorge Reyes, a child of Castro's revolution, turned against his leader. Now he's taking on el exilio.
By Celeste Fraser Delgado

REVOLUTION NO.2
Take the fight to the home front:
Hats off to Jorge Reyes. As Celeste Fraser Delgado wrote (“Equal Opportunity Dissident,” June 15), he understands what so many exiles seem to refuse to admit: The best way to effect change is from within. Revolution, the tool that put Castro in power, may very well be the only tool that can take him out of power. A foregone conclusion? Consider this: Forty-one years and the man still rules. Forty-one years and the world has been able to do nothing about it.

There is a line from the Cuban national anthem that always sticks in my mind: “En cadenas vivir es morir.” (“To live in chains is to die.”) The people of Cuba are dying. It would be a shame if they died without a fight.

If Mr. Reyes is sincere about his intent to go back and fight the good fight where it must be fought, then I wish him Godspeed.

Daniel Jimenez
Miami

THE VIEW FROM AFAR
Hiaasen is good, DeFede is good, fatherhood is good, internal opposition is good, exile domination is bad:
I'd like to thank you for your wonderful publication, at least the online version, as I have yet to see the print version. I discovered Miami New Times while searching the Internet for stories and opinion pieces on the Elian Gonzalez case. For a while I was depending on the Miami Herald for local news about the case. I was heartened to discover your paper because of its alternative perspectives. While I've ignored most of the Herald's non-Elian coverage as rather dull, I've enjoyed reading your coverage about local Miami politics separate from Elian. I do consider Carl Hiaasen one of this nation's finest columnists, but he's about the only guy at the Herald worth reading. You, on the other hand, provide much more detail and more nuance, and your writers most certainly are not dull. (I've discovered a new favorite columnist in Jim DeFede). Henceforth, long after Elian has faded from the public eye, I'll keep returning to your Website. Your letters section alone is worth it. (I read the Village Voice every week here in New York, but you guys are a lot livelier.)

I live in New York and was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I have been to Florida three times but only once to Miami. While I enjoyed your city very much and found South Florida quite seductive in many ways, I admit that the overwhelming influence of a powerful right-wing extremist group in the area has always prevented me from seriously considering moving there, as much as the region attracts me.

I grew up in southeastern Massachusetts, where many people feel that the local Portuguese immigrant community wields too much influence. This is usually exaggerated by non-Portuguese, but there is some truth to it. Still, the Portuguese do not behave with the level of isolationist resentment that Miami's Cubans do. And the political diversity among the Portuguese in southern New England is readily apparent. Among Cuban Americans in Miami, however, it seems as though only one viewpoint is allowed, and if you don't toe the line, you're a “communist whore” or a “communist stooge.”

As a freelance journalist, ESL teacher, and occasional researcher for human-rights groups, I have traveled all over Latin America several times, including four extended trips to Cuba. (I have visited Elian's hometown of Cardenas.) I recently visited Brazil, Argentina, Cuba, and Central America for three months. What was striking about the coverage of the Elian case in those regions was the near-unanimous belief among all political sides that the kid belonged with his father. That belief was a given throughout all the coverage and discussion of the case. People in the region were appalled that there was even a question about this. Even in highly conservative periodicals the coverage of the Miami Cuban-exile community was not in the least flattering, to put it kindly. The coverage in these periodicals focused on Miami's Cuban Americans as a powerful political group, not as an ethnic group per se. This entire case not only hurt Latin-American perceptions of Miami Cubans (even among their ideological friends) but also of the U.S. as a country whose Cold War sensibilities are so deeply retrograde that something so simple would become a national obsession.

But what struck me most about the coverage and discussion in the U.S. was the decided lack of interest in what Cuban dissidents on the island were saying. They weren't silent, and would talk to those who asked. These are folks who risk their lives every day resisting Castro, who have chosen to stay put in Cuba and oppose him. And they are not at all favorable toward the Miami Cubans. Having interviewed several people on the island who loathe Castro (some of them with jail terms for their trouble), it was hard for me to measure who they hated more, Castro or the Miami Cubans. Some of them even use Castro's term, “Miami mafia,” to refer to Miami's Cuban community; many of them use the pejorative term gusano. I also was impressed by how afraid they are that once Castro goes, it's the Miami exiles who'll come and take over. One young man (who'd been beaten by two security personnel for unfolding a protest banner at a Castro rally) felt it was a choice between chopping off one's right leg or one's left leg.

Finally, after reading your coverage and the coverage in the Herald, I was struck by how the reaction against the Miami Cuban-American community was so easily labeled as “racist” when much of the domestic response was toward the Miami Cuban Americans who invested so much in this case, not Cubans in general. I believe that most Americans who were appalled at the conduct of Elian's relatives and their supporters also were intelligent enough to limit their response to a certain powerful political group that just happens to be Cuban, rather than responding to the fact that they are Cuban.

Sandra Necchi
Brooklyn, New York

THE VIEW FROM HOME
New Times
is bad, phony patriotism is bad, Third World stereotype is bad, printing this is good: Your publication's one-sided journalism against the Cuban exile community has accomplished nothing but further division within the community. Every issue it's like, which Cuban will be bashed this week? There was even an article devoted solely to listing acts of violence committed by the Cuban-American community. I would love to see the reaction if a Hispanic publication listed the acts of violence committed by African Americans in Miami, or the acts of hate committed by white Americans.

To this day I still see many of these jealous whites (and many blacks) with American flags on their cars. Is this out of patriotism? No! Is this to show resentment against Cubans and Hispanics? Yes! Do you actually think that blacks who attend rallies where Confederate flags are displayed are showing patriotism? Most of these people had never flown an American flag in their lives.

Would Miami be called a banana republic if the city's elected leaders were white Anglos? No! You can hate us all you want. If you feel Miami is “lost” and you live with your resentment and hate, my advice is to move to Broward. I personally love my city and my beautiful Latin people. And I doubt this letter will ever be published.

Jorge Dominguez
Miami

AN ALLY IN DISGUISE
Free weekly cleverly gets the job done:
After reviewing several issues of New Times, I have come to the conclusion that your articles and stories are consistently leftist and anti-Hispanic, particularly anti-Cuban American. But then I thought to myself: These guys have done more to energize the Cuban-American base than any other local publication, although they have chosen to use agitation, allegation, and innuendo.

Hey, I must admit, it does work.

So it is my great honor to bestow upon the New Times editors and writers honorary membership in the Cuban mafia. If you don't want to publish this, I'll understand. You don't want to be outed. But keep up the good work.

Jorge Rodriguez
Miami

MIRROR, MIRROR ON THE WALL
Behold the commie bastard within:
If one wonders how Fidel Castro has stayed in power these 41 years, just read the vitriol-filled letters sent to New Times by exile supporters whenever a Cuban is rightfully criticized. It does not matter what the criticism, the response is the same: blind support for incompetent or criminal behavior without any concern for First Amendment rights, whether it's Humbertico, Demetrio, or Elian.

However written, the basis of their statements are the same: Do not tell us about this, because you are a commie bastard. If supporters of the exile community are any reflection of Fidel's Cuban supporters, the answer is in their mirror.

Stephen Hanas
Pembroke Pines

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