By Terrence McCoy
By Allie Conti
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
Back on Alton Road the mosquitoes are coming out in full force, the humidity keeps rising, and Kulchur is preoccupied with picking the thorny remains of a pricker bush out of his hand. Yet Fernandez troops on with Bravo Segall at his side. Despite growing sweat stains beginning to darken his button-down shirt, he keeps hitting each new door and prospective voter with the same infomercial-like enthusiasm. Frankly it's beginning to get annoying. How on earth can he be so chipper? He must know the conventional wisdom: Voters on Miami Beach may be split but Little Havana will fall solidly behind Barreiro. Does he reallythink he can this win this race?
The Cuban community is not monolithic, he answers. “There's a lot of very decent folks who are fed up with what's going on.... I'm convinced I'm going to win. It's demonstrated to me by [Barreiro's] nervousness.” Recalling a meeting with a close associate of Penelas, he elaborates with a grin: “I had breakfast with Herman Echeverria, one of Alex's best friends. His question to me was, 'What will it take to get you out of the race?' That's why I'm running. They think money or a job will do it.... I've lived here in Miami for 40 years and I'm sick of all that.” (Contacted by phone, Echeverria admits he met privately with Fernandez but insists their conversation went differently. “I asked him why he was running,” says Echeverria. “Why all this aggravation if he doesn't stand a chance of winning?”)
Certainly Fernandez must be at least a little apprehensive about the presence of Armando Gutierrez as one of Barreiro's hired strategists. After all, this is the same spinmeister believed to be behind a string of vicious redbaiting attacks, as well as spreading false rumors of anti-Semitism -- actions for which the Fair Campaign Practices Committee once called Gutierrez #179;a blight on Dade County politics.#178; Most recently Gutierrez distinguished himself as the spokesman for Elian Gonzalez's Miami relatives, orchestrating the media circus around their home.
“I am not afraid,” Fernandez scoffs. “What are they going to say? Are they going to call me a communist? I grew up here, I studied here, I'm going through the democratic process. I'm doing what I came to this country for: speaking my mind and doing the right thing. There are people who have visited my parents here on the Beach. People that I know, so my father lets them in the door. They say, “Your son shouldn't be running. They're going to destroy him; they're going to bring out the Cuba issue. It's going to hurt your family.' Veiled threats, that's how they work.”
A smile forms on his face and he adds warmly: “My father may be an 82-year-old man, but he's not scared either. He said, 'If I was not afraid of Fidel Castro in 1959, you think I'm going to be afraid ofthese idiots?'"