By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
In 1983 President Ronald Reagan pardoned Martinez. Called "the Cuban James Bond" by some in Miami, he is held in such esteem in the exile community that when he sits at a table at Versailles Restaurant on Calle Ocho, more than half the people who walk through the door feel compelled to greet him effusively. His bravery, thoughtfulness, and discretion are well-known. In 1991 Norman Mailer wrote in Harlot's Ghost: "Give me a hundred men like Eugenio Martinez, and I will take Cuba myself."
Martinez worries that those around him take America for granted, particularly immigrants. New citizens, he fears, are failing to learn that their status brings with it obligations and responsibilities in addition to economic benefits. Their selfishness harms the community at a time when it needs to be strong.
"The [political] parties are in such a hurry to make you a citizen in order to earn your vote that they do not care about the kind of citizen you are," insists Martinez. "They should make it harder to get. What costs you, you learn to love more. But if you told the political parties [this], they would go crazy."
He is particularly upset by the way many of his fellow Cuban exiles exercise the right to vote. "When you have the benefit of the vote, why would you elect [indicted City of Miami Commissioner] Humberto Hernandez?" he asks. "What are you saying about that privilege that they have given you? Does it say that you are a good citizen?"
Martinez also speaks against a corrosive materialism, which he sees as weakening the nation today. "The problem is the tyranny of the dollar," he believes. "We have to be more spiritualistic than materialistic. That is the most important and difficult point. I don't believe you are successful because you make a lot of money, or because you are lucky, but because there are certain obligations and duties which involve character and respect.
"It is going to take a long time to educate the people of the United States. They have a convenience-store mentality. We have to educate [them] that we all have to do our part. We have to be more realistic in the problem we are facing. [Al Qaeda] are not fighting for money or land. We have to start changing the morality of the people here. We cannot be as complacent as we have been with our leaders. This is the time we define ourselves."
The theme of American arrogance and insularity is one Puerto Rican José Lopez also takes up as he mimics the "ugly American" to try to make a point: “I don't need to learn about your culture and respect [it] because I am the most powerful nation in the world. You have to learn my culture. You have to adopt to the American ways. You have to talk my language. You have to behave according to my guidelines....'
"That's wrong. That is what has taken us to this debacle."
Ironically, he notes, the general lack of language proficiency in America today is hurting the nation's ability to detect and understand those who wish to do it harm.
"How many of our [intelligence] analysts know French, speak Farsi, can read a newspaper in Arabic and catch the meaning? How many know how these people think? Have knowledge of their religion and beliefs? We are not prepared.
"You see all the people from the Russian Mafia that come here [to South Florida]," he adds. "They become millionaires in two months selling dope, and they talk perfect English. I haven't met one American that is fluent in Russian. We want the world to integrate to us, but at the same time we have to integrate to the rest of the world.
"We cannot keep on being complacent, drop a few bombs, and go home. What you are creating is hate and more hate and more hate against us."
Despite the noose growing ever tighter around Osama bin Laden, most of those interviewed are pessimistic about the near future. They expect an attack, particularly in the likely event of bin Laden's death.
"Bin Laden dead or bin Laden alive, it is coming," contends José Lopez. "The problem right now is that we don't know how many sleepers this guy has all over the world and what are his instructions to all these fanatics: “The day I am gone this is what you have to do.'"
Former ATF chief Robert Creighton points out that nobody knows the whereabouts of the thousands of activists who went through the Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and other nations. He and others warn against complacency.
"The U.S. has a very short memory," notes Raul Diaz. "I'm no exception. That first alert we had worried the shit out of me. This latest one, not so much. We get back into the routine and we forget."
"I think this country is not awake yet," argues José Lopez. "I think it is going to take -- God help us, I think it is going to take another incident. People are not going to wake up [after September 11]. [They will get the message] when they have to sleep three days without air conditioning. When they have to stand in a big line in front of Publix to buy groceries. When they don't have hot water to take a shower in the morning. Then they are going to start getting the message, because everything has been so good in this country, and we have had everything.