La Cosa Nuestra

The war on sexual orientation reveals the organization and structure of the Take Back Miami-Dade political family

Armesto's public comments suggest he has well-placed informants inside the Miami-Dade Department of Elections. Four days before the vote he announced that Supervisor of Elections David Leahy was preparing systematic voter fraud in order to defeat the Take Back campaign. "They said we were crazy," Armesto fumed after the September 10 election-day debacle. "Well, now it has turned out that the crazies have become prophets in this county."

Apparently an admirer of the late Spanish dictator Generalissimo Francisco Franco -- godfather to the modern family-values movement -- Armesto sees a parallel between the old international communists and today's homosexualist network, which landed one of his capos and three soldiers in jail. "I was going to ask the caller," Armesto began on a recent late-night appearance on La Poderosa, "if he didn't see a parallel between the international brigades that the communists imported into Spain to fight the native Spaniards and impose communism in Spain, and the one thousand homosexualist troops brought in from different parts of the U.S. by the group headed by Alex Penelas, Mayor Manny Diaz, and Mayor Raul Martinez to impose on this community a homosexualist political agenda totally alien to the values and principles of the people from here."

Armesto insists he has friends who are gay, but occasionally erupts in contemptuous similes: "If you were having dinner and a cockroach crawled onto your plate," he asked during another radio stint, "would you discriminate?" "Of course," replied a caller. "Thank you," Armesto responded.

4. Antonio "Tony" Verdugo, capo. Verdugo, 40-year-old chairman of the Miami-Dade Christian Coalition, is currently awaiting trial. Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers arrested him at 6:00 a.m. on August 16. They charged Verdugo with one felony count of false swearing in connection with the petition drive that put the repeal referendum on the ballot. (Three other Take Back family members were also arrested on charges related to petition fraud.) Verdugo faces up to three years in jail if convicted. In La Poderosa appearances he compared his arrest to the early-morning raid in April 2000 in which federal agents removed Elian Gonzalez from the arms of a Broward housecleaner who had hidden the boy in a Little Havana closet. He has choice words for his homosexualist enemies at SAVE Dade/Say No to Discrimination. "I have homosexuals who signed the petition," he told radio host Farias. "I have homosexuals who are helping [us] in this campaign. Because they know that this group of chums, this little Mafia, this grupito, these extremists who say they represent the homosexual community, what they represent is their wallets and their interests."

5. Rosa Armesto, consiglieri. The arrest of Verdugo and the three others thrust the Underboss's tempestuous yet elegant 38-year-old sister into the public spotlight, and added to her already heavy burden as a DCF employee. She has shouted down almost everyone who has dared debate her, with the possible exception of Phil Donahue. As a guest on Donahue's new MSNBC show, she explained to Phil, Mayor Penelas, and the nation that "all laws are passed when there is a demonstrated need for it [sic]." As evidence that there is no discrimination, she noted that loan applications in Miami-Dade do not ask applicants to indicate whether or not they are homosexual. "Mr. Mayor," she continued, "I am reminded of that commercial: Where's the beef? Where's the discrimination? It is such a hoax that we see all the opposite. Homosexual groups have been courted by the media and have extreme political power."

6. Nathaniel Wilcox, capo. Wilcox, age 48, is executive director of PULSE, People United to Lead the Struggle for Equality, another family-values outfit. "Our concern is making sure that the moral compass of this community is not determined by people who don't have any morals. That's the bottom line," Wilcox declares. "We've learned how to network. When it came down to having a Civilian Investigative Panel we had to network with the Cuban community to make change. Dealing with these moral issues, we're networking with the Hispanic community in order to bring about change. And change many times takes time, and we have time. So we are not going away and we are going to strengthen our networking ability within the Hispanic community, identifying more individuals in the black community who understand what exactly the evils in the process are."

7. Rev. Joe Silas, capo. Silas serves as the president of PULSE. "We have formed a coalition with the Cuban community, or should I say that portion that deals with Take Back Miami-Dade. And we are going in it for the long haul. Because they see discrimination and racism against the black community as an evil. Also it's permeated by Alex Penelas. He is lying to the community, the black community of course. He has hoodwinked them, he has bamboozled our black politicians. He has used them to his wants and his desires. Then he kicks them to the side. In other words he has been a Judas. He has done nothing for our community."

8. Rev. Willie Sims, soldier. Sims is rumored to have entered the Witness Protection Program after an eleventh-hour betrayal of an oath to vote for repeal. For months the president of the African American Council of Christian Clergy (AACCC) had remained loyal. But that drew heat from his bosses at the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board, whose mission is to thwart prejudice and promote tolerance. On election eve, Sims flipped: "As a long-time fighter against discrimination, I certainly don't want to be party to any blatant acts of discrimination against any group of people," he stated. "I have discussed this with many people in the civil rights field and I value their opinions. Please let it be made extremely clear that as an Ordained Minister of the Gospel, I still believe that the homosexual lifestyle is morally wrong and an abomination in the eyesight of God. However, I don't think this gives us the right to discriminate against the gay community." Accusing Sims of committing a Judas-like sellout, Silas condemned him: "Any minister get up there and try to serve Mammon and God, too, is a liar!"

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