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Emma Mirta was unable to get any at all from Archbishop John Favalora. She and her 39-year-old daughter Mirtha had to settle for an audience with Favalora's assistant, Msgr. Michael Souckar. Mirtha says Father Souckar told her the Archdiocese had been "inundated" with complaints about the letter, but he offered no action. "He said the Spiritual Guides have a constitutional right to express their opinion," Mirtha reported.
"That's pretty funny," her brother Al Milian remarked bitterly, noting the Catholic Church's history of censuring members for contrary views on abortion rights and other controversial matters. "It's so nice to hear them condone free speech and dissent within the Church now." Milian, a lawyer for the Police Benevolent Association, thinks the bishops have a lot of explaining to do. "The Church should not get involved in defending these elements." Archbishop Favalora did not respond to a request for comment.
Defending himself, Bishop Roman told New Timesthat a visit by Guillermo Novo's wife Miriam had inspired his decision to appeal for a pardon. But the most important factor, he said, were letters from the four prisoners. "The letters said that it was a trap that the [Cuban] government had set up and all that," the placid 74-year-old priest summarized, slowly and serenely during an interview at the bayside Ermita de la Caridad Church (Our Lady of Charity) in Coconut Grove. "And I believe that it happened to them that way. With all sincerity we know the government of Cuba is one to make a show." He was sure they were on a peaceful mission. "Their letters showed that they were looking for a solution that wasn't violent. If they had been asking for a violent solution then we never could have written," he added. "We never, as ministers of the gospel, could accept any violent act, terrorism, against Castro or anyone." Roman was willing to accept the possibility that the four men had once engaged in the evils of violence. But ever ready to apply what he calls the "law of mercy," Roman said: "What we would have to see is what they thought before and what they think now."
Still, despite having issued the appeal for a pardon six months before the trial, he insisted that any pardon would have to come after the judicial process. "They have to go through a trial," he said. "Justice has to be first." Indeed that was the message he had received from President Moscoso, via Minister of the Presidency Ivonne Young. "The principle of separation of powers prevents the executive branch from intervening in the essence of [the courts'] decisions," she explained in a letter to Roman this past July.
Then why, the Milians wonder, ask for a pardon at all? "Basically he wants them freed regardless of what they've done," Mirtha observed, angrily. "That's ridiculous. I don't know how they reconcile themselves." Worse, she added, the Spiritual Guides are using their moral authority to deceive the exile community. "When you call someone a patriot who's a murderer, you're fooling people. I understand that they're against capital punishment, but don't interfere with justice."
"'Spiritual Guides' -- that's laughable," Emma Mirta chided. "Fidel Castro must be dying of laughter." She scoffs at Bishop Roman's notion that perhaps Jimenez, Novo, Remón, and Posada have renounced violence. "Well, then let them resurrect the dead people that they've killed."
Bishop Roman's law of mercy -- let alone Pope John XXIII's 1963 encyclical letter revealing that true peace can only be achieved through nonviolent struggle -- still hasn't pacified some of el exilio's most persistent advocates of violence, including Bosch. Two decades ago, Roman held a mass for him, while Bosch was on a hunger strike in a Caracas prison. "Lord, let there be justice in the case of Orlando Bosch, and for all who are imprisoned unjustly," the Miami Heraldquoted him as saying.Last year Bosch told New Timesthat none of the victims of the Cubana de Aviación bombing were innocent. "They were all esbirros[collaborators]," he grumbled. But he again denied involvement in the crime. Three weeks ago (November 15) Bosch delivered a speech at an event in which he called the Varela Project, a plan for a peaceful transition to electoral democracy in Cuba, "stupid." (Roman supports the project.) Bosch was among the orators honoring the four imprisoned heroes. The event was held at the Casa del Preso, a one-story house on SW Thirteenth Avenue near SW Twelfth Street, which is the headquarters of an organization of ex-political prisoners. Among the one hundred people who listened were the wives of the four men in Panama. Bosch also vowed to "never relinquish other means of struggle" and noted that some people don't understand the difference between "terrorism" and "direct action." (Last year in a conversation with New Timeshe asserted there was no distinction, saying armed conflict was terrorism. He added: "At times you cannot avoid hurting innocent people.")
The most magnetic speaker of the evening, however, was José Dionisio Suarez. A former Cuban National Movement member along with Novo, Suarez was arrested in 1990 for conspiring to kill Chilean ambassador Letelier and, after pleading guilty, was sentenced to twelve years in prison. He was released last year.