Letters from the Issue of January 23, 2002

Go to Cuba, but do so legally

Your Weakness, My Strength

TheHerald and WLRN, imperfect singly, are perfect together:To learn from Rebecca Wakefield's article that cross-marketing opportunities could drive an alliance between public-radio WRLN-FM and the Miami Herald is no surprise ("Radio Free Herald," January 16). WLRN has never shown any willingness to push the local news envelope. To the contrary, the station's aversion to risk is as palpable as the quarterly obsession to deliver profits at the Herald. In both cases, local news and points of view rarely reach the ideals of critical journalism.

WLRN's institutional blandness reflects the combat fatigue that affects public broadcasting generally. In the past decade conservatives have had a field day gangbanging national public broadcasting for its "liberal bias." In Miami, where donations are mostly from stakeholders who would rather not have their interests make the news, WLRN-FM scarcely needed to be scared away from providing hard news. Its programming has always relied on wire reports or interviews that never deliver an ounce of negativity unless served up at the same time with a bigger dollop of general happiness.

One can imagine that an alliance with the Miami Herald will bring to WLRN-FM the mantle of critical independence the paper maintains but doesn't always earn. Simultaneously the Herald will benefit from an association with the reputation of national public radio that WLRN deserves but doesn't deliver. No arguing with that synergy.

Thank you for printing this letter without my name, which might be caught up in the struggle between employment and free expression, known by some as heresy.

Name Withheld by Request
Miami

I Spy, You Pry

Spooks and reporters have more in common than you might think: Rebecca Wakefield kept her promise: She didn't reveal my name ("The Hard Lunch Bunch," January 16). She deserves honorary membership in the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO). Good spies and good journalists always keep secrets and never burn sources. My thanks!

It was a great article, but she should have mentioned that these good people of the AFIO have put their lives on the line to keep this country free. Always remember that the other side never plays fair and fights much dirtier than we do.

Comandanta Leona
Miami

Allow Me to Review Your Review

In a phrase, uninspired and a threat to your reputation: I just finished reading Ronald Mangravite's review of my play Houseguest and I wish to thank him for his concern about my reputation ("The Fling's the Thing," January 16). Let me just tell him that if my reputation depended on some critic's opinion, today I would be writing reviews for New Times.

Just for the record, Houseguest was written in 1979 and produced twice in Buenos Aires, to generally rave reviews. It premiered in English at the Los Angeles Actor's Theatre in 1982 and won the LAWEE award (Los Angeles's equivalent of the Obie) for best play. The play was published in Modern International Drama (fall 1982), the foremost magazine for foreign plays in translation. Last September Houseguest was presented in Spanish (with simultaneous English translation) by the Teatro de la Luna in Washington, D.C., and merited two (not just one) very positive reviews in the Washington Postand half a dozen equally positive reviews in other publications. A production is being considered in Madrid and in Paris, in French.

All in all, Houseguest has survived 23 years since its opening, despite uninspired reviews like Mangravite's. This is more than can be said of his writing, I suspect.

Mario Diament
Coral Gables

The Melting Pot Simmers Slowly

Calm down -- sooner or later everyone learns English: Regarding Paul E. Czekanski's letter, which was humorously titled ¡Aprenda el Idioma, Coño! (January 16): First I would like to say I sympathize with Mr. Czekanski's frustration at the fact he's often obliged to speak Spanish here in Miami in order to make himself understood. I also become annoyed whenever an employee at La Vaquita (also known as the Farm Store) becomes impatient with my broken Spanish. After all, I think to myself angrily, this is an English-speaking country. Why doesn't he make the effort to speak to me in English? But even though it's true we have every right to demand that people speak to us in English here in the U.S., we should also remember that life isn't always about what is "right." It's also about having compassion for others.

I'm sure when Mr. Czekanski's relatives first immigrated from Poland there were some who were too old to learn English. Most likely it took one or two generations for his family to completely assimilate and become fluent in the language. Well, here in Miami, which is a gateway to most of Latin America, we are constantly meeting people who are either too tired and old to make the effort to speak English or people who have arrived too recently to have mastered it yet. But believe me, their children and grandchildren will and do learn English. And if they're lucky enough to also learn Spanish, and compassionate enough to care, van a hacer el favor de hablar con los empleados de La Vaquita en español.

Erin Ploss-Campoamor
Miami

Inside Cuba, Outside the Law?

Bad, bad idea: Regarding Kirk Nielsen's story about Will Adams and his dispute with the U.S. Treasury Department ("The Will Adams Embargo," January 9), although Will's experience is unfortunate and unfair, the article sends a dangerous and irresponsible message -- that it's safer to travel to Cuba illegally than it is to travel under the legal guidelines. This is not true, as increasing numbers of people are being fined and prosecuted, sometimes months after the fact.

Whether we agree with the laws or not, it's important that we respect them and do our homework. Apparently Will Adams tried to respect the law but didn't do his homework. His problem is not that he reported his trip to Cuba, or that he didn't spend any money there, or even that he went to Cuba at all. It's that he was unable to substantiate, on paper, that local expenditures were covered by a third-country entity -- namely "Canadian Jack." This falls under the category of "fully hosted" travel, which has lately come under increased scrutiny anyway. A letter and some grocery receipts from Jack might have made all the difference for Will.

Rather than focus on the value of sneaking under the radar in order to go to Cuba, I would like to point out that thousands of people do travel to Cuba legally every year, by boat and by plane, whether as journalists, family members, or as part of intercultural and academic exchanges. Travel to Cuba is something not to be done informally or lightly, but almost anyone who really wants to go can find a way to do it legally.

I truly hope Will receives the appeal he deserves and that he reaches out to the Center for Constitutional Rights (http://www.ccr-ny.org/). The lesson to be learned from his experience is not that it's better to forget the rules and travel freeform, but the importance of following the letter of the law, not just in action but also in documentation. I would hate to think this article will encourage people to drop the effort to travel legally and to just go, risking five-figure fines and other consequences.

Rachel Faro
Miami Beach

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