Letters from the Issue of February 13, 2003

Is Miami Beach secretly racist?

Give Unto Others as They Give Unto You

For Don Peebles that means ... Screw You! It isn't common that a simple two-word headline rightly expresses the theme and subtext of a feature story, but New Timesdid just that with "Beating Whitey," Francisco Alvarado's article about developer Don Peebles (February 6). Beating "whitey" is exactly what Peebles is accomplishing in Miami Beach, a city whose collective racism is hidden behind feel-good euphemism and faux diversity in the upper echelons of power. Peebles is beating the Miami Beach political establishment at its own game of "Screw the Outsider," and he isn't afraid to use race as his ammunition.

Given that ethnicity was the sole qualifier for consideration in the convention-hotel deal that ended the black boycott, it seems the city set itself up to be manipulated through the politics of race -- another victim of political correctness. Only this time, it's deserved.

Michael W. Sasser

North Bay Village

The Day I Picketed the Herald

Surprise! They wanted to have me arrested: Rebecca Wakefield's account of the Miami Herald's attempt to force picketers from the public sidewalk in front of its building at One Herald Plaza reminds me of my own experience in the fall of 1988 ("First Amendment, Schmirst Amendment," February 6). At that time I was a candidate for Dade County mayor, along with the incumbent, Steve Clark, and one other challenger, Ricardo Samitier. The Herald ran an editorial urging its readers not to vote in the county mayoral election. Now, the Herald has done some strange things in its checkered history, but neither that newspaper nor, as far as I know, any other newspaper in this nation had ever urged its readers not to vote in an election!

I decided this called for a public protest. Accordingly I notified the news media that the following day I would be picketing in front of the Herald building. I was accompanied by my two eldest daughters, who were eighteen and twenty years old at the time. Two TV crews showed up, Channel 6 and Channel 23. At the outset of our protest, a Herald security guard told us we were on Herald property and would have to leave. We did not. We did, however, picket across the street from the building, not out of fear of arrest but rather so that people inside the building could see us. We carried signs to the effect that it was a disgrace the Herald would urge people not to exercise a right Americans had struggled, fought, and died for. There were no further attempts at intimidation.

A friend and Heraldemployee, who must remain nameless, informed me later what had happened. Editorial page editor Jim Hampton, who had been extremely hostile to me during my editorial board interview and subsequently published a column defending the "Don't Vote" editorial, allegedly was infuriated and demanded that I be arrested. Herald legal counsel dissuaded him and/or his superiors.

Following this episode I found it virtually impossible to have my letters to the editor published. On at least two occasions I went over Hampton's head to publisher David Lawrence, who graciously overruled Hampton.

On another occasion, a Miami Beach commission candidate told me that Hampton had urged him to write an opinion piece about local politics. He responded that he knew someone who was a better writer and knew a lot about the subject. Hampton asked who it was. He gave my name. Hampton's face, he told me, literally turned red with anger. "He picketed our newspaper!" he reportedly raged.

Shortly before Hampton's retirement a judicial candidate, who must also remain nameless, told me that during his editorial board interview, Hampton told him the "Don't Vote" editorial was one of the biggest mistakes he had ever made. If indeed he felt that way, he never indicated it in public.

Richard H. Rosichan

Miami Beach

Somehow the Feds Missed This Castro Agent

Direct from Havana, it's Kirk the Red:The FBI busted up a Cuban spy network that infiltrated U.S. military installations, obtained home addresses of U.S. military officers, and successfully conspired to murder four Americans in an act of state terrorism. Yet Kirk Nielsen's article "Frometal Jacket" (February 6) repeats the Cuban government's spin and ignores evidence that the ten Cuban agents arrested by the FBI had infiltrated and filed detailed reports on the U.S. Southern Command and the Boca Chica Naval Air Station. Nielsen also ignores the case of Ana Belen Montes, the high-ranking Defense Intelligence Agency analyst arrested shortly after 9/11 who pleaded guilty to spying against America for Castro.

Brothers to the Rescue (BTTR) was founded in 1991 to spot rafters in the Florida Straits and save their lives. Amnesty International's Holly Ackerman co-authored a monograph on Cuban rafters indicating that as many as 100,000 people have died trying to flee Castro's Cuba. On July 13, 1994, four Cuban government boats equipped with high-pressure water hoses attacked an old tugboat that was fleeing Cuba with 72 people aboard. The massacre took place seven miles off the Cuban coast. They attacked the runaway tug with their prows while at the same time spraying everyone, including women and children, with pressurized water. The old boat sank, with a toll of 41 dead, including ten minors.

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