FTAA: Survival Guides

Everyone could use a little help making it through the FTAA in one piece

Miami is known for its combustible mix of people from all points on the sociopolitical spectrum. At Home Depot the wealthy former somocista bumps into the Sandinista commander who appropriated his Managua mansion. The retired Medellín cocaine kingpin lives in the same Key Biscayne condo as the attorney general who once pursued him; they eye each other warily across the pool. Successive waves of Haitian tyrants settle into gated communities in West Kendall. Batista loyalists and former Castro confidants sip cafecitos at Versailles. Busted cops are paroled from prison and make peace with the drug dealers they ripped off. Indicted politicians run for office and win handily. In a weird sort of way, Miami is a very tolerant place.

Now comes the ministerial meeting of the Free Trade Area of the Americas, attracting its own volatile mix of government officials, corporate titans, determined activists, and battle-hardened cops. Very Miami. Very good potential for a week-long festival of diversity, and possibly a bit of irrational exuberance. Which would be welcome in some quarters. After all, we haven't seen a good street melee since Elian blew town.

With that in mind, and in an effort to help our out-of-town guests enjoy Miami to the fullest, we've put together modest survival guides for the FTAA trade delegates, visiting anarchists, selfless police officers, and earnest protesters of conscience. You'll all be mixing it up in the days ahead, and we want to do our part to keep it real.

Mark Poutenis

1. Visiting Anarchists

Miami, unlike Seattle, doesn't have much of a homegrown anarchist community, so chances are you're a visitor. You'll find the rules here are different from Boulder or Washington Square Park or wherever your last squat was. In the hopes of making your stay pleasurable and productive, here are a few tips:

Bring your own patchouli -- its hard to find here.

Also bring your own vegan food. No matter how proud you are of your personal commitment to diversity, you won't enjoy the "ethnic" food in Miami, unless you don't mind three kinds of pork in one sandwich.

Dont bring your own weed. Miami already has a healthy free trade going with all the drug-producing countries of the Western hemisphere. Youll find that prices are low and quality is excellent.

Don't let the sunshine get you too happy. Just because November in Miami is a slice of paradise, remember you're not here to enjoy yourself.

If youre trying to pick up a cute Cuban, dont bother with your favorite Che Guevara passages. That leftist shtick that works so well on East Coast undergrads? Not so much for refugees from communist regimes.

If you want to get into the negotiations, pretend to be a bike messenger with an important missive for a trade minister. Besides, you probably are a bike messenger.

Wear layers. The Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center is chilly.

If youre handy with a Molotov cocktail, contact local sports agent Drew Rosenhaus. You could probably beat out the Dolphins starting QB.

While youre in town, take the time to talk to a few people from Haiti, Bolivia, or Colombia. They probably know a few things about anarchy you dont.

Fight the power. Throw a water balloon.

2. Offical Delegates

Welcome to Miami! We know youll be working hard trying to push your countrys hapless agenda. We also know youre not going to want to waste all your time skulking around the Inter-Con. And so we offer a few tips that should prove useful whether youre talking tariffs or trash. First tip: No matter how much Miami looks, feels, and smells like home, there are a few disconcerting differences.

Bring your own maid. Service in Miami sucks.

Be prepared for surly airport personnel and hotel staff, and remember: You cant have your waiter jailed.

There will be many protesters. They will be loud and obnoxious. Resist the urge to order your bodyguards to open fire.

Around town you may run into one or more members of the regime you helped to overthrow. Resist the urge to order your bodyguards to open fire.

If the irritation of it all gets to be too much, dont forget your most potent weapon: diplomatic immunity, especially on South Beach.

Which brings us to...

Pick up a posse. Look around for the Central American and Caribbean delegates. Odds are they wont have anything better to do.

Feel free to ignore the Miami Beach noise ordinance. (Diplomatic immunity!) Have your chauffeur pump up the bass as you roll down Ocean Drive.

To show youre a real baller, ditch the suit and tie for an NBA jersey. But forget the Miami Heat, unless you want to get laughed at.

Dropping the name of your countrys president will get you nowhere with South Beach doormen. Instead utter these magic words: Michael Capponi.

When wooing local beauties, forget your negotiating skills. A bottle of Cristal is still the quickest way to reach an agreement on this side of the security perimeter.

3. Local Police

What the well-prepared cop needs to know: Keep in mind this is not poseur-grunge Seattle or starchy D.C. This is Miami. Weve got an image thats all our own -- palm trees, bikinis, riots. From the 1980 McDuffie rumpus to the Elian Gonzalez brouhaha, no ones had more experience beating back a crowd than the cops of Greater Miami. And given that this is the town where Scarface and Miami Vice were made, the rest of the country might be excused for expecting a little more, you know, action when watching the FTAA unfold on TV. It would be a shame to disappoint. So when the camera swings your way, remember: We have a reputation to uphold. Here are some helpful tips on:

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