Terror Alert, Miami Style

Clandestine meetings and a hungry press

Yet the proverbial other shoe never dropped. That feared explosion from el exilio on the streets of Little Havana? It never materialized.

Not that there wasn't a reservoir of support for Posada. A host of reporters, from National Public Radio to the Toronto Star, dutifully made the de rigueur trek to that old-school symbol of cubanismo, the sidewalk coffee window at Calle Ocho's Versailles restaurant, where they found plenty of kind words for Posada and pleas to leave the elderly anti-Castrista be.

Fidel Castro certainly played out his part of the mass-hysteria script, labeling Bush a "fascist," decrying the "Miami Mafia," and comparing Posada to Osama bin Laden as he led a so-called "volunteer" march of hundreds of thousands of protesters in Havana. Adding a dash of intrigue, he read aloud a private 1998 letter from author Gabriel García Márquez that detailed the author's role as a back-channel envoy between Castro and President Bill Clinton on the Posada matter.

Posada at his media circus: "Look at my face. Do I look like a monster?"
AP WIDEWORLD
Posada at his media circus: "Look at my face. Do I look like a monster?"

On this side of the Florida Straits, however, folks weren't taking the bait. Beyond a few hotheads, sympathy for Posada remained just that -- a lingering soft spot for a man and a philosophy whose time had clearly passed. "As reporters we have to get beyond the stereotype that certain places like Versailles restaurant play into," ABC's Kofman argues. "Yes, people were watching to see if this was going to be another Elian, but this is a different community now."

That difference was on display exactly one week after Posada was grabbed by the feds. As the aging cold warrior sat in a Texas lockup, Miami Mayor Manny Diaz delivered his state-of-the-city address. Yet Diaz, an attorney who gained local fame representing Elian Gonzalez's Miami relatives during their custody battle and who rode that notoriety into office in 2001, didn't mention Castro or Cuba once in his entire 2300-word speech. And unlike his mayoral predecessor, he didn't refer to his opponents as likely communist agents.

Diaz did name-check José Martí, but not in the nineteenth-century Cuban poet's traditional role of prefacing a directive to liberate la patria. Instead Diaz invoked Martí as a call to eliminate Miami's "sad distinction" as one of the poorest cities in America. Elsewhere in America it might be old news that a mayor would promise to concentrate on curing his city's ills instead of worrying about some foreign land. But in Miami, it's downright revolutionary.

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