War on Hugo Chávez

An outlaw and former spook takes on the Venezuelan dictator

In October 2004, Venezuela demanded Alonso's extradition after his name popped up in a Miami newspaper report. Alonso says his family's address was later posted online. They fled to Washington state, where he had spent time on a farm as a teen. He recalls the shabby cabin where they stayed in Onalaska, a town of a few thousand. When he told a gas station attendant he was from Venezuela, the response was "Where's that?" Alonso's reply: "Oh, it's a few miles from the Mississippi, just across the river."

The family returned to Miami, and after consulting a lawyer and quashing the extradition, the Alonsos were granted legal residence in 2005. Their Cuban nationality helped speed up the process. They rented a tiny efficiency. "The kids played PlayStation five inches from where their father was writing things against Chávez," Siomi says.

Siomi's saintly patience with her husband's world of spies and freedom fighters, contras and communists, traitors and good Americans seems endless and absolute. She doesn't blame him for losing Daktari: "[His political work is] his passion. I guess he feels that's his calling. But it drains him. It doesn't allow him to lead a normal life."

President Hugo Chávez is tied with Fidel Castro on Robert Alonso's list of most-hated world leaders
President Hugo Chávez is tied with Fidel Castro on Robert Alonso's list of most-hated world leaders
Between Cuban coffees, Robert Alonso now plans for a mass uprising in Venezuela
Between Cuban coffees, Robert Alonso now plans for a mass uprising in Venezuela

For the next year or so, Alonso took various jobs, such as driving a private ambulance and shuttling elderly people to medical appointments. In 2006 he began producing and posting online videos under the tag Guarimba TV. Soon he branched out to Internet radio. In early August he was hired as editor of Venezuela Sin Mordaza ("without a gag"). He's wrapping up another book. And on radio station La Cadena Azul 1550 AM, he cohosts La Voz de la Resistencia, a Saturday-morning show dedicated to promoting freedom in Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.

What does he talk about? On an Internet radio show one afternoon in early September, he said, "I spend 25 hours a day in Miami analyzing Venezuela. The country is lost. We must get it back."

In a Don Pan bakery in Miami's suburbs, Robert Alonso plots the next Guarimba. It's a mid-September day, and he's peering over his gold wire glasses at a recent edition of Venezuela Sin Mordaza.

Some highlights: "A Communist, Me?" "Dictionary of International Castro-Stalinism," a poem by José Marti, a piece about Sharp's book, and "The Mission of This Traitor," which describes the opposition leader who urged Venezuelans to stop the 2004 Guarimba and negotiate with the government.

Other newspapers and books clutter the faux-marble table where he sits as nearby customers mull over chatos, empanadas, and strawberry-topped cakes in smudged glass cases.

Alonso looks like a retiree who stopped by for an afternoon cafecito. He's wearing blue sweatpants, tan sandals, and a turquoise T-shirt. Clamor from the espresso machine and blenders fills the room as a man in a button-down shirt carrying a briefcase strides through the bakery doors and beelines for the table. He silently drops a manila folder before Alonso.

The mystery man is Marlon Gutiérrez, a 45-year-old former Nicaraguan Contra. Alonso takes some papers from the folder and looks them over. They are bylaws for their new group, Fundación Interamericana por la Democracia, which will organize Guarimba resistance movements in Nicaragua, Cuba, and Venezuela.

"Robert is Chávez's strongest adversary," Gutiérrez says.

"This is a historic moment," says Alonso, signing the papers. "With this, we take down the tyrants."

They discuss recent developments. A high-level Venezuelan politico mentioned the Guarimba. An anti-Guarimba law was passed in Nicaragua. Chávez in a recent speech referred to Sharp and a golpe suave — gentle coup — being planned from Miami. Alonso delights in needling the Venezuelan leader. "Chávez says, 'We have been watching them in Miami,'" he says in a gruff voice. Then he pumps his finger in the air and breaks into snickers. "And I say, I'm watching you from there."

These days the former fugitive scrapes by as editor of Venezuela Sin Mordaza. Siomi works as a clerk at a Coral Gables investment bank. Together they earn about $1500 a week. Friends have loaned them money for clothes. The Alonsos' sparse three-bedroom apartment contains used furniture from street corners in Coral Gables, and bookshelves are actually stacked plastic crates. (Alonso offers his humble abode as proof he's not being paid by the CIA.)

A Venezuelan mortgage broker, Edgard Paredes, launched Venezuela Sin Mordaza July 24, using about $20,000 of his own money. The paper has swollen from 20 to 28 pages, and Paredes claims it's now self-sustaining. Along with radical anti-communist stories are breezy entertainment features like "The Prince of Salsa" and sports stories, such as one about car racing. Advertisers include a vegetarian restaurant, car dealers, and travel agencies.

Paredes is a 49-year-old former radio broadcaster who moved to the United States from Caracas in 1998. He started the newspaper to fend off Chávez's power grab: "We have to move from the defensive to the offensive," he says. "No boxer ever wins defending himself."

Paredes and the first editor, Ricardo Guanipa, quickly parted ways because the publisher wanted a tougher anti-Chávez stance. Not a problem for Alonso. (One headline from when he first took over: "A Country on the Defensive Will Never Topple a Tyrant!")

« Previous Page
Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help
Miami Concert Tickets