BEST LOCAL BOY GONE BAD Miami 2002 - Demetrio Perez, Jr.
Why do so many sanctimonious people turn out to be wicked? And has there been anyone in public life more sanctimonious than Demetrio Perez? Back in the Eighties, as a Miami City Commissioner, he sought to consecrate the Cuban-exile cause by, among other things, introducing a resolution to have the city honor convicted terrorist Orlando Bosch, handing the violently anti-Castro group Alpha 66 a taxpayer gift of $10,000, and demanding that director Brian De Palma rewrite the script of Scarface to soften its harsh portrayal of Cuban immigrants. Later, as candidates maneuvered for appointment as city manager, he was accused of but never charged with offering to sell his vote for $50,000. As a member of the school board he argued that students should be forced to rise whenever an adult entered their classroom, that the National Guard provide school security, and that uniforms be mandatory at all schools. As a "safety measure" he wanted all students to squeeze through a human cattle chute lined with metal detectors and x-ray machines. Suspension as a form of punishment was ineffective, he argued, and should be replaced with hard labor. All this while lying about where he lived in order to run for his seat on the board. And don't forget his shrill pronouncements against the violence fostered by America's gun culture -- this from a man whose concealed-weapon permit allowed him to pack heat at all times, which he did with relish and without apology. He even was arrested carrying two handguns through a security checkpoint at Miami International Airport. His chain of private Lincoln-Martí schools teach a rigid and hateful form of moral discipline, to which he gleefully subjected little Elian Gonzalez while simultaneously and shamelessly exploiting the boy for publicity purposes. But the end of Perez's long turn on the public stage revealed the depths of his depravity. A rich man, he was caught stealing $18,000 in rent and subsidies from two elderly women who were his tenants. In September he pleaded guilty to five federal criminal charges, but he escaped prison time. Too bad. Some hard labor might have done him good.