A Mind in Exile
For the past hour or so Andres Orta has been trying to persuade the listeners of radio station La Poderosa (WWFE-AM 670) that the reason for Cuba's suffering isn't communism. Instead it's something called the "new world order." He explains the island's leaders are entangled in an international conspiracy led by wealthy and powerful Jews, the true enemies of his nation.
"Communism is a doctrine of Zionist origin," he says. "It was born of the diabolical mind of a man named Karl Marx, who was Jewish."
Orta is the coordinator of Alianza Nacional, a twenty-member organization dedicated to liberating Cuba and preserving Christian values. Clad in a guayabera, the 43-year-old Havana native is participating in a debate on host Carlos D'Mant's La Hora del Tranque (Rush Hour). Across the table from Orta is Miguel Angel Aldana, a young Jewish-Cuban man wearing a white yarmulke and holding a Bible. Aldana heard Alianza's anti-Semitic rhetoric on a previous Tranque program and demanded this afternoon's debate.
Soon Orta begins reeling off a list of Cuban Communist Party members he claims are Jewish. Aldana groans slightly and rolls his aquamarine eyes. Orta, pounding his finger on the table, goes on to say that both the media and the federal government are Jewish puppets. Don Francisco from Sabado Gigante is Jewish. So are President Clinton, Al Gore, Madeleine Albright, and yes, even Fidel Castro. From a manila folder, Orta produces a document with a portrait of Castro on it that details the dictator's Jewish heritage.
That's too much for Aldana, who throws his head back, half in amusement, half in horror. "Come on!" he pleads. "Everyone's Jewish! My uncle's Jewish. Castro's Jewish. Who's Jewish? Who else?" Then Aldana chuckles at the exchange and so does Orta.
Orta, however, is dead serious about his fledgling organization, which has drawn significant attention since it was founded six months ago. The Anti-Defamation League recently started monitoring Alianza for trouble and terms it anti-Semitic, white-supremacist, and militialike. And while many of the exiles whom Alianza targets may find the message laughable, some are listening. In the past month alone, Orta has appeared twice on WWFE's Tranque (a planned third appearance is still unscheduled) and twice more on a show called Buenos Dias Miami, which airs on a cable channel called Telemiami. The group has begun spreading the word via their Website and about thirty people attended a recent Alianza-sponsored breakfast at a west Miami-Dade restaurant.
Orta, a short, thin, and neatly groomed man with a pleasant disposition, doesn't fit the thuggish image often associated with hate groups. His family fled Cuba when he was seven years old and settled in Spain at a time when dictator Francisco Franco, once a Nazi ally, held sway. Orta says he was seventeen years old when he initially discovered the new world order in a book titled Derrota Mundial, about the "global defeat" that World War II represented. "It opened my eyes, and I've been fighting ever since," he says.
In Spain Orta belonged to a right-wing political party called Fuerza Nueva. He finished junior college and worked as a salesman and low-level supervisor before moving to Miami three years ago. Soon after his arrival here, Orta, who works as a sporting goods salesman in Little Havana, joined El Movimiento Nacionalista Cubano, a group he considers moderately nationalist. But he grew disillusioned with his fellow exiles' tolerance of Jews and formed Alianza with the help of a handful of other Movimiento Nacionalista members. Alianza gathers donations from its members, most of whom, he says, are middle-age men with full-time jobs who have lived in Miami for decades.
At the core of the organization's beliefs is an obsession with exposing a secret society of Jewish magnates, financiers, and journalists who are using communism as a tool to dominate the world. Like many exile groups, Alianza wants to free Cuba. But its members leave mundane tasks like lobbying for the embargo or vilifying Castro to the mainstreamers. "We want to work with all organizations that want to free Cuba, but our strategy is different," Orta explains. "They're all turning their attention to the south, trying to accomplish something in Cuba, but the battle is really here."
Blacks are not immune from Alianza's diatribes. Orta bemoans the sharp rise in Cuba's black population since the Communist revolution and dreams of seeing segregation instituted on the island. He believes that all ethnic groups should live separately. "The Communists have erased all the signs of our identity: our ethnicity, family values, our culture," he says. "Our Spanish heritage is gone. Cuba has been Africanized."
But Orta insists that Alianza isn't a white-supremacist organization. He makes a distinction between racism and racial segregation. He doesn't resent all Jews, only devious Zionists. "We reject the term anti-Semitic," he says, echoing a phrase used by former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. "We have nothing against Jewish people in themselves. In all our activities we have defended the right of the Jewish people to have their own country."
Alianza's beliefs are not the first ultraright offshoot of the Cuban exile community's traditionally conservative thought. Although most Cuban Americans are not anti-Semitic, Alianza's emergence doesn't surprise Michael Winograd, associate director of the Anti-Defamation League's Florida regional office. "They are more extreme than any group of its kind that I've heard of lately," he stresses. "But in Miami, among the people on the political right and among the white supremacists, are some Cuban Americans. This group is not a unique phenomenon here and it concerns us."
Winograd cites a now-defunct Miami-Cuban tabloid called Trinchera Nacionalista (Nationalist Trench) as evidence of the community's right-wing tendencies. The tabloid, which the Anti-Defamation League denounced several years ago, had a circulation of between 8000 and 10,000 in 1994 and could be found in cafes on Calle Ocho.
Orta acknowledges that the "liberal majority" often tags nationalists like himself as dangerous hatemongers, but he believes that in private, most Cubans agree with him. "If we leave here and we go to all the corners of the Cuban-exile community in Little Havana, and if I explain all these things, 90 percent of Cubans will agree with me."
In April Alianza launched a Website prominently displaying its emblem, a blue flag with a swastikalike red cross in the middle. (Orta denies any connection to the Nazi symbol.) The site contains several articles laced with conspiracy-crazy, anti-Semitic bile. One claims that "Behind the White House, behind the State Department and the Capitol, is found the real power governing the United States ... the Jewish Mafia that has absolute control of the money and press."
Alianza's six-member board of directors meets regularly, Orta says. The group wants to promote its ideas in a larger forum, though, so on May 29 it held an orientation meeting at La Casita Restaurant in west Miami-Dade for people who had contacted them about joining. Orta also invited New Times with the condition that none of the guests would be named or photographed. Of the thirty attendees, ten were newcomers, according to Orta.
The Saturday-morning meeting was held in a spacious private dining room splashed with sunlight. Displayed on a table at one end of the room were flyers and pamphlets lambasting Jews, gun control, and abortion; a paperback titled Karl Marx Was a Satanist; and in the middle of it all, a small brown cross on a stand. Miniature Cuban flags decorated each of the tables where the guests sat sipping coffee and munching on buttered toast. Most of them were middle-age men. Some appeared affluent. Others seemed to be working-class. They listened raptly, only occasionally interrupting the speaker with quiet words of encouragement: "Si." and "Asi es." ("That's the truth.")
After a prayer and some introductions, Orta explained Alianza's philosophy in a spirited, finger-wagging speech to a smattering of applause. "We don't shy away from the label 'right-wing,'" he boomed at one point. "We're not afraid of the Zionists, and we don't care about the talking heads in Miami's media. We only care about stopping the conspiracy against the liberty of our country!"
After Orta's speech another Alianza director discussed the importance of securing a radio program. The liberal media distorts the group's aims, he said, adding: "The only way we can do this is with our own program, even if it's just for fifteen minutes once a month, that's a start. But it all costs money." The man said he would contribute $100 per month to the effort and invited others to commit. Then he passed around a yellow legal pad and several people offered ten- and twenty-dollar donations.
After three hours of chatting about the new world order over coffee, board members resolved to hold another orientation meeting. One 59-year-old man, a forklift driver with a family who heard about Alianza on the radio, said he would definitely attend. "I want to spread these ideas, but first I have to learn," he said. "The more I learn, the more I can teach.... I want to do everything I can to help."
Such enthusiasm worries the Anti-Defamation League's Winograd. Even though the group has few members, he says, "numbers aren't the point; Timothy McVeigh and Oklahoma proves it," he says. "It didn't take an army to blow up a building. All it takes is two or three people." Activist Bernardo Benes, a businessman and prominent member of Miami's Jewish-Cuban community, says Alianza concerns him, too. Yet it also strikes him as ridiculous. "This is the coarsest form of anti-Semitism," says Benes, best known for helping negotiate the release of Cuban political prisoners in the Seventies. "They're not worth arguing with. They should really try to be more creative."
Whether perceived as threat or joke, Alianza plans on staying active in the coming months. It wants to protest what Orta calls the "de-Christianization of Christmas": the rise of Santa Claus and a gradual suppression of images depicting Christ. Alianza also wants to rally the Cuban community around Pat Buchanan's campaign for president.
The group's political enemy is Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas. Members want to turn the exile community against the Cuban-American leader, whom they blame for endorsing a recently approved gay rights ordinance and tightening gun-control laws. "Evidently Penelas is an obedient peon of the Zionist Power dominating the Establishment of the United States and directing the Satanic New World Order," Orta writes on the group's Website. "Penelas deserves only one name: Traitor!"
The mayor's response? "We've never heard of them," says Alfredo Mesa, Penelas's executive assistant. "We don't know what to say, except that they have the right to disagree."
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