Alberto Gonzalez -- Wild Man at the Plate
TITO HERNANDEZ: This is Tito Hernandez speaking. These are the headlines of today's most important news, which we offer you in this edition of El Noticiero La Mogolla, the hottest radio news program in Miami, the capital of el exilio.
ORLANDO RAMOS: The public is astonished by the scandal of the "little trips" taken by the commissioners of Miami, with the costs paid by taxpayers!
HERNANDEZ: In a city on the edge of bankruptcy, Victor De Yurre and Miller Dawkins have traveled 21 times out of Miami and Florida in 1990, spending thousands of dollars on luxury hotels and millionaires' meals! Twenty-one trips by this pair of commissioners, living like kings, of no use to those who gave them their votes. And who have to pay the bills!
RAMOS: Our special correspondent, Jose Candelario Seispatines, now brings us all the details of this municipal waste...which only La Mogolla denounces. Go ahead, Seispatines.
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SEISPATINES: To La Mogolla. Bigger than life. Total coverage, Ramito! Ah ha.
RAMOS: Let's see, Seispatines. What is this scandal about the little trips by the commissioners of Miami?
SEISPATINES: Okay, chico. I myself was putrefied when I saw the list of trips taken by those commissioners, you hear?
RAMOS: Wait a moment. You were what?
RAMOS: No sir. You say "stupefied."
SEISPATINES: Ah. Isn't stupefied when something is rotten, chico?
RAMOS: No, that's putrefied.
SEISPATINES: Oh. Okay, whatever. Well listen, Ramito. I, who am accustomed to all of these things, no really, to the graft and freeloaders and little deals of City Hall. Nothing more than all of the things we say here on La Mogolla, you know.
RAMOS: Of course. That's why they throw us out of the radio stations.
SEISPATINES: Of course, chico. Well listen. Can you imagine that Commissioner Victor De Yurre, as small as he is, Ramito. Boy, and how he travels! Can you imagine that he has traveled nine times already this year?
RAMOS: And where has Victor De Yurre gone?
SEISPATINES: All right. In February, De Yurre traveled to Italy on a cultural mission.
RAMOS: [Laughter] Listen, that's a joke, right?
SEISPATINES: No chico. Look at it here.
RAMOS: Listen, with so many things that need to be resolved here in Miami, leaving on a cultural mission to Italy? That's ridiculous!
SEISPATINES: All right, chico. But let the man defend himself. Maybe he had never been to Rome and he could take a stroll over there and see the Apian Way and all those things. And in March he was in Washington for three days, and in the same month, one week later, chico, he went to Seattle and to San Francisco - listen to this, listen to this - to see the programs for homeless people. Ah ha.
RAMOS: You don't say. He went all the way to San Francisco to see homeless people? But just going to downtown he'd see tons of them. The people sleeping on the ground.
SEISPATINES: Yes, chico. But going downtown isn't the same as a little trip to San Francisco, is it?
RAMOS: What an outrage! Now I understand why the City of Miami is bankrupt. What else?
SEISPATINES: Okay. In the month of May he went to Tallahassee. And listen to this. That same month he spent a week in Brussels, the capital of Belgium.
RAMOS: What was he doing in Brussels?
SEISPATINES: Working on a commercial exchange, chico. Ah ha.
RAMOS: Imagine that. What are we going to exchange here in Miami with those people? All right. What else?
SEISPATINES: No, no. Here is the list, Ramito. Victor De Yurre has traveled all over this year. But the trip to Belgium, to a certain point, I can justify, chico.
SEISPATINES: Because Belgium is one of the Low Countries, right? And since De Yurre is so short, maybe he thought he was going to feel comfortable there.
RAMOS: The taxpayers who paid for that trip and all the other ones by those commissioners aren't going to appreciate that joke, Seispatines. Do you know what that is - nine trips abroad in just one year?
SEISPATINES: No, no, chico. It's dreadful. Listen, do you know what they call Victor De Yurre now? Marco Polo.
RAMOS: That's good. But Marco Polo was nothing compared to this. And how many trips did Miller Dawkins take, Seispatines?
SEISPATINES: Twelve trips, chico! But leave that to the people of Liberty City to comment about on their own Mogolla, you hear, since this Mogolla is for keeping track of the Cubans.
RAMOS: To where?
SEISPATINES: When we throw him out of the municipality in a little while, chico! We're going to send him traveling through the stratosphere, at least.
RAMOS: For sure. As the worst mayor Miami has had. And the most anti-Cuban. Listen, what about Miriam Alonso?
SEISPATINES: No, Miriam took only two little trips, Ramito. And it's just as well, because if besides the 21 trips by Miller Dawkins and De Yurre, Miriam had the idea of taking even just a half-dozen trips, the City of Miami already would be bankrupt! Listen to me, what a business it is having a travel agency that sells to commissioners De Yurre and Dawkins, chico. Bigger than life! Total coverage!
I can say unequivocally that I have never listened to [La Mogolla] and I never will. My mother listens to it once in a while, though, and she gets bent out of shape. Unfortunately, the guy who does it has talent. But he's like Castro - he uses his talent for the wrong reasons.
Miami Commissioner Victor De Yurre
Alberto Gonzalez jabs at a slice of carne asada with a plastic fork, slices it into several small pieces, wolfs them down, each one punctuating curt answers to a stream of questions from secretaries and salespeople who dart in from the next-door newsroom of his newest daily paper, Diario Nacional. The man behind the Spanish-language political satire radio program ®MDNM¯La Mogolla barely looks up from his arroz con frijoles and the memo he's reading, when he explains what makes this town a treasure trove for his show.
"Miami is a place that compares to Ali Baba's caves," says the veteran political humorist and self-styled muckraker, a smug grin on his face, a bulging belly straining the buttons of his faded striped shirt. "The only difference is that Ali Baba had 40 thieves, and Miami has 400. For more than 30 years, people here have been attacking Fidel Castro, saying he doesn't bathe and things like that. But they've never said what's happening here. This is the other Cuba, and in many ways it's just as bad and corrupt as the real one."
As entertaining as they are razor sharp, laced with Cuban slang and obscure popular-culture terminology that's inaccessible to the uninitiated, Gonzalez wields his political broadsides at the expense of Miami's power elite. In the surreal world of La Mogolla, characters are caricatures come to life in a skewed but still-recognizable local landscape, the city's noted and notorious harpooned by humor. Some say the sizzling sarcasm, the all-around nasty attitude, is racist and slanderous, but La Mogolla's steamroller rumbles on. "Nobody is sacred in my scripts if they have done wrong," declares the 62-year-old Gonzalez. "Nobody."
In La Mogolla's mundo, Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez, nicknamed "Luther," wears black suits, eats chocolate, bans the use of the word white, going so far as to fire an employee who lived on White Street - all to further his quest for black votes. Commissioner Victor De Yurre sits in a highchair at commission meetings in order to appear taller. To entertain guests at her home, Commissioner Miriam Alonso dons an Oscar de la Renta garbage bag, crows over Suarez's problems with the black boycott, and readies her mayoral coup d'etat. Cuban American National Foundation chairman Jorge Mas Canosa practices brujeria against his opponents, employing coconuts and a dead cat to hex La Mogolla. "I'm pretty mean sometimes," snickers Gonzalez.
But no one ever said the politics of el exilio were nice. In the 32 years since Fidel Castro took power in Cuba, bombings, assaults, and death threats have been common forms of political expression in pursuit of la causa - the struggle to rid the island of the dictator. For the more reactionary members of the exile community, that effort has also included silencing anyone who might be perceived as soft on Castro. Dynamite and plastique are flashy, attention-grabbing political weapons, but the radio airwaves carry messages that are equally strident, and more consistent, pervasive, and demanding than other methods of striking the radical nerve of el exilio.
Since shortly after the Cuban Revolution, with politically active exiles growing increasingly frustrated with Castro's entrenchment and the United States government's unwillingness or inability to do anything about it, the South Florida airwaves have buzzed with radio commentary, both licensed and clandestine, openly calling for mayhem and murder in Cuba and intimidation and violence against anyone in Miami who voices anything resembling flexibility - or worse, dialogue - in dealing with Castro. For years these realities have loomed as large in Miami politics as have taxes, crime, and other more banal municipal issues, and have provided both the context and the fodder for Alberto Gonzalez's art.
Even by el exilio standards, La Mogolla, Caribbean Spanish slang for "muddle" or "tangle," has been the most vitriolic and incensed radio outlet of political fury, bottled lightning cloaked in a cheeky format. The program, an hour-long spoof of a news program a la Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update," has a history as stormy as it is brief. Since signing on for the first time in June 1989, on WRHC-AM 1550 "Cadena Azul," Gonzalez and his show have been kicked off that station, as well as WOCN-AM 1450 "Union Radio," for political and financial reasons, leaving in their wake unpaid bills, ill will, and allegations of fraud, political extortion, and censorship.
Each eviction, each hard-core stand on issues ranging from the black boycott to the "Latin Quarter" dispute, has further polarized supporters and detractors, sending ripples of rancor through a community where word of mouth can be the most vital news medium. Even those who don't listen to the show know about it, hear about it. Although La Mogolla's audience is difficult to define, it includes the old guard of the exile community, those most staunchly opposed to Castro's regime. Gonzalez, whose politics often seem to lie somewhere to the right of reactionary, is their champion. Members of La Mogolla Club, an organization that raises funds for the radio program, took to the airwaves two weeks ago when Gonzalez was arrested on bad-check charges that dated back to 1984. They claimed the January 7 arrest date - the same day Gonzalez's new newspaper, Diario Nacional, hit the streets - was no coincidence.
For the moment, at least, La Mogolla is off the air, after a recent dispute between Gonzalez and his show's star, famed veteran Cuban comedian and impersonator Tito Hernandez. In its most recent incarnation, broadcast at 1:00 p.m. Monday through Friday on WWFE-AM 670 "Radio Fe," radio broadcaster Orlando Ramos was the straight man to Hernandez, who reeled off the sometimes nasal and whiny, other times booming and satirically authoritative, always side-splittingly funny voices of the show's wacko characters.
On top of the day's breaking news is correspondent Jose Candelario Seispatines ("Six Skates"), the reporter with a pronunciation problem that conveniently asserts itself whenever there's an opportunity to slip in a wicked pun. (In one script he calls Carlos Arboleya, vice chairman of Barnett Bank, "Mortadella," as in baloney.) Up in the air for the "Political Traffic Report" is Dieguito Temblequera and his nervous, quavering voice. Perfecto Exquisito is the social columnist, Professor Carlos Parques Sterling forecasts the "Political Weather," and Chan Li Po is an investigative reporter who, in order to be inconspicuous, disguises himself as his quarry. (While investigating the Miami Herald, he dressed as a newspaper.) The flirtatious Chunguita "Lengua Lisa" (literally "Smooth Tongue") supplies the "gossip - whoops! - the rumor of the day."
And now we go to the "Political Traffic Report," with Dieguito Temblequera!
SOUND: Traffic Theme
TEMBLEQUERA: Lift me up, chico. All right, here in the helicopter Mogolla II, observing the political traffic for the listeners of El Noticiero de la Mogolla. Okay. The traffic is extremely congested on the Ileana Ros Expressway, although the Anglo drivers don't want to use it due to the problem with the Orlando Bosch Bridge, the same bridge that has been treated so unjustly by the authorities. But the situation is that if the Ileana Ros Expressway doesn't lead to a solution to the problems of the Orlando Bosch Bridge, the Cuban voters will be disgusted, and if it does, the Anglos will be incensed. So the Ileana Ros Expressway has tremendous problems.
The electoral roadways have very little traffic because there's still some time before election day and the candidates are slow. There is some movement on the Lawton Chiles Expressway in the area near the intersection with the Nelson Turnpike. What a quarrel there, caballeros! Because Nelson says that he doesn't care about either Lawton Chiles or Lawton Batista. Okay. On Barbara Carey Road vehicles are moving smoothly after Don Luis Sabines [president of Camacol, the Latin Chamber of Commerce] endorsed her. The same as what happened with Dawkins! This Sabines should start a Camacol in Liberty City and another in Overtown. Heh, heh, heh. Okay. That's all for the political traffic at this moment. And remember, if you drive, don't honk the horn at the person in front of you, and if you do honk, do it with much care. This is your traffic reporter Dieguito Temblequera speaking. Until the next one. Take me down, Carlitos! Careful, chico! Slowly, please!
La Mogolla did not spring to life overnight. It evolved slowly, the result of its creator's more than 40 years of poking and prodding at politicos. Born in 1928 in Guanabacoa, near Havana, Gonzalez, who has a seventh- grade education, began writing political humor while still in his teens. By 1954 he was writing scripts for Cuba's most famous comedy show, Garrido y Pinero, and for the political satire show Frente a la Calle on CMQ radio and TV, where he linguistically lambasted the government of dictator Fulgencio Batista.
In 1959, a few months after Castro took power, Gonzalez purchased the daily newspaper Diario Nacional in Havana, and began his controversial career as a newspaper publisher. Within a month Fidel silenced the publication's dissident voice; Gonzalez later spent several months in jail for conspiring against the government.
Gonzalez finally left Cuba in February of 1961, moving first to Jamaica and then to Colombia, where he wrote for the Cadena Caracol radio chain. The next year Gonzalez moved again, to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he continued to write. In 1967 he began a run as the writer and producer of the television satire Se Alquilan Habitaciones (Rooms for Rent) on WAPA-TV in San Juan. He re-entered the newspaper field in late 1978, purchasing the San Juan daily El Imparcial, which folded within months under a cloud of controversy. In 1979 Gonzalez moved to Miami.
From 1981 to 1982 the satirist wrote for La Silla Caliente (The Hot Chair) on WQBA-AM 1140 "La Cubanisima." Another newspaper project, El Mundo, began in August of 1982 but came to an abrupt end less than a year later, when the doors of the paper were sealed with a red-and-white sticker affixed by the IRS, which said it was owed $55,486 in back taxes. Gonzalez moved to the Dominican Republic and then back to Puerto Rico, continuing to write political satire. He came back to Miami and opened Diario Libre, another daily, in 1987. Less than a year later, that paper failed, too. Next Gonzalez surfaced as commentator for WSUA-AM 1260 "Radio Suave," before moving to Cadena Azul as a writer and commentator. Between scripts and newspapers, he has written more than 30 politically satirical plays and several times has produced them in rented Little Havana theaters.
And the moment has come to find out what they say on the street, with Chunguita Lengua Lisa...
SOUND: Chunguita Theme
CHUNGUITA: Ramito, sweetheart. How are you, mijo?
RAMOS: I'm here, Chunguita, waiting for you as always. What gossip - excuse me, rumor - do you have for us today?
CHUNGUITA: Fried octopus, sweetheart! [Laughs]
RAMOS: Fried octopus?
CHUNGUITA: Yes, mijo. Because, listen, lean over here.
RAMOS: What's up, Chunguita?
CHUNGUITA: It turns out that in the City of Miami, really, there is a huge octopus, mijo! What an outrage!
RAMOS: What octopus is this, Chunguita?
CHUNGUITA: All right. But come closer. This is a very sensitive matter. It turns out that there is an intimate group, six or seven, you know [laughs], that for a few years have involved themselves in all the places involving "public service." Understand? Heh, heh, heh. It's a little group that appears to be helping the community and is in all the institutions that "serve" the public, although neither you nor I have ever seen them push a stretcher at Jackson.
RAMOS: I get it, Chunguita. And what's going on with this group?
CHUNGUITA: Well, they are everywhere. They are like an octopus, Ramito. Their tentacles reach many places.
RAMOS: What places?
CHUNGUITA: Look, don't lose me. Okay, starting in the Camacol, you know. They have stuck themselves in something called the Latin Quarter Review [Board], in the Little Havana Development Authority, and in something called SABER [Spanish American Basic Education and Rehabilitation, a federally funded employment service]. Even in the blind man's home, sweetheart!
RAMOS: So what are you saying, Chunguita?
CHUNGUITA: I told you I was bringing you the octopus, Ramito.
RAMOS: Yes. But why fried octopus?
CHUNGUITA: Because La Mogolla has jumped on top of it and it's now fried, you know. La Mogolla is the voice of the public, the platform of the people, sweetheart. You've never heard of that octopus before, right?
RAMOS: Yes, that's true.
CHUNGUITA: Ay, Ramito. Just wait until the names of the characters start coming out. This is going to be worse than the burning of Rome. A whole list of rare birds that never leave the social pages are going to come out scorched, and even some who thump their chests as patriots who fight for la causa of Cuba, and who have gotten the juiciest part of a series of little deals in Miami.
RAMOS: But Chunguita, tell me who is involved in this.
CHUNGUITA: Look, muchacho. Do you want me to wake up with a mouthful of ants? Don't take me to the deep end, Ramito! Because there are millions of dollars wrapped up in this skullduggery and they'll blow away anyone for sticking their nose in. Let this cockroach feeding frenzy be discovered on its own, sweetheart, because everything is about to be known. Well, I'm going because my bag is empty. Until the next Mogolla, mijo. Bye-bye.
Ever since his days in Puerto Rico, Gonzalez has seen an "octopus" out to get him; he periodically resigned from Se Alquilan Habitaciones, accusing the station's owners of censoring the show at the behest of the government. In at least one recent case, Gonzalez's paranoia seems justified: Jorge Rodriguez, general manager and part owner of Cadena Azul, La Mogolla's first home, acknowledges that advertising accounts such as Barnett Bank complained about the program, leading to its cancellation.
At the same time, tentacles of debts, questionable deals, and alleged double-crosses stretch from San Juan to Tallahassee, detailed in court records and public documents. Many of Gonzalez's problems, his detractors say, have nothing to do with a conspiracy, but rather are the result of dubious business dealings.
"So what?" is Gonzalez's characteristic response when his financial history is questioned, a remark habitually followed by a line that has appeared in more than one of his scripts. "Donald Trump owes $300 million and you don't see anyone on his back."
In 1978 Gonzalez bought the San Juan daily El Imparcial, once the city's largest newspaper. A few months later, he sold the paper to then-Puerto Rican senate majority leader Nicolas Nogueras, whose political opponents later claimed he arranged for Gonzalez to receive government-subsidized public relations contracts in exchange for the paper. Nogueras denied having used public funds to pay his private debt, and called
Gonzalez a con artist who left him with a newspaper that was two million dollars in debt. El Imparcial folded.
Gonzalez agrees that the sale of the newspaper had nothing to do with public relations contracts, but scoffs at Nogueras's two-million-dollar claim. "He never paid me what he was supposed to for the newspaper anyway," Gonzalez recalls, and also denies Miami Herald reports that he left the Banco Cooperative de Puerto Rico with $44,000 in unpaid loans and bounced checks when he moved to Miami in 1979.
In 1982 Gonzalez was kicked out of two Little Havana theaters he was renting, and the owner sued him for not paying rent. A year later the IRS shut down El Mundo, and eleven employees sued for $60,000 in wages, interest, and lawyers' fees. Gonzalez agreed in court to settle the debt as soon as his new ventures paid off. He has yet to shell out any money, he admits, adding by way of justification, "They went around trying to damage my reputation."
Gonzalez's Diario Libre, another daily newspaper, failed in May 1988. The same month, Gonzalez left the City of Miami Beach holding a $12,000 bill for cleanup, paramedic, and police services for a failed Cuban Independence Day festival. Although Gonzalez predicted as many as 300,000 people would attend the three-day festival on Lincoln Road Mall, no more than 500 showed up at one time. Vendors who paid $500 apiece to set up stands said they lost money, partly because they had no water or electricity the first day.
Gonzalez blames a "racist conspiracy" hatched by "some Jewish leaders who hate Cubans and wanted the festival to fail." He did agree to pay back the money with the help of developer Gerry Sanchez, who co-signed a promissory note. Sanchez made eight monthly payments of $750 for a total of $6000, the last installment coming February 28, 1989. Despite efforts to collect, says Bob Nachlinger, director of finance for Miami Beach, "We haven't seen a dime since." Nachlinger adds that the balance of the bill is accruing twelve percent interest.
Gonzalez says he assumed Sanchez was making the payments, but considers himself responsible for the unpaid amount.
In June 1989 Gonzalez embarked on La Mogolla, purchasing broadcast time on Cadena Azul. WRHC station manager Jorge Rodriguez says Gonzalez owed no money when he was booted from Cadena Azul in October 1989. Union Radio owners Pablo and Sebastian Vega, however, were cautious about signing him on, says Pablo Fernandez, the station's operations manager. So Gonzalez worked out a deal with Jon Ausman, then-executive director of the Dade Democratic Party. Ausman signed a three-month contract on May 25, 1990, purchasing 48 hours of airtime per week at a cost of $6000. After only two months, Ausman pulled out.
"The bottom line is I got burned financially. Not just burned, I got hammered. Slaughtered," says Ausman, who explains that he invested in the show not to make money but to help the Democratic Party's cause in Dade County. "I lost $30,000 of my own money on that deal and I'm teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. I was just unaware Gonzalez was going to take me to the cleaners. What I found attractive was his talent for writing and political satire. Sure he was ripping Democrats, but he was ripping the Republicans - Gutman, Alonso, all of them - worse. Which just goes to show you that his politics may be one thing, but he's a mercenary. I was just blind to what was going to happen to me financially."
After Ausman backed out, Union Radio allowed Gonzalez to purchase six hours of daily airtime for $4000 per week, and La Mogolla cranked up again in early August. "He came to us with almost a month's pay in advance," says operations manager Fernandez. "Businesswise it was okay for us to sell him time for a month and renew the contract from month to month." Regardless, the arrangement didn't last much longer than Ausman's contract.
On October 31 La Mogolla, $12,000 behind in its rent, was canceled. The Vegas are now suing Ausman for $17,800 they say he still owes for airtime. They aren't after Gonzalez for any money, says Fernandez, because they suspect he has none. "We don't care about the $12,000, as long as he stays as far away as possible from us," Fernandez explains. "You don't know the problems we went through with him - people threatening me, people he talked about on his show showing up wanting to fight. One time [then-Hialeah Commissioner and currently Metro Commissioner] Alex Penelas even showed up wanting to fight someone."
Ausman, a political consultant and currently chair of the Leon County Democratic Party, claims he is owed $25,000 by clients who bought advertising time. He says he thinks the Vegas gave the contracts for those ads to Gonzalez, and also that Pablo Vega told him
Gonzalez had collected as much as $12,000. Fernandez confirms that money was collected but says he doesn't know how much.
Gonzalez argues that any money from the advertising contracts rightfully belongs to La Mogolla, because he was paying for the airtime during which those ads were running after Ausman left. Besides, Gonzalez contends, the Vegas, not La Mogolla employees, collected the money. (The Vegas say Gonzalez did the collecting.) "It's amazing that after taking the down payments on the contracts we had to complete, after leaving owing the station $18,000 and the employees $10,000 for two weeks he never paid us, that Ausman is still trying to claim that we should pay him for the ads we ran," says Gonzalez.
On November 5 of last year, La Mogolla moved to Radio Fe, along with Gonzalez's talk-radio/call-in program. Gonzalez agreed to pay $3000 weekly for two hours of airtime per day, Monday through Friday. But on December 25, long-time collaborator Tito Hernandez quit the show after a dispute with Gonzalez. On January 7, while Gonzalez was fielding calls on his talk show, Hernandez telephoned and sparred with the author on the air, calling him a thief and accusing him of diverting money from La Mogolla Club, the membership organization that raises funds for the show, to Diario Nacional. (An autographed picture of Hernandez that once hung in the newspaper's lobby has been taken down.)
Moments after that day's talk show ended, as he was preparing to leave Radio Fe's Little Havana studios, Gonzalez was arrested by Miami police detectives and charged with bouncing $1,064.57 worth of checks in 1984 and 1988. On the air for the next two days, Gonzalez berated Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez and City Manager Cesar Odio, as well as police and local business leaders, alleging that his arrest was politically motivated and conveniently timed to coincide with the first day of publication of his new newspaper.
"That's nonsense," says Maj. Miguel Exposito, head of the police department's special investigations section. "This conspiracy theory is just a big smoke screen. It's really ironic, since we couldn't arrest him if those warrants hadn't been there in the first place. It's not like they're new. In some cases they went as far back as 1984. My investigator simply became interested in him after reading in the newspaper about his financial problems, and when he checked, sure enough, he found the warrants."
Gonzalez sees Diario Nacional - which he claims is supported by advertising, subscriptions, and donations - as a way to pester the power brokers with no threat of being taken off the air, and a means to puncture the Miami Herald, which he calls "the media monopoly." The debut issue, dated January 8 but released a day earlier, berates Radio Progreso, a Union Radio show sponsored by Francisco Aruca, owner of Marazul Charter Inc. That company has a virtual monopoly on Miami flights to Cuba, and Gonzalez considers Aruca one of the most despicable of the "dialoguers." A front-page caricature depicts a Castro-faced octopus stretching a tentacle beneath the Florida Straits and into Florida, wrapping the appendage around a radio tower labeled Union Radio. Subsequent issues devote space to Gonzalez's financial problems and to the Persian Gulf crisis, including Castro's reaction. Splashed throughout are cartoons and caricatures, including a Napoleoncito strip drawn in the likeness of Victor De Yurre and a Mogolla center spread.
Although ostensibly a daily paper, only five of eleven issues have actually hit the streets. Several carriers who deliver the paper quit after being physically threatened by unidentified thugs. Two days after he was arrested, Gonzalez says, he received death threats over the telephone at home and chased two men away from his car, parked in his driveway in the middle of the night. A lack of funds has taken his talk show off the radio airwaves, but Diario Nacional's employees say they will continue to work at the newspaper's offices, at 759 NW 22nd Avenue, even if Gonzalez can't pay them.
"Everyone who works here is here to build a future and to help out Alberto," says Maria Smith, the paper's commercial director. "There's a feeling that if it works, everyone will be in good shape. But we think that if it fails, somebody or something is blocking our way. Other than that, there's no reason it can't work."
And now we bring you "The Political Weather Report" with Professor Carlos Parques Sterling...
SOUND: Thunder and rain
STERLING: Holy cow! It doesn't let up! The quarrel continues between those who support Gustavo Arcos - not dialogue [with Fidel], because no one supports that; but there are people who think Arcos doesn't deserve being called a traitor, it's true - and those who sympathize with [Armando] Valladares [former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva], who in turn are against [exile leader Ricardo] Bofill, who, by chance, now is against what the [Cuban American National] Foundation thinks. What a mess! I tell you, the scandals and infighting that form here in el exilio.
All right. With all of this, the weather is very cloudy, naturally, in the area of human rights.... There is a very strong low front in Geneva and an even lower one in the White House, with respect to Valladares, who looks like he's about to get a layoff from his position as ambassador. The weather is good over Television Marti, with plenty of sun over Congress, because it looks like the U.S. government doesn't believe in interference and is inclined to push forward with the television station - even if they can't see it in Cuba even in seances!
The forecast for the next 24 hours: Persistent rain of opinions regarding Ricardo Bofill thanks to an area of low pressure in the Foundation that is now moving north. The temperatures will be very hot on some open-mike radio programs. As far as the tides, they can't get any lower than they've been in the last few days with so many insults here in the City of Miami.
All right. This is all for the political weather, so I'll close my umbrella and take my forecast somewhere else. Heh, heh. Until the next one.
The source of most of the insults in the city, the show's targets insist, is La Mogolla itself. While Gonzalez is ready to draw and quarter anyone who steps into the limelight, he reserves his most savage satire for a small cadre of regulars - Cuban American National Foundation chairman Jorge Mas Canosa, Miami Mayor Suarez, city commissioners Victor De Yurre and Miriam Alonso, ex-Governor Bob Martinez, Camacol president Luis Sabines, Barnett Bank vice chairman Carlos Arboleya, WQBA news director Tomas Garcia Fuste, and Radio Mambi general manager Armando Perez Roura. Tony Varona, head of the Junta Patriotica Cubana, is another favorite target, as is the Miami Herald, which Gonzalez accuses of trying to de-Cubanize Miami. And of course there's Fidel. But while Mogolla frequently takes aim at Castro - the Cuban president has made "guest" appearances on the show, compliments of impersonator Tito
Hernandez - Miami's prominent are the stars, especially if Gonzalez has decided they hurt the anti-Castro cause. Such is his assessment of the Cuban American National Foundation's Mas Canosa.
Although Mas Canosa is perceived by many as the most hard-line of the anti-Castro leadership, to Gonzalez he's a bumbling, local version of the Cuban dictator, a puppet who has managed to fool the exile community into waiting for his buddies in the U.S. government to free Cuba. "He's strong in the arms, like a bully, but he's soft in the brain," chuckles Gonzalez, poking a finger into his skull as if it were a sponge. Behind every controversy involving Cuban exile politics, Gonzalez sees the hand of the C.A.N.F. leader, whom he accuses of going out of his way to censor La Mogolla, silence the show's supporters, and generally make life miserable for anyone who doesn't agree with the Foundation's view of the world. "Mas Canosa and Fidel are the same thing," says Gonzalez. "They are two equally ambitious oppressors who don't tolerate opinions different from their own."
Mas Canosa doesn't return the favor, declining to comment. Other Mogolla victims, too, are unwilling to give even the slightest impression that they deign to listen to the program:
"I never listen to it," says Sabines, whose lack of hair is a frequent source of amusement for Gonzalez's poison pen. "That man occupies himself speaking bad about other people. Instead of doing something constructive, he is destructive. The best way to deal with that guy is to just ignore him."
"It is an example of the worst in the media," says Miami Mayor Suarez. "I generally don't pay much attention to them but I did threaten with legal action when they said I take Prozac in industrial quantities."
"Hey, in this system, everybody has freedom of expression," says Commissioner De Yurre. "You can take it to the borderline, but I guess if you cross over it, that's something else. Has he done that? I don't know. I don't listen to it." And what about the jokes about his height? De Yurre says he's five-foot-six, adding, "The way I see it, you take what the Lord gives you and run with it and do the best job you can. As an elected official you have to get used to taking that stuff with a grain of salt. You're never going to make everyone happy. If you were promoting Mother's Day, there would be some people who would be against it. Probably the people who listen to that show."
Predictably, Gonzalez has little patience for the criticism directed at him, especially when the allegations include questions about his financial record. "With very few exceptions, all the politicians I know are thieves," he says. "Frankly, if a thief wants to call someone else a thief, that's not new. No thief says in court, `I stole. Forgive me.' All of them say something to justify themselves. The public knows who the thieves here are. After 32 years of exile, I'm poor, without property, without a cent. They are millionaires. Let's see. Let's judge who the thief is. It's assumed being a thief has its benefits. What are my benefits?
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