As the Banana Peels: Mayor Joe Carollo continues to star in Miami's longest-running soap opera
As the Banana Peels: Mayor Joe Carollo continues to star in Miami's longest-running soap opera
Steve Satterwhite


Poor Joe. Poor crazy, fucked-up, mentally unbalanced Joe. Why is the whole darn world against you? Why won't people just leave you alone?

Is it because your upper lip has begun doing this weird disappearing act whenever you launch into one of your tirades? Is it because your gait recently has assumed the comic aspect of a man wobbling around on stilts? Maybe it's the monotone you've adopted lately, which makes you sound sort of demented. Or could it be that the public simply can't trust a man who looks like he's wearing a cheap toupee?

But it's your own hair, isn't it Joe? It just looks phony. You can't help it if God made you a lipless, stiff-legged, paranoid freak with a bad comb-over. So why must they persecute you?

Poor Joe. Poor, poor Joe. Just look at what the press around the nation is writing about you.

The Atlanta Journal and Constitution said your decision to fire City Manager Donald Warshaw reminded the paper of another sad moment in this country's history. "It was strangely, and sadly, reminiscent of the 'Saturday Night Massacre' during the Watergate scandal, when President Nixon ordered the dismissal of special prosecutor Archibald Cox, but had to fire two attorneys general before he found one who would carry out the nakedly political act," wrote Richard Mathews, a member of the paper's editorial board.

Crazy Joe and Tricky Dick. That's bad company to be in, Joe.

But that's nothing compared to what they're saying about you in Orlando. Mike Thomas, a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel, wrote this:

"I don't want to tell Miami its business, but I think it's time to call Janet Reno and have her send in the SWAT team to snatch Mayor Joe Carollo. Joe is the guy who fired the city manager because he refused to fire the police chief. Joe wanted the chief fired because the chief didn't tell Joe when the Elian raid was going down. The chief didn't tell Joe because Joe is a raving lunatic. Don't take my word for it. Turn on one of those cable pseudonews shows and watch him rant like a paranoid despot."

Ouch. Don't they realize you're human and that nobody feels the pain of being Joe Carollo more than you? As Shakespeare might wonder about our mayor: If you prick him, would he not bleed? If you tickle him, would he not laugh? If you poison him, would he not die? And if you properly medicate him, would he not be somewhat less delusional?

The Baltimore Sun and the Boston Globe, in separate editorials, even had the gall to declare that Chief Bill O'Brien was a hero and that his decision to keep you in the dark about the Elian raid was completely justified. "Any doubt that Miami Mayor Joe Carollo would have obstructed the raid given the opportunity was resolved when the mayor went for the chief's head for not having tipped him," the Sun's editorial states. "Had the mayor had his way, there might well have been violence, especially to Elian, from zealots and goons blocking the house. It is not often that an elected executive nails his colors to the mast of anarchism, but Mayor Carollo has just done that."

Anarchism. You may want to look up that word, Joe, but trust me, it's not good.

"The politics of it is excruciating," the editorial continues. "Mayor Carollo is a divisive figure with fairly negative ratings among Cuban Americans, who comprise 55 percent of Miami's electorate. He played to this constituency, losing the respect of the African-American fifth of the electorate and of English-speaking whites, the third-ranking group. He polarized the city along ethnic lines for personal advantage.

"What stands out is that Chief O'Brien lost his job for doing it, with Mr. Warshaw a collateral casualty. Mayor Carollo brought political venality at the sacrifice of law and order to a new low."

The Washington Post called you Miami's "showboating mayor" and argued that you are more than just divisive; you also are dangerous. "This is a case in which people have insisted upon a right to defy the law in order to demonstrate opposition to a dictatorship that they condemn precisely -- and rightly -- because it is lawless," the editorial asserts. "Mayor Carollo is a minor figure on a crowded stage, but in his shabby retreat from the responsibilities of office, he has made himself a symbol of that inconsistency. He does the larger cause in behalf of which he professes to act no favor."

In a way, Joe, they are saying you are no better than Castro himself. The Post even felt the need to lecture you on the guiding principle of a free society. "Democracy ceases to function when a rogue executive will not enforce the law," the Post intones. "That's the destructive -- not just divisive -- path down which this mayor was headed, and from which the city was saved in part by the police chief who has now left office."

And did you see what our neighbors to the north have to say about you? The Sun-Sentinel declared that now, more than ever, Miami needed a leader to rise up and help this community heal. "Instead," the paper opined, "it is stuck with a mayor, Joe Carollo, who shows every sign of returning to the bad old days of living up to the nickname Crazy Joe and ruling by despotism and demagoguery."

Is it any wonder Miami is the laughingstock of the entire nation?

Mayor Joe Carollo is tired of having Miami smirkingly referred to as a banana republic. He's fed up with all those people who keep driving up to the front doors of City Hall to toss bananas out their car windows. He's had it with the FedEx shipments of bananas that have been arriving nearly every day for the past week. And he has no tolerance for the pranksters who manufactured a new flag for the city plastered with, what else, bananas.

Miami is not a banana republic, the mayor insists, and anyone who thinks so is dead wrong.

You know what? I agree with him.

Miami would have to be much, much better run to qualify as a banana republic. When you think about it, Miami actually gives banana republics a bad name. Truth be told when the United Fruit Company or International Telephone and Telegraph or any other big American corporation took control of an economically desperate Latin-American nation, they also established a measure of order and stability. Of course they did this by exploiting the local labor force and installing their own tin-horn dictators who ruled with ruthless authoritarianism. But the way things are going in Miami, I suspect most folks would welcome such a change -- at least if the alternative is more of the same from Crazy Joe.

In fact this may be the only recourse for solving Miami's problems.

The difficulty, though, is that most big multinationals these days are leery of coming right out and taking over a foreign country, let alone an American city. So I figured the only way to get the ball rolling was to invite one of them in to the City of Miami.

"Chiquita Brands corporate offices, how may I direct your call?"

"I'd like to talk to whoever is in charge of recruiting."

"Do you mean personnel, sir?"

"No, I'd like to talk to whoever is in charge of deciding where you guys set up your banana republics."

"This isn't Banana Republic, sir. This is Chiquita. We don't sell clothes. We have nothing to do with those stores."

"I'm not taking about the clothing store. I'm talking about the banana company. I want to ask someone about setting up a puppet government in a Third World country."

"Which Third World country would that be, sir?"


"You mean in Florida?"

"Technically I suppose we're in Florida. But I don't know too many people these days who think of Miami as being part of the United States."

"Hold the line and I'll transfer you to international relations."

"International relations, this is Janice, how may I help you?"

"Hi, Janice, my name is Jim and I'm calling from Miami. I was wondering if Chiquita might be interested in coming down here and setting up its own banana republic."

"You mean the clothing store?"

"No, no, no! I'm talking about a puppet government, you know, just like you used to have in certain Central American countries."

"I'm pretty sure we don't do that anymore."

"Oh come on, for old time's sake. I'm sure it's like riding a bicycle: You never forget how. We could really use the help. Have you been reading all the crazy things that have been happening down here? Our mayor has gone cuckoo, the city's economic health is in the toilet, and ethnic and racial tensions are running at an all-time high. The only thing that could possibly save us is the strong hand of a benevolent corporate master. And I think you're just the company to do it."

"Well, that's very flattering but I've got to be honest with you. Miami seems just a little too dysfunctional, even for us. Besides, does anyone there actually grow bananas?"

"Hmmm, I hadn't thought about that."

"The best I can do is try to send down someone from our development office."

"Oh, thank you."

"I'm not making any promises. I just said I'd try. Don't get your hopes up."

"I understand."

"You're not a banana republic yet."

"I know, I know."

"But we'll see what we can do."

"That's all any of us can ask."


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