Cuban Farmers: Workin' for the Man
Kudos to David Abel for his excellent article "Cuba's Second Revolution" (February 18), and to Diosmel Rodriguez Vega for his courageous struggle to offer Cuban farmers a way out of their de facto status as serfs under the Cuban regime, an action that led to Rodriguez's banishment from the land of his birth.

Fear not, Diosmel. Your sacrifices for la patria are recognized here in the exile community as well as on the island. I pray that you never give up the struggle. We haven't given up on you.

John Suarez
Free Cuba Foundation

He Was Lost, but He Wasn't Found
Reading Tristram Korten's article about the murder of fifteen-year-old Jarvis Hilbert ("Death of a Warrior," February 11) disturbed me very much. Jarvis, like many other teens, was a victim of his environment, his family, his school, and his social workers. Even though Jarvis's family background was tainted by disease, drugs, and guns, he still had potential. Unfortunately he got lost along the way. He lost self-confidence, lost control of his life, and maybe even lost a reason to live, given his choice to live so dangerously. I know the usual story: There are too many kids, too many cases, and we can't save the world. But still, someone failed him.

Perhaps if someone who crossed his path during his short life had carried him in prayer, carried him in compassion, carried him in their car -- just to get him to Jesus -- then perhaps he would have been found.

Marixa E. Soto
Coral Gables

A Better Life Awaits
I must congratulate New Times for continuous coverage of stories that truly reflect our society and particularly our community. They stay with us long after we have read them.

In response to Manny Losada's insightful letter regarding Tristram Korten's article, "Death of a Warrior," I am compelled to state how much I agree with his message: Somehow we as a society must instill more important values in our youth -- self-respect, self-esteem, and the glimpse of a better life.

E. Perez

It's Not the Garbage, Stupid, It's the Bus System
Jacob Bernstein's City of Miami garbage-franchising expose, "Trash and Cash" (February 4), was timely and appropriate. Because South Florida is semitropical and flat, the only things keeping us from a devastating waste-vector epidemic -- a plague -- are efficient garbage removal and the men and women of the sanitation department who keep the pumps going and the sewer lines unclogged. The powers that be should declare a holiday in their honor!

Franchising is extremely complicated with regard to the scheduling and the needs of individual waste producers. Actually "complicated" may be better stated as "difficult to justify" in light of the fact that what we are talking about here is an attempt to destroy the mom-and-pop operations by franchising, rather than gradually raising the bar on safety and operating regulations for health and safety reasons, which has the same effect on companies that can't modernize.

Commercial garbage service in most parts of town is not a problem. It's public transportation that stinks. Here's a can of worms that must be opened sooner or later. With all the building planned or underway in the downtown area, the city should immediately consider licensing small, independent jitney outfits. Everybody who rides Metrorail loves Metrorail -- this is no joke. Soon we're going to need Tokyo subway pushers at rush hour. It's getting to the damn train that's the problem.

Conversion of the county-run bus system to an express-only service fed by short-wait, short-loop regulated jitneys can work. Publicos are in Miami's blood. We should give our own culture and history a try before we cut up and move every shred of human dignity out of Miami to make way for parking garages and smart highways.

Paul Berry

Castro Messes with Miami's Trash
Regarding "Trash and Cash," if this franchising ordinance passes, the only things that'll be dumped in the landfills by the City of Miami will be free enterprise and freedom of choice.

I am intrigued by Miami Commissioner Joe Sanchez's rationale for franchising, and wonder where he got his theories on economics. Perhaps at the Marx and Corleone Institute of Economic Thought? Rather than dole out trash turfs to the big boys to raise more revenue, why not fire all the overfed, overpaid, underworked, do-nothing, omnipotent bureaucrats like the infamous Mr. P, solid waste director Clarance Patterson? After 39 years in do-nothing jobs, this Mr. P (maybe it stands for putz) has no appreciation for how money is earned in the real world.

Mr. Sanchez should ask his parents why they left Cuba. He may hear from them the same complaints he is hearing from the mom-and-pop trash haulers. Commissioner Sanchez and Fidel Castro also share another distinction: Both hold office, yet neither has ever won a free public election.

Emiliano Antunez

Blackout by Zip Code
I want to thank Tristram Korten for his article about power failures in the Upper Eastside ("Meet Joe Blackout," December 24). I have lived in Belle Meade for the past three years and have written letters to FPL regarding the frequent power failures. Many times the failures occur during sunny, calm days and last a minimum of three to five hours. I wrote a letter April 30, 1998, regarding one such outage, and received a response from Mr. Lee Davis, distribution supervisor at FPL, with promises for improved performance.

In deference to him, performance has been better, but it's far from perfect. I believe the lack of concern on the part of FPL is due to the "inner city" status of homeowners and businesses in the 79th Street area. Ironically it is businesses such as Reef Bait and Tackle that are exactly what the Upper Eastside needs to sustain and revitalize its economic development, yet FPL and the City of Miami ignore their basic operational needs.

I have FPL's power-outage number on my auto dial so I can alert them in the dark when the only alternative is to find a number by candlelight. We're also looking into buying a generator.

Dr. Jean Miles

He Escaped, Only to Return
I loved John Lantigua's article about gangs in Miami ("Rich Thug, Poor Thug," December 10, 1998). I was formerly a gang member in the Cutler Ridge chapter and the South Miami chapter of IN/P, International Posse. Right now I am recovering in my so-called gang rehabilitation program: the U.S. Army.

I had so many friends die in my old gang, friends I grew up with who were troubled like I was. Seeing those pictures nearly put tears in my eyes.

Now I am 22 years old and about to get out of the army. I'm going to try to accomplish my dream of becoming a gang-unit cop to help troubled kids. I thank God my juvenile criminal record hasn't caught up to me in my adult life.

Before I joined the army, rival gang members tried their best to hunt me down and kill me. Now they can come to me and ask me how I managed to escape and become the real man I am today. RIP, old friends.

Luis Rodriguez


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