Lesnik: Longing for the Lap of Luxury?
Mike Clary's article "Miami's Man in Havana" (April 30) was mistitled. It should have been "Havana's Man in Miami." Max Lesnik is proof that Cubans in Miami are a tolerant people. We need him here in order to see, in the flesh, one of Jose Marti's insightful thoughts: Every tyranny has at hand one of those learned men to think and write, to justify, to extenuate, and to disguise. Sometimes it has many of them, because literature is often coupled with an appetite for luxury, and with the latter comes a willingness to sell oneself to whoever can satisfy it.

John Suarez
Free Cuba Foundation

Lesnik: Not Close to Being Funny
To try to paint Max Lesnik as anything other than an apologist for the Castro regime is a distortion of the facts. Whether for philosophical reasons or personal friendship, Mr. Lesnik has chosen to stand by Castro, even making such outrageous statements as "To compare Hitler with Fidel, you are in some way glorifying Hitler." This statement might seem humorous if it were not so obviously biased.

Though Mike Clary's article tries to paint Mr. Lesnik as nothing more than someone with differing opinions, possibly based on differing personal experiences, nothing can change the fact that the regime he refuses to condemn has a consistent history of oppressing its people, denying free expression, imprisoning political dissidents to a degree that makes the former South African regime look tame, and, not being satisfied with its own misery, attempting to export revolution to other nations by violent means. If anything, Mr. Lesnik should be called "Havana's Man in Miami."

Cesar Vasquez

Attention All Drug Dealers: Yvonne Will See You Burn
In reference to Tris Korten's cover story titled "Our Hero the Drug Dealer" (April 23), I could not be more upset and disappointed. Are we glorifying known drug dealers? That is the impression this story gave me. So what if Rickey Brownlee gave out turkeys at Thanksgiving? So what if he gave clothes to those "less fortunate"? So what if he coached kids' sports and distributed Christmas gifts? Be real, people. Rickey Brownlee is a damn drug dealer!

The article left out the opinions of the mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, children, and friends of those whose lives Brownlee's "business" has ruined. Those who have been abused physically and emotionally by a loved one who is a crack addict. Those who have been robbed and beaten for a few dollars by a crack addict. Those who have seen death brought on by some desperate crack addict who needed a fix.

The article says: "These people who are buying, everybody has their own free will." If you are dumb enough to try crack, you'll no longer have free will. It's very easy to get hooked, and then it takes over your brain. Anybody who has been addicted to crack will tell you it's not an easy habit to break.

So to Rickey Brownlee and all you freakin' drug dealers out there, don't blame society for your inability to get a real job. There's always a better way than having to resort to dealing drugs. I hope you all burn in hell for the hell you've caused here on Earth.

Yvonne Diaz
Coral Gables

Ahead of the Curve in the War on AIDS
Regarding Kathy Glasgow's article about Health Crisis Network ("Fall from Grace," April 30), I would ask readers to consider all the important reasons HCN rose to the status of Florida's premier AIDS service agency. Interviews with any of the thousands of well-served clients who have passed through its doors over the years -- especially at a time when there was nowhere else to turn -- might shed some additional light.

Nonetheless we are experiencing a changing epidemic (yes, it is still an epidemic) that requires new strategies and hard looks at our agencies. The pending merger of HCN and the Community Research Initiative of South Florida will provide our community with a tremendous opportunity to be served by a team with a renewed commitment to providing the most comprehensive and effective set of services possible, in the most efficient way possible. It's great to be perceived as "ahead of the curve."

Rick Siclari, executive director
Community Research Initiative
Coral Gables

This Virus Does Not Discriminate
Since the AIDS epidemic first emerged in the early 1980s, the face of the disease has changed from gay white men to people from all walks of life, of all ages, religions, and colors, as well as other characteristics that divide us as well as unite us.

And like the epidemic, AIDS service organizations must also change and evolve. The founders of Health Crisis Network were some of the first people to respond to the epidemic and to the expanding needs of the community. While I have privately and publicly disagreed with many of HCN's actions, I have also agreed with many of its policies and directions. I have always recognized its leadership, commitment, and dedication during the entire AIDS crisis.

I am excited that the expanding face of AIDS will now include a combined HCN and Community Research Initiative. Rick Siclari has done an excellent job at CRI, and I have faith that the organization will expand to better serve the community.

I hope the entire AIDS community, as well as all of Dade County, will join me in supporting Rick and the combined organization. I hope we can put away our differences and learn to support one another. After all, we must remember that the old axiom is true: United we stand, divided we fall.

Shed Boren, director
Special Immunology Services
Mercy Hospital

Editor's note: Owing to a reporting error, former HCN executive director Marc Lichtman's professional history was mischaracterized. Lichtman formerly worked as executive director of the Miami Jewish Home and Hospital for the Aged at Douglas Gardens. New Times regrets the error.

You Say Junkie, He Says Metabolically Challenged Disease Victim
In the April 23 issue there appeared a letter to the editor from Mr. Karl Olsson of North Miami Beach. In his letter Mr. Olsson took exception to Paula Park's article "The Addiction Connection" (March 19), and in so doing made an erroneous statement: "There's a reason that street junkies opt to go to Dr. Ruiz's program instead of Matthew Gissen's treatment center, the Village. The reason is that you can't get into a drug program unless you have a lot of insurance."

In fact, an overwhelming majority of patients at the Village are not covered by any insurance, and the Village never denies service to anyone because of an inability to pay. Additionally, the Village knows and believes that there are certain people who are metabolically in need of methadone to survive and that those individuals should be treated in a methadone program. Individuals who are not metabolically in need of methadone should be given the opportunity of having a drug-free life.

Mr. Olsson refers to individuals in methadone programs as "street junkies." Perhaps this shows where he is coming from. I do not believe that someone suffering from a brain disease (recognized as such the world over) should be classified as a junkie. Would we call someone with diabetes an insulin junkie?

Matthew Gissen, executive director
The Village

And Now to Speak on Behalf of the Mayor ...
Has columnist Jim DeFede's ego become so big he can't admit he made a mistake? I have always trusted DeFede as a credible source for my political news. But after comparing his recent article "Take My Son, Please" (April 9) with the source of the story -- a close-out memo from the Dade State Attorney's Office -- I now have serious doubts.

The close-out memo, written by Joseph Centorino, division chief of the state attorney's public corruption unit, details the results of an investigation into DeFede's prior allegations of improper influence by county elected officials in the hiring of aviation department employees. Although the Centorino memo suggests there were "questionable" (but not illegal) hirings, the memo absolutely clears Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas of any role in the hiring of his father-in-law, Fermin Arrarte, a clerical employee with the airport.

Readers would never know it from reading DeFede's article, but Centorino found that Arrarte was hired in 1994 (before Penelas was elected mayor) after a screening interview by a committee that interviewed seven candidates for the position. Arrarte received the second-highest score in the overall ratings by the interviewers. Richard Anyamele, who made the ultimate decision to hire Arrarte, told the State Attorney's Office "that he hired Arrarte on merit alone, and that he received no pressure from any source."

In his memo Centorino wrote that neither then-County Manager Armando Vidal (no friend of Penelas) nor Gary Dellapa, director of the aviation department, reported any contact from Penelas about the hiring. Centorino concluded that Arrarte's hiring "appeared to have been the only one of those reviewed by this writer which was done in accordance with standard civil service procedures."

Instead of reporting these important facts, DeFede's article merely stated that Centorino "could find no evidence that Penelas was in any way involved with the decision." That's short shrift, especially considering that DeFede had made the heavy allegation against our county's top elected official in two prior articles. Rather than let the matter rest there (and allowing us to conclude that he was mistaken), DeFede has tried to keep his allegation alive.

In his April 9 story, DeFede reported that he has since spoken with two county officials -- conveniently unnamed -- who DeFede says played "key roles" in Arrarte's hiring and who would have implicated Penelas had they been questioned by prosecutors.

Who is DeFede kidding? Centorino interviewed Anyamele, who made the decision; Dellapa, director of the aviation department; and Vidal, who was county manager at the time. Centorino also interviewed Bobby Phillips, who heads the aviation department's personnel office; Tony Ojeda, assistant county manager; Maria Casellas, director of the employee relations department; and Mary Lou Airtime, director of the employee relations department personnel services division.

If we are to believe DeFede, we need to accept his incredible suggestion that there are two mystery officials out there who played a "key role" in the hiring but who are not one of the above county administrators. This notion is simply too silly to believe, and I openly doubt the existence of DeFede's phantom sources.

The evidence shows that DeFede repeatedly made an allegation that the mayor exerted improper influence in the hiring of a relative, and a State Attorney's Office investigation has now found that allegation to be false. Let's hope that in the future DeFede is a big enough man to report all the critical facts in a story -- and not create new ones -- even when it means he has to admit he is wrong.

Amy Weber
Coral Gables


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