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Letters from the Issue of February 13, 2003

Give Unto Others as They Give Unto You

For Don Peebles that means ... Screw You! It isn't common that a simple two-word headline rightly expresses the theme and subtext of a feature story, but New Times did just that with "Beating Whitey," Francisco Alvarado's article about developer Don Peebles (February 6). Beating "whitey" is exactly what Peebles is accomplishing in Miami Beach, a city whose collective racism is hidden behind feel-good euphemism and faux diversity in the upper echelons of power. Peebles is beating the Miami Beach political establishment at its own game of "Screw the Outsider," and he isn't afraid to use race as his ammunition.

Given that ethnicity was the sole qualifier for consideration in the convention-hotel deal that ended the black boycott, it seems the city set itself up to be manipulated through the politics of race -- another victim of political correctness. Only this time, it's deserved.

Michael W. Sasser

North Bay Village

The Day I Picketed the Herald

Surprise! They wanted to have me arrested: Rebecca Wakefield's account of the Miami Herald's attempt to force picketers from the public sidewalk in front of its building at One Herald Plaza reminds me of my own experience in the fall of 1988 ("First Amendment, Schmirst Amendment," February 6). At that time I was a candidate for Dade County mayor, along with the incumbent, Steve Clark, and one other challenger, Ricardo Samitier. The Herald ran an editorial urging its readers not to vote in the county mayoral election. Now, the Herald has done some strange things in its checkered history, but neither that newspaper nor, as far as I know, any other newspaper in this nation had ever urged its readers not to vote in an election!

I decided this called for a public protest. Accordingly I notified the news media that the following day I would be picketing in front of the Herald building. I was accompanied by my two eldest daughters, who were eighteen and twenty years old at the time. Two TV crews showed up, Channel 6 and Channel 23. At the outset of our protest, a Herald security guard told us we were on Herald property and would have to leave. We did not. We did, however, picket across the street from the building, not out of fear of arrest but rather so that people inside the building could see us. We carried signs to the effect that it was a disgrace the Herald would urge people not to exercise a right Americans had struggled, fought, and died for. There were no further attempts at intimidation.

A friend and Herald employee, who must remain nameless, informed me later what had happened. Editorial page editor Jim Hampton, who had been extremely hostile to me during my editorial board interview and subsequently published a column defending the "Don't Vote" editorial, allegedly was infuriated and demanded that I be arrested. Herald legal counsel dissuaded him and/or his superiors.

Following this episode I found it virtually impossible to have my letters to the editor published. On at least two occasions I went over Hampton's head to publisher David Lawrence, who graciously overruled Hampton.

On another occasion, a Miami Beach commission candidate told me that Hampton had urged him to write an opinion piece about local politics. He responded that he knew someone who was a better writer and knew a lot about the subject. Hampton asked who it was. He gave my name. Hampton's face, he told me, literally turned red with anger. "He picketed our newspaper!" he reportedly raged.

Shortly before Hampton's retirement a judicial candidate, who must also remain nameless, told me that during his editorial board interview, Hampton told him the "Don't Vote" editorial was one of the biggest mistakes he had ever made. If indeed he felt that way, he never indicated it in public.

Richard H. Rosichan

Miami Beach

Somehow the Feds Missed This Castro Agent

Direct from Havana, it's Kirk the Red: The FBI busted up a Cuban spy network that infiltrated U.S. military installations, obtained home addresses of U.S. military officers, and successfully conspired to murder four Americans in an act of state terrorism. Yet Kirk Nielsen's article "Frometal Jacket" (February 6) repeats the Cuban government's spin and ignores evidence that the ten Cuban agents arrested by the FBI had infiltrated and filed detailed reports on the U.S. Southern Command and the Boca Chica Naval Air Station. Nielsen also ignores the case of Ana Belen Montes, the high-ranking Defense Intelligence Agency analyst arrested shortly after 9/11 who pleaded guilty to spying against America for Castro.

Brothers to the Rescue (BTTR) was founded in 1991 to spot rafters in the Florida Straits and save their lives. Amnesty International's Holly Ackerman co-authored a monograph on Cuban rafters indicating that as many as 100,000 people have died trying to flee Castro's Cuba. On July 13, 1994, four Cuban government boats equipped with high-pressure water hoses attacked an old tugboat that was fleeing Cuba with 72 people aboard. The massacre took place seven miles off the Cuban coast. They attacked the runaway tug with their prows while at the same time spraying everyone, including women and children, with pressurized water. The old boat sank, with a toll of 41 dead, including ten minors.  

This was not an isolated event. The regime has a history of committing atrocities against fleeing Cubans. One year later a memorial flotilla for the victims was forced to turn back. At the moment that the hull of the lead boat was partially crushed, BTTR planes flew over Havana dropping bumper stickers that read, "Comrades No. Brothers."

Fidel Castro was humiliated and began to plot his revenge using his spies to gather information and develop a conspiracy that eight months later ended with Cuban MiGs blowing to bits two BTTR planes, murdering Armando Alejandre, Jr., Mario de la Peña, Carlos Costa, and Pablo Morales. Castro personally took responsibility for the destruction of the planes.

The goal was to destroy all three planes on that mission, and then have Juan Pablo Roque appear as the lone survivor to offer his "testimony." But with one plane's survival and recordings of routine communications with Cuban government air-traffic controllers, as well as the fact that the two destroyed planes' flight paths were outside Cuban national airspace, the conspiracy unraveled.

Cuban officials deny Roque was attacked in Havana by Comandos F-4, yet still Nielsen calls for an investigation where there is no victim. On the other hand, he gives a pass to the perpetrators of the above act of premeditated state terrorism.

Morality quiz #3: Cuban agents murder four Americans in an act of state terrorism. Fidel Castro admits prior knowledge and takes responsibility for the attack. U.S government authorities respond by tightening economic sanctions, and little else. Such an attack would be A) right, B) wrong, C) legal, D) illegal, E) something that would lead terrorists to think it is open season on U.S. citizens.

John Suarez, coordinator

Free Cuba Foundation

Miami

If You Knew Camilo Like I Know Camilo

Regardless of what you say, he is a gentleman and a true friend: Regarding Tristram Korten's article "A Friend Indeed" (January 30), the first time I heard the name Camilo Padreda was at a Latin Builders Association banquet. It struck me that every other phrase I heard that day was "mi amigo Camilo Padreda." Several years later I met him prior to starting work on his NW Seventh Street office building known as Airport Seven.

I gave him a price, and he did not chisel me nor peddle my price. He was never condescending, and (unlike Korten's article) was always respectful. He was a good builder, paid his bills in a timely fashion, and never invented backcharges. At the end of the project he never attempted to make the final payment with cents on the dollar. It became evident why people called him "mi amigo." I went on to work on about half the projects mentioned in the article. My regret was not working on more of them.

Through the course of time I met his wife and had to deal with his daughter on some progress payments. Both were excellent ladies! If he is seventy now, he must have been early fifties then; I was in my midthirties. One day I was picking up plans at his office with my teenage son. He marveled at the wall of the office and all the pictures of Mr. Padreda and other dignitaries.

When he went through his trials and stopped building, I lost touch with him. Then late last year I was having coffee one night at La Carreta and a voice from the past said, "Mijo [Cuban slang for mi hijo, my son]! How are you doing?" It was as if he had seen me just a week ago. Always a gentleman. So yes, a friend indeed!

Rafael R. Palacios

Miami

Miami: FM Radio Heaven

And if you believe that, you'll love the swamp acreage I'm selling: After reading Brett Sokol's "Kulchur" column "Hip-Hop Till You Drop" (January 23), I ask: Do we really need another hip-hop radio station? I don't think so. Radio in this market sucks. Thank God for compact discs.

Only in Miami do you have a program director who's a hundred years old named "Kid" Curry and who says he decides what the hits are. Is this guy kidding? What a freaking joke! He wouldn't know a hit if one hit him.  

Like many other people I know, I have sworn off radio completely. I refuse to listen to the crap they play. This market doesn't even have a real rock station. The two stations supposedly playing rock music suck! It's the same songs over and over and over. I guess that's the Clear Channel, Cox, and Beasley f@#$ing way.

As a former loyal radio listener I repeat: This market sucks. Please, let's have some damn variety on the airwaves.

Jimi Santoli

Miami

The High Price of Democracy

Fighting for your rights can take a toll, but it's worth it: I am one of the individuals at the vortex of the Ouster/DERM story written by Francisco Alvarado ("The Dumbing-Down of DERM," January 23). New Times had previously published a cover story ("Greed Stinks," November 15, 2001) that comprehensively described the saga endured by me and others as a result of the Ouster Corporation's soil contamination at their Redland facility. Both articles have shed an unyielding light on a most egregious situation and have demonstrated how truly important is the press to an informed public and a democratic and free society.

I did what anyone would do to protect my home and the safety of my family. I got involved, spoke out, contacted the appropriate government agencies, requested and ultimately demanded protection from environmental hazards. After four years we finally got the "protection" guaranteed under law, but I was sued in the process, a legal assault intended to silence, punish, and financially devastate individuals like me.

The most recent article mentioned the effect this lawsuit has had on me. I can only add that it has been overwhelming, both financially and emotionally, not just for me but for my entire family -- my husband, my 16-year-old daughter, and my 85-year-old mother. It has impaired my ability to function in our business at a time of great economic uncertainty.

This story is mine, but in truth it could have been anyone. And it never should have happened. We all deserve the right to live in safety, to feel that our neighborhood, city, state, or nation is free from danger, and we expect that our government, at every level, will ensure that basic right.

Let's all work to assure this can't happen to anyone else. Get involved, speak out, contact your local government, your senator, representative, governor, president. Be informed, voice your opinion, and never ever give up.

Ellen Perez

Redland

Erratum

The caption accompanying the photo for "First Amendment, Schmirst Amendment" (February 6) misidentified the building in the background as the Miami Herald. It was the Univision compound. New Times regrets the error.


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