Meet MIA's Own Barney Fife
By Jim DeFede
Rules Are for Chumps
I'm still laughing at Jim DeFede's story of the escapades of politico-schmoozer Nelson Oramas, the Miami-Dade Aviation Department security chief who lost his county vehicle and his weapon ("Meet MIA's Own Barney Fife," May 25). I guess the Keystone Cops are in the ivory towers at police headquarters and county hall.
Oramas has always gotten away with blatant disregard for rules that everyone else must follow, and nothing is going to change. Anyone who thinks otherwise believes that oceanfront property is cheaper at low tide.
Please don't print my name. The long arm of the administration reaches everywhere.
Name Withheld by Request
A Leery Lee Leaves Lee No Leeway
With a name like his, how could I not enjoy Lee Klein's restaurant reviews? But I take issue with one comment in his recent review of Tequila Sunrise ("Mariachi and Chips," May 25). I don't know what the Mayan calendar looks like, but the image in the photo accompanying the review shows the Aztec calendar. Anyone visiting Mexico can see the original at the great museum of anthropology in the capital.
Otherwise the review was a wonderful, if sometimes slightly sarcastic, work.
The Return of Loco Joe
Miami's mayoral meltdown has a long and nasty history
By Tristram Korten and Jose Luis Jiménez
Free Weekly Sets Up Shop in Havana, Kicks Fidel's Butt
This is the second time I have picked up your cheap newspaper and it will be the last. If you like Fidel so much, why don't you try to print your cheap newspaper in Havana? If you do there what you did to Joe Carollo ("The Return of Loco Joe," May 18), you wouldn't be around for long. You have shown why you have to give away your paper. A rag is a rag is a rat.
I do not want my name published because it seems we are back in Havana.
Name Withheld by Request
Better Lake Than Never?
Officials insist the Lake Belt created by limestone mining in Northwest Miami-Dade will be an eco-panacea. Critics say that's all wet.
By Jacob Bernstein
So Audubon Has Rocks for Brains?
Thanks for Jacob Bernstein's lake-belt-mining article ("Better Lake Than Never?" May 18). Thousands of people like me who use the Florida Turnpike pass by the lake-belt site every day. While it may seem difficult to ignore something as big and ugly as that site, up until now most of Miami-Dade County has managed to remain blissfully ignorant of what's going on out there.
Perhaps most puzzling is how representatives of the Tropical Audubon Society could support this massive destruction of wetlands. Audubon surely is the answer to a rock miner's prayers.
Dear Miami Herald, Print This!
Below is a longer version of an opinion piece I submitted to the Miami Herald on May 15. I was informed today, May 26, that the Herald will not publish it. In light of New Times having reprinted Ryan Lizza's critique of the Herald from the New Republic ("Hackin' at the Herald," May 11), I thought your readers would enjoy a look at what goes unpublished by Miami's flagship paper:
A spate of recent "Otherviews" op-ed columns in the Miami Herald by Maria de los Angeles Torres (May 7), Sylvia G. Iriondo (May 9), Ninoska Perez Castellon and Victor M. Diaz, Jr. (both May 15), and Frank Calzon's "The Bigots' Game" (May 16) lament that Cuban exiles are now an aggrieved, persecuted minority. "No other ethnic or racial group in the United States is talked about with such sweeping generalizations," wrote Ms. Angeles Torres in her piece "Media's Stereotype of Cuban Exiles Shifts Yet Again."
In "Respect Will Heal Community," Ms. Iriondo complained, "The unfair way we have been portrayed by many in the local and national media ... continues to shock and dismay us."
Ms. Perez Castellon's outrageous "The Unbearable Darkness of Bigotry," written in her typically hysterical, maudlin style, states, "It's no wonder that a vicious campaign is being waged against Cuban Americans. It has become politically correct to trash us."
Aside from being amazingly ridiculous and astonishingly revelatory of a paranoid, self-pitying posture of victimization, these commentaries expose the degree to which the Miami Herald has allowed its editorial pages to serve as a soap box for the right-wing Cuban exiles' well-orchestrated public-relations campaign.
Despite these efforts, however, the charge of extremism sticks. These and similarly galling protests reveal a hubris among politically conservative Cuban-American exiles, who fail to recognize it is their politics, not their ethnicity, that is under attack. Whenever you have Ninoska Perez Castellon, Jorge Mas Santos, Marisleysis Gonzalez, Armando Gutierrez, and Joe Carollo as highly visible spokespersons, you'd do well to contact the public-relations experts at Burson-Marsteller. But good PR alone will not erase a national image of extremism. Forgive me for indulging in a worn-out cliché: "If the shoe fits, wear it." Substantive change is needed to overcome an image that is often richly deserved.
Examples of this negative image abound. Take the recent conduct of mostly Cuban-American anti-Castro demonstrators outside of the Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. When "[a] young couple, Alice Chen and Jim Wolbrink ... unfurled a homemade banner that read: 'Free Elian from CANF,' a reference to the Cuban American National Foundation ... some demonstrators held back others who tried to strike the couple," wrote Andres Viglucci of the Miami Herald. While attorney Greg Craig, representing Juan Miguel Gonzalez, addressed the media, many demonstrators shouted the all-too-familiar taunt "communist, communist, communist."
Another case in point was Jim Mullin's excellent Miami New Times article "The Burden of a Violent History" (April 20), which listed 68 episodes of exile violence that occurred from 1968 to 2000 in Miami alone. Included were assassinations, bombings, acts of physical intimidation, and so forth. Not included were the hundreds, perhaps even thousands of bomb threats, death threats, and scores of violent acts inside and outside Miami against people who merely expressed a different view about Cuba. These actions only reinforce a growing national perception, at times unfair, of Cuban exiles as irrational extremists.
What Ms. Angeles Torres, et al., seem unwilling to face is the fact that a majority of Americans, including a growing minority of Cuban Americans, reject the fossilized Cold War politics of the Cuban-American exile majority. Ms. Iriondo wrote that "[those] in our community and nationwide intent on silencing our voices with slanderous labels and epithets -- in an attempt to discredit us -- only make evident their intolerance and intransigence toward views contrary to theirs." Wow! This is what psychologists recognize as "projection." Laymen know it as "the case of the pot calling the kettle black."
A new red herring has replaced the discredited accusation of communist sympathies: Welcome the race card. Those who do not share the right-wing views of the Cuban exiles are now branded as racist bigots. But this will not fly either. Most Americans, when adequately informed of the facts, will spurn racist, anti-Cuban stereotypes and grotesquely idiotic generalizations. No minimally intelligent, rational American can deny the contributions, patriotic sacrifices, and solidly loyal allegiances of the overwhelming majority of Cuban Americans. However, no intellectually honest Cuban American, unafraid of self-criticism, can look at the history of political intolerance in Cuban Miami and walk away satisfied that this is the best we can do.
There is a way out of the current morass. Cuban Americans must lead a huge, multiethnic march that celebrates the First Amendment while it simultaneously condemns exile violence against those who lawfully and peacefully express alternative views or attend performances by visiting Cuban artists. This march will clearly state that while a majority of Cuban Miami does not agree with the views of its opponents, it will, like Voltaire, defend to the death their right to express them. Until such a march occurs -- one that would be a first in this community -- all the lugubrious complaints about being stereotyped and vilified will amount to little more than a rusty bucket of rancid crocodile tears.
The Good News: Javier Souto Has Learned How to Use E-mail
After reading Jim Mullin's "The Burden of a Violent History," I sent it to several county commissioners. This is one of their stories.
Commissioner Javier Souto wrote: "Yes, as I have every right to do under the Constitution of the United States, I as a private citizen facilitated the transportation in a private van, through my staff, for one elderly man and one elderly woman who expressed a desire to exercise their constitutional right to protest [a 1996 performance by Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba] and did not have the ability to attend the event.
I was not in town when the event took place, but I personally spoke to the elderly gentleman when I returned and he confirmed there were only two people who were transported in that van, not 200 as you state in your e-mail. Get your facts straight before making such bold assertions in the future. These are the facts, but it is more sensational to spread lies than to confirm the truth with a couple of telephone calls.
I forgot that these days it's become fashionable to disregard the Constitution and the right to protest and disagree."
Apparently Javier is pissed.
Did Not Arrive with Suspicious E-mail Attachment
As someone on the CNN message board said, "The Miami Herald gets wimpier by the day, but the Miami New Times keeps on slugging!"
In Loving Memory of Sr. Batista
There were two primary groups that fled Cuba as a result of Castro taking control of the Cuban government in 1959: those who supported the corrupt Fulgencio Batista regime and those who supported Castro and others in overthrowing that government. This, I believe, is the main cause of the chaos we are now experiencing in Miami-Dade County in the year 2000.
Why has so little been said about what became of Batista's supporters and their families who fled to South Florida? We know what happened to some of them. They became the force behind the hard-liners against Castro. They set the beat that the majority of Cubans march to, at least in public.
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The U.S. economic embargo against Cuba is one area in which we see the split between the Batista hard-liners and the majority of Cubans whose families would not have supported these far-right types in Cuba. The hard-liners support of an embargo that punishes the people of Cuba is met with indifference by the majority of Cuban Americans, who together send their families and friends hundreds of millions of dollars each year.
Lifting the embargo will eliminate the ability of these Batista types to harm the people of Cuba from American soil. Their hopes of returning to Cuba as lords and masters will be greatly diminished as the people of Cuba are exposed to American values and the goodwill of the American people.
Miami will then continue on its long-delayed path toward greatness.