When it comes to diversity, Miami Herald publisher Alberto Ibargüen is a failure, a joke, a sham. Two years after taking the helm, the son of Puerto Rican and Cuban parents is under fire by staff members for failing to hire or promote Hispanics to top jobs. This is ironic because Ibargüen is among the first -- if not the very first -- Hispanic publishers of a big-city newspaper. To understand the depth of the problem, you first need to know the Herald's ugly history regarding race. During segregation days blacks sat at the back of the newsroom. And in this Latin-American mecca, virtually no one spoke Spanish for decades.
Moreover the paper has been oft attacked for racial insensitivity. African Americans criticized the dominance of Anglos in management during the 1980 riots and the civil disturbances that followed. Cubans and other Hispanics also complained, particularly after the Wynwood riot of 1990 and the 1992 Cuban boycott of the paper inspired by Jorge Mas Canosa.
Many had high hopes when Ibargüen arrived. The newspaper's masthead illustrates why the hopeful are now peeved. It lists fourteen vice presidents. Only two are Hispanic and only one of the pair, Peruvian-American Cesar Mendoza, was hired by Ibargüen. One African American, Robert Beatty, is listed as well. The stasis also is notable, though less pronounced, in the newsroom, where an unsigned Herald memo obtained by Riptide notes that not a single Hispanic has been hired to fill vacant senior management positions during Ibargüen's tenure. While Riptide condemns none of the nine Anglo vice presidents Ibargüen has hired, the pattern is an outrage. Things just don't change at this place, moans one Herald veteran.
Ibargüen did not return a call seeking comment. Herald executive editor Marty Baron, who arrived last December, acknowledges the highest-ranking Hispanic in the newsroom, Ileana Oroza, recently departed, leaving zero Hispanics among top brass. He points out that no one has been hired at that level. (Oroza's position and two other assistant managing editor jobs will not be filled, reducing the total from eight to five.) I have as a goal increasing Hispanics in management and general Hispanic representation, Baron says. But so far there hasn't been an opportunity to do anything. His boss can't make the same claim.
The Internet, not politics, is Claudio Lovo's first love.
But it seems the 45-year-old hacker so angered followers of Miami Mayor Joe Carollo recently that he received a death threat. Apparently someone wasn't happy that Lovo had placed Mayor Loco II's mug on Fidel Castro's body on a Website called MayorCarollo.com. Nor did many Cuban exiles appreciate his AdiosElian.com site (headlined Shut the Fuck Up!). And Lovo, a Nicaraguan native and graduate of the Sorbonne who has lived in Miami for a decade, refused to sell votaporbush.com (which includes a cartoon of presidential candidate George W. Bush headlined Cokémon), to Dubya. The Texas governor offered $70. An insult, comments Lovo. Moreover he recently offered AlexPenelas.com to the sexy little mayor for free. Not a high priority for us, says Penelas campaign spokesman Ric Katz.
Lovo, who lives in a modest apartment on Brickell, is a domain broker. He has invested $200,000 over the past five years for rights to about 5000 sites, including hundreds of Spanish-language names like Hijo-de-puta.com (son-of-a-whore.com) and BuscaNovia.com (FindaGirlfriend.com) as well as locally oriented venues such as Brickell-Avenue.com. He's sold some, too. Generaciondigital.com went to a Chilean company. And he successfully peddled Managua.com. No one pays any attention to me because I don't have any slick offices, he says. But I have what they need.
Lovo says he has made a small profit but expects eventually to earn millions. Unlikely, says Prof. Michael Froomkin, an expert on Internet issues at the University of Miami's law school. Profiting from such business is rare, according to Froomkin, who adds that Lovo's brokering likely doesn't violate a recently passed federal law that prohibits cybersquatting on sites with trademarked names. The law generally doesn't address stuff that he does, Froomkin says.
Hector Varela was screwed. And it doesn't look as though the 58-year-old county commission candidate, who's running against Dennis Moss, will get satisfaction from county bureaucrats.
Varela's complaint dates to June 21, 1999, when he and his wife, Carmen, visited the office of assistant supervisor of elections Gisela Salas. The Varelas contend Salas told them county election law forbids credit-card contributions to political campaigns. Concerned this would hamper fundraising, they requested Salas consult with elections supervisor David Leahy, who agreed with Salas. Miami-Dade County Attorney Robert Ginsburg happened to be in the area and, when queried, backed Leahy and Salas.
Dejected, Varela left the elections department. Then, just a couple of weeks ago, he learned mayoral candidates Alex Penelas and Miguel Diaz de la Portilla were accepting contributions online. He called the county. So did Riptide. Salas, Leahy, and Ginsburg say they have no recollection of the meeting with the Varelas. I talk with 150 people a day and I don't remember, says Leahy. Riptide doubts his veracity as well as his claim that he had not considered the issue until he received a February 8, 2000 state Division of Elections opinion approving the use of credit cards to collect campaign contributions.
This has left me feeling like there is something awful wrong in our local government, Varela says. It's a deep betrayal.
Emilia and Osmundo Soria have lived in the same house in Hialeah for eighteen years. Most every election they cast their ballot at a nearby high school. Four years ago they backed Miami-Dade Commissioner Natacha Millan. But at the end of June, when the commissioner came to their door to once again ask for their support, the Soriases told her this time they would vote for her opponent, Roberto Casas. Five weeks later the couple received two certified letters from the county elections department. They demand proof of residence from the Sorias. Who inspired the letter? Millan of course. She was trying to take away our vote, argues Osmundo Soria. According to the elections department, Millan has reported about 250 people who she says no longer live at the addresses where they are registered. The elections department says the majority of those people indeed do not reside at those addresses. Millan did not return a call seeking comment.
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