Free Varela!

El Vacilon

He's not gonna take it anymore

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Three days after Jose Varela's brazen takeover of One Herald Plaza, radio hosts Joe Ferrero and Enrique Santos had Varela's estranged wife Marela in the studio.

The duo behind El Vacilon en la Manana, Miami's top-rated FM Spanish language program, promised to stay on the air until they have collected the $7,500 necessary to spring the emotionally distraught editorial cartoonist from county lock-up. (Although his bond is set at $75,000, Varela only needs 10 percent of the total amount to bail out of jail.)

Ferrero, Santos and Marela Varela ask listeners to go to any of three locations (two in Miami and one in Hialeah) to purchase a copy of Varela's satiric illustrations at $10.95 a pop. By 1:15 p.m., eager buyers from Calle Ocho to Valencia, Spain, have contributed close to $13,000 to the Free Varela campaign. "This is the best thing you guys could have done," says a male listener with a booming baritone. "This is a cause all Cubans need to rally around."

The following is a translated excerpt of the show's closing minutes. The exchange between the radio personalities and their predominantly Cuban American audience offers a revealing glimpse into the cavernous rift between Miami's only daily and the city's ruling class. Judging from the on-air comments, Cuban Americans believe Varela's actions verify their long-held suspicions that the Miami Herald Publishing Co. is biased against them and slants its coverage of the exile diaspora. Nevertheless, some listeners also expressed their opposition to Varela's tactics, a great indicator that Miami Cubans, at least second and third generation ones, can have sensible, rational discussions about the Miami Cuban experience.

Female listener: I want to congratulate you. But I am opposed to what Varela did. He is a famous personality. As a personality he has certain responsibility. What happened to him can happen to me. Everyone knows that for years and years, the Herald censors the work of its Spanish speaking cartoonists and columnists. I am asking Hispanic community to stop buying the Herald and that we boycott the Herald until they allow Varela the opportunity to give his opinion as to what is happening. I applaud what you guys are doing. But two wrongs don't make a right.

Fictional character David Goldstein: Yeah, two wrongs don't make a right. But two lefts will put you on the Palmetto.

FL: When [Varela] gets out, he needs to thank you and the entire city.

Enrique Santos: Miami has come out. The people have opened their hearts. We don't endorse the violence that took place Friday.

Fictional character Jimmi Churri: A little blood wouldn't hurt anyone.

ES: We are going to have Jose on when his lawyer says it is the right time for him to make those declarations and find out what was going on in his mind at that moment.

FL: What he has to do first is to ask for forgiveness.

JC:15 years is what I would give him if I was the judge.

FL: But we applaud him for his valiant actions.

ES: You have to respect that he was willing to give his life to get his point across.

JC: After a bottle of whiskey, who wouldn't give up their lives?

FL: I'm telling all Hispanics. Don't buy the Herald.

Joe Ferrero: He was censored in the Herald. But he won't be censored here. Varela, my brother, you can post your illustrations on enriqueyjoe.com or mariconson.com for eternity.

Update: In a telephone interview, Marela Varela says she paid her husband's bond and that he will be released by tomorrow morning, the latest. However, the 42-year-old makeup artist made it clear she does not support Jose Varela's actions. She decided to help Jose because their children were suffering, Marela said. "In fact I don't approve of what he did at the Herald," she said. "But when a person is in a bad state, there is no reason to bury them further."

-Francisco Alvarado

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