A confidential informant who is helping the FBI in their weapons case against Miami developer Santiago Alvarez, now says that Cuban exile militant Luis Posada Carriles was smuggled into Miami on the boat Santrina. Gilberto Abascal, interviewed Friday, said the old shrimpring Santrina brought Posada to Miami after picking him up in Isla Mujeres, Mexico. It's the first time one of the five official passengers on the boat relays Fidel Castro's version of Posada's entrance into the United States. Posada and his Miami allies have long maintained that he entered the U.S. through the Mexican border. Documents filed by the Feds in court this week also show that Abascal was contacted on several occassions by Cuban government officials, fueling speculation among some in the exile community that he is a double agent, which he denies. Read more in the Miami Herald tomorrow.
From news wires: "Lucia Newman, CNN's long-time correspondent in Havana, has joined the Al-Jazeera International and will be based in the network's bureau in Buenos Aires. Mariana Sanchez Aizcorbe, formerly with Panamericana Television will be the bureau chief in Caracas. Al-Jazeera will go international in May, but has not yet negotiated any cable distribution deals in the U.S."
Cynthia Romero, 24, just moved to Miami three months ago. "From the outside, you see Miami as very homogenous, where everyone's yelling 'down with Fidel!'," Romero said. "But in Miami, there's a lot more discourse than you imagine. I think there's more of an effort to rethink the image of the exile community." Another shocker for Romero: "When I got here, I was surprised because there were no young people working on the Cuba issue." Romero, a Princeton University grad, is Puerto Rican and works for a non-profit in Little Havana. She is also part of the young professional group Raices De Esperanza, which focuses on human rights abuses in Cuba.
Gloria Estefan is heading to Princeton to be keynote speaker this weekend at the third annual Raices de Esperanza conference, where young Hispanics, mostly Cuban-Americans, will get together to discuss human rights abuses in Cuba. The group is trying to combat what they see as rampant apathy among young Cuban Americans on the Cuba issue.
The Miami Herald's Lydia Martin has a great story about Cachao: "Well into his second golden era, mambo great Cachao performs music from the film "The Lost City" on Friday in Miami with the film's star and director, Andy Garcia, on congas and the famed Generoso Jimenez on Trombone.
Cuban American Artist Xavier Cortada, whose painted mangrove forest decorates the bottom of Interstate 395 in Downtown, is on a mission again. He wants to plant mangrove seedlings outside South Beach businesses. "It's about having mangroves reclaim a concrete and neon jungle," Cortada said over a glass of wine Tuesday night. His new exhibit, The Reclamation Project, will be unveiled at the Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach Saturday. "I consider myself Johnny Mangroveseed," he said.
Cuban American chick-lit author Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez confessed that she doesn't feel comfortable at book readings to promote her new novel, Make Him Look Good, because "I think I sound like a chipmunk on helium." Not so. The controversial former journalist, whose voice never rose to the level of rodent squeal at her Coral Gables book reading Tuesday, instead exhibited the same kind of sharp wit that peppers her novels, including her debut, "The Dirty Girls Social Club." "Make Him Look Good" is based in Miami. Valdes-Rodriguez lived in Coral Gables for two months to research the book, which is generally about "the notion of celebrity in America," she said. "Other than Albuquerque [where she lives], Miami is the only city where I feel having a Spanish last name doesn't matter." Miami's Cuban Connection appreciates her assessment, but wishes Valdes-Rodriguez had no need for a police escort at the Books and Books reading. She said she had received threats and had at least two cops nearby. Apparently, her take on Cuban exile politics have rubbed some people the wrong way (more about that in her blog). But this writer can attest that no one showed up to throw batteries or wave placards. Besides, Valdes Rodriguez says she feels much more comfortable talking Prada, Armani and relationships than about Cuba.
Alfredo Oliva, 63, was overcome with tears Monday at the Bay of Pigs memorial in Little Havana as the names of his dead compatriots were read by other Brigade 2506 Veterans as part of the failed invasion's 45th anniversary. But he didn't hold back on his assessment of the Bush presidency. "I've been crucified for saying this, but I dislike this president like I've never disliked any president," said Oliva, who was part of Brigade 2506 when he was 18. "They are spreading freedom and democracy all over the world in Iraq and the Middle East but he ignores Cuba. For me it's very difficult to accept that it's been 45 years since the Bay of Pigs, and almost 50 years since Castro has been in power. But we go halfway around the world to Iraq to spread freedom and democracy when this tyrant remains 90 miles from our shore."
Cuban exiles trace back their loyalty to the Republican Party to the Bay of Pigs invasion, when president John F. Kennedy, a Democrat, refused at the last minute to send promised air support to aid the invasion.
Former CIA Analyst Brian Latell, now a researcher at UM's Institute for Cuban And Cuban American Studies, released the latest issue of the Latell Report this week, in which he analyzes Fidel Castro's troubled relationship with his father, Angel, and how it affected his character later in life:
"...What has become clear just in the last few years is that Fidel was not legally recognized by his father until 1947, when he was seventeen years old. Although Angel was by then generously supporting his son, officially he was still illegitimate.
The young Fidel’s relationship with his father was psychologically labyrinthine and traumatic, one of key factors that shaped his adult character and personality. Growing up as a boy and teenager he bitterly resented Angel, feeling rejected and even abandoned, most painfully so during the time he lived in a foster home in Santiago de Cuba in the care of a poor Haitian family. Fidel was taunted and bullied. During those early formative years he was known by his mother’s surname; he was Fidel Ruz Gonzalez. And as the illegitimate son of a servant girl in Angel Castro’s household, he feared, and with good reason, that he might be consigned to the life of a peasant laborer. Although his circumstances improved as Angel supported his education in a succession of elite Catholic schools, first in Santiago and then Havana, Fidel remained unsure of his prospects, and with scant contact with his father. It was at Belen that he first found emotional solace."
Jose Enrique Dausa refused to eat his dead compatriots as he and about 12 other men drifted at sea 45 years ago this week in the wake of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. But most of the other men turned to cannibalism to survive a 15-day ordeal at sea that became one of the most famous survival stories of the20th century. Dausa told Miami's Cuban Connection Monday how he and others became lost at sea:
It was April 19, three days after about 1,500 Cuban exiles invaded Cuba in the hopes of taking back their homeland from Fidel Castro. The general in charge of the mission had yelled for the men to save themselves however they could. Dausa and 21 other men found an 18 foot boat called "El Celia". The boat had a small motor, so the men thought they could reach nearby American ships. But the motor wouldn't start, and the men had no food or water. Using a fishing line they found on board, the men fished using the top of a matchbox as bait, catching a medium fish. With the head of it, they caught a larger fish. Then with the head of that fish, they pulled a large shark near their boat. The desperate men jumped into the water, trying to subdue the beast with punches and brute force, but the shark got away. "From that point on, we were followed by a pack of 20 sharks," Dausa said. After a few days, men began to die. The survivors would wait 24 hours, then toss the bodies overboard. But about 13 days into the ordeal, they stopped throwing bodies away. Instead, they took a vote on the boat, and decided to start eating the dead. Dausa said he was among four men who refused to cannibalize, fearing that it would turn the men on the ship against each other for food. The men were rescued about two days after they started eating human flesh, about 100 miles south of Lousiana. Only 10 of the 22 people on the boat survived. Once they were aboard their rescue ship, the men asked to be left alone in the room and took a lifelong vow to never tell the names of the men who were eaten. Dausa's picture is included.