[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: September 2005

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Posada Not Going to Venezuela or Cuba

The latest news in the Luis Posada Carriles case is that he will not be deported to either Venezuela or Cuba, due to the distinct possibility that he would be tortured in those countries.

The news obviously does not sit well with fidel and his mini-me Hugo Chavez. I'm sure it doesn't sit well with those who have a bone to pick with the Cuban-American community.

Speaking of the Cuban-American community, this quote from the Reuters article linked above struck me as curious:

"The case has been closely watched by the politically powerful anti-Castro Cuban-American community, whose leaders say Posada should be freed and allowed to live in Miami."

I am not aware of any Cuban-American community "leader" who has come out and said that Posada should be freed and allowed to live in Miami. By leader, I mean someone who either officially represents our community (politicians), or heads a recognized and respected exile group. Radio talk show hosts don't count. If someone else has heard different, please let me know.

This all goes back to the issue of perception, how the outside world sees the Cuban-American community. The Reuters report doesn't quote any of those "leaders" actually saying they want Posada freed, they probably just assumed it based on perception and/or comments from those who really don't represent the community at large.

Val at Babalu has also posted on this subject, targeting the Sun-Sentinel's Miami Bureau writer Madeline Baro Diaz and her story on Posada. Baro, who has blasted the Cuban community in the past, didn't bother to interview anyone in the community who is against Posada being sent back. Her version of objectivity in her story was quoting Posada directly while being interviewed on the radio. She did, however, manage to quote someone from the Cuban community who wants Posada to be sent to Venezuela: Elena Freyre.

Elena Freyre, executive director of the Cuban American Defense League, said there was no proof Posada would be tortured in Venezuela and that he should have gone there to stand trial. She said the decision undermines the Bush administration's war on terror."It seems to me that this would have been exactly what this administration would not have wanted in this particular case," she said. "What we have here is a very elegant, if you want to call it that, or sneaky, if you want to call it that, maneuver to allow him to remain in this country."

Want to know more about Elena Freyre? Check out this interview she gave to PBS concerning the Elian disaster. (WARNING: Your blood pressure may rise about 20-40 points after reading it).

There's little doubt why Baro chose to interview Freyre. Sisters in arms.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The End is Near (UPDATED)

For the Florida Marlins in 2005, that is. Our hometown fishballers got swept by Atlanta over the weekend, and are 2 games away from elimination with 6 games left.

For those who have followed the team all season, this weekend was a microcosm of their entire season: failure to drive in runs with men in scoring position, terrible relief pitching, bad defense in the clutch, and plain ol' bad luck.

Another problem has been lack of consistent production from some of their better players. These include Juan Pierre, Mike Lowell, and A.J. Burnett.

Let's talk about Burnett a little. Here's a guy with great stuff, has thrown a no-hitter in his career, and at one point this season won 7 games in a row. His problem is that he's not very bright, in my opinion. For all his great stuff, he's only 12-12 this season (49-50 career), and has lost his last 6 games, games that the Marlins needed to win. The most frustrating loss was a couple of weeks back against Roger Clemens and the Houston Astros when he walked the eighth and ninth hitters back-to-back with the bases loaded.

A.J. lashed out at the team after his loss yesterday, saying "We played scared. We managed scared. We coached scared. I'm sick of it, man".

As far as I'm concerned, Burnett has no ground to stand on. He's lost 6 straight games down the home stretch. He needs to look in the mirror before he starts criticizing the team.

There are few things more frustrating in life than an underachiever criticizing everyone else but himself. A.J. is an outspoken kind of guy and occasionally spurts out stupid things to the media, but this latest outburst takes the cake. If it would have been Dontrelle Willis or Carlos Delgado making similar comments, I would've respected them more because they have basically carried this team all year. But Burnett?

Sorry, he hasn't earned his right to whine.

UPDATE - While the Marlins were getting beat 4-0 by Washington tonight, Burnett has been sent home for the rest of the season. Looks like we've seen the last of him in a Marlins uniform.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Good News Sunday

I like the idea of posting good stuff more often, so perhaps I'll make it a habit to post something positive at least once a week.

This latest item is of a personal nature. Last month I posted here and here about a job that I applied for.

Well, I got it. I was notified on August 30th, almost a month ago.

Why then did it take me so long to post this? First and foremost, I got the call the day the flooding peaked in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. I was in quite a funk for several days after the hurricane destroyed New Orleans, and was in no mood to post about personal successes when people were dying from a storm which hit Miami only days before. I had no interest in posting about anything other than the storm and the aftermath, and even that was half-hearted. Now, with Rita hitting further west along the Gulf Coast, the misery continues, albeit not as bad as Katrina.

Anyway, I start my new job in 2 weeks. It's in the same location, so I don't have to move. The job will have much more responsibility, a bit more travel, and more public exposure (no, not THAT kind of exposure - ;) I will try to keep up the blogging at a respectable level, but I foresee a reduction in the number of posts. Nevertheless, I will continue to entertain and inform the few but loyal 26th Parallel fans out there.

Thanks for reading and for the show of support during my job quest!

Miami NICE

In keeping with the mostly positive posts recently, here's a great Herald article about a Miami family who is letting a family of New Orleans evacuees live in their house - rent free.

THIS is the real Miami spirit, not the one you see behind 2 tons of steel every day out on the roads.

Louisiana family settles into new Little Havana home -- on loan

Today, the Vega family from Louisiana feels a little less like nomads.

Brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, cousins, nieces and nephews -- 12 in all -- and two pet guinea pigs, are packed tightly into a four-bedroom house just off Eighth Street in Little Havana.

A Miami family, Jorge and Kristen Del Rey, offered up a house they own in Little Havana to the Vegas -- rent free -- for up to a year.

The Vegas don't mind the cramped quarters. In fact they are thrilled with them. The family spent the last month on the road, traveling between Louisiana and Florida, displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

Some of that time they lived in a shelter. They also spent a few nights crammed into a two-bedroom apartment of a Miami-Dade County relative.

This weekend, as they moved into the Del Reys' house, the Vegas -- who all fled Metairie, La., a suburb of New Orleans -- were finally starting to feel at home. Friday was the first night that
Yelba Vega has slept in a month. Really slept.

''Just going to lock the door and turn off the lights -- it was the best night we've had in a month,'' said Yelba Vega. ``This is a jump start. What Jorge and Kris are doing is just unbelievable. It's a blessing.''

It was doing the right thing, say the Del Reys.

'My wife was nudging me, `what are we going to do to help the people from the hurricane?,' '' said Jorge Del Rey, a home builder and contractor. The house, which they just bought a month and a half ago, was an investment -- and they had planned to rent it.

''I got this feeling in my heart that we should give our house to a family who needs it,'' Jorge Del Rey said. His wife did, too.

''So when he said it, I knew that's what we had to do,'' Kristen Del Rey added.

CityReach Ministries, based in Kendall, connected the Vegas to the Del Reys. Jorge and Kristen Del Rey are members of the same church as Carlos Romero, who heads the non-profit.
Initially, another family was supposed to take the house -- a single mother and her three children. But the woman disappeared and the Vegas emerged.

At first, Kristen Del Rey admitted, she and her husband wrestled with allowing 12 people -- instead of four -- to move in. But then, she said, she thought about what it would be like if a storm ravaged South Florida and her family was left homeless and had to move to a new state.

'After I met them, I said, `We have to let them stay here,' '' she said.

Twelve people in four bedrooms will be a squeeze, but it's the best offer the Vegas have. Their homes in Metairie were all destroyed by Katrina.

When Yelba Vega went back to her home for the first time, her chest hurt from breathing in the mildew that covered the walls.

She also found a gaping hole in the bedroom of her 14-year-old daughter, also named Yelba.

''Jewelry my grandma gave me, pictures of my friends, a teddy bear I've had since I was five,'' says Yelba, 14, counting off the precious memories that washed away with the floods.

The apartment building where Margarita Vega and her 3-year-old, Isabella, lived no longer stands. Jack Vega said he found his house submerged in oily water. But it was the neighborhood that will haunt him.

''You could smell the death in the air. That's the only way I can explain it,'' he said.

When they fled their homes, the Vegas landed at a small Methodist church in Alexandria, La., that doubled as a shelter for about 100 evacuees.

They had little more than three days' worth of clothes with them -- and a television they had dragged along. They stayed for 10 days.

''We had reservations to go to Houston,'' said Jack Vega. But with thousands of cars packed onto the roads, ``it was just chaos.''

Another Vega sister, Abby, lives in Miami, so that's where they headed. For several nights, the family of 12 crowded into her two-bedroom apartment. It was Abby who sought out CityReach Ministries.

The Vega kids are eager to get back to school; their parents plan to enroll them in neighborhood schools this week.

''We had just started school for a week, so it's going to be hard to catch up,'' said 17-year-old Clinston. His cousin, Yelba, a high school freshman, said she expects other students to be welcoming -- although she anticipates a lot of questions.

Their parents will concentrate on finding jobs.

Jack Vega worked as a mechanic. His sister Yelba Vega was an administrative assistant for an import/export company. Now, they say, they'll take whatever jobs they can find.

As much as he appreciates the Del Reys' generosity, Jack Vega said it's still a struggle to accept their goodwill.

''I'd rather be giving,'' he said, ``Even though I'm the one in need right now, it's still awkward.
I'm not used to this.

''This is a big step for us,'' Jack Vega continued. ``Hopefully, when the time is right, we can move on.''

And maybe even offer some help of their own.

''Maybe six months from now, I can acquire property and give someone else a home,'' Vega said.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Wet Foot/Dry Foot

That's the absurd policy started by the Clinton administration in the mid-90s to try to handle the mass exodus of Cubans leaving the island at the time. It once again reared it's ugly head today.

The absurdity of it is easy to understand. It sends the message to Cubans to go ahead and risk it. If you make it to land, you're free to stay. If we stop you an inch from the beach, you go back.

Sounds like a game kids play in the playground, not a national policy.

Proponents of the policy say it is a compromise solution. If you let everyone who leaves Cuba into the country, you risk a mass exodus like never before. Sending everyone back goes against our policy which treats Cuban migrants as political refugees.

So we're left with this assinine compromise.

Do people really think that the current policy deters people from attempting to cross the Straits? Think again.

Millions cross over illegally from Mexico, despite bolstered policing of the border, but a relative few can't make it from a totalitarian and brutal regime such as Cuba's on dinky boats and rafts unless they make it to land undetected, despite their status as political (legal) refugees.

Doesn't make sense, does it?

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Some Good News (For a Change)

Lately, many of my posts have been very critical (deservedly so) of the Miami Herald and its editorials/columns.

Yesterday, however, there was an excellent and positive editorial by Michael Putney of local Channel 10, whose editorials I've been critical of in the past. For once, I didn't choke on my cereal as I read it.

Putney hands out some "Kool Kat" awards to local leaders. It's refreshing and great to hear and read about local people doing good.

Usually, all you hear is people complaining about South Florida, our choking traffic, rude people, and our bad, corrupt leaders.

Here's proof of the good that resides here.

And now . . . the Kool Kat awards

BY MICHAEL PUTNEY mputney@local10.com

So many failures of political leadership in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

So many successes of political and civic leadership in South Florida lately.

I thought I'd list some in case you're feeling down about the ability of government to, well, govern.

We could even create an award for these acts of political acumen and, in some cases, courage, as opposed to the political ineptitude and even cowardice that we witnessed in Washington and the Gulf Coast before, during and after Katrina.

Accordingly, let's call our local leadership models Kool Kats. As opposed to those Scaredy Kats -- and you know who they are. So, if you'll give me a snare roll and cymbal splash, here we go.

• Max Mayfield. The director of the National Hurricane Center is absolutely the coolest of the cool. Is there anyone in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast whom Max didn't call days before Katrina hit? Virtually every emergency manager and elected official of note in the region got a personal call from Max, warning them that they were in the path of destruction and urging them to take immediate precautions. Max's staff at the Hurricane Center also gets a Kool Kat for pinpointing where and when the storm would hit and how hard.

• The Miami-Dade Urban Search and Rescue Team. They rushed to the disaster zone shortly after the storm arrived and then turned around and went back for a second tour just a few days later. They made us proud. Kudos also to countless South Florida residents, young and old, who collected money and emergency supplies for storm victims.

• Harve Mogul. He does such an outstanding job running the Miami-Dade United Way that he was picked to head a national United Way task force that will gather critical data about Katrina and translate it into a disaster recovery guidebook for all 1,350 United Way agencies across the country.

• UM President Donna Shalala and Administrative VP Sergio Rodríguez. They partnered with the city of Miami and Camillus House to solve a problem that has festered for more than 20 years: moving Camillus House to a new location. The homeless center's new president, Paul Ahr, and its board chairman, Roger Carleton, deserve Kool Kats as well for negotiating that new location with Miami Kool Kats Manny Díaz and Joe Arriola.

For years, there have been complaints about the crime and unsightly condition of Camillus House on Northeast First Avenue. But every time a solution was proposed, intransigent Miami commissioners and local activists opposed it. Mayor Díaz turned around Miami Commissioner Angel González, who cast the critical vote in favor of the new site just off Northwest Seventh Avenue. It will be adjacent to a bioscience center that eventually will employ thousands at high-wage jobs. A winner all around.

• Hank Adorno of Miami-Dade and Peter Balitsaris of Broward. These two lead child-care agencies that oversee nearly 9,000 foster children. Adorno and Balitsaris simply ignored the shortsighted and ill-advised decision by DCF to stop sending case workers to check on foster kids because of high gas prices. ''We received the memo,'' said Balitsaris, ''and disregarded it because it wasn't in the best interests of children.'' Now, that's having your priorities in order.

• Rudy Crew. He was cool before there were Kool Kats. He deserves one for taking a strong stand against more than 100 teachers who phonied up their resumes with bogus classes to keep their state certification. Crew says fire 'em, they don't have the moral standing to share a classroom with our kids, and he's absolutely right.

Sure, some of the usual suspects have committed the usual blunders in recent weeks, but they shouldn't overshadow a run of good and gutsy decisions by local civic and political leaders. And nobody died waiting for these decisions to be made.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Hurricane Rita (Updated)

Photo courtesy of NOAA

As of this late AM hour, Hurricane Rita is passing south of Miami, between Cuba and the Florida Keys. A slightly more due west track than forecasted has taken South Florida mostly off the hook as far as the nastiest of the winds, although the weather here is far from being nice.

The main concern is the Keys, particularly Key West. It's going to be a VERY close call as to whether they will get the strongest winds (up to 85 mph as of right now). There's a chance those winds could barely miss Key West, and that's what we hope for.

Many of us here on the mainland, including your favorite Cuban-American bloggers, put up shutters yesterday just in case. That's the way it usually works out...you put them up just for precautionary measures.

That's fine by me, I'd rather be safe than sorry. Let's hope the same applies for those who evacuated the Keys.

UPDATED 2:20 PM - Rita now has 100 mph winds and is a Category 2 hurricane. That's an increase of 25 mph in only 6 hours. It still looks like Key West is going to escape the worst of Rita as the eye wall passes just south of the city. Unless Rita makes an unexpected turn to the north (it's rapidly running out of time), Key Westers should consider themselves extremely lucky. Flooding will still be a big problem down there, but nothing like New Orleans.

The eye wall is also passing just north of Havana and Varadero, so Cuba should also escape serious damage, although the heavy rains affecting Havana could cause some of the many dilapidated buildings in Old Havana to collapse.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Bush Jihadists.

Is this the name of some radical extreme right-wing group? A Muslim Fundamentalist organization?


It's what Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. calls Bush loyalists.

This on the heels of Robert Steinback's equally horrid column Wednesday in which he attempts to rationalize post-Katrina blame on Bush in the following manner:

Of course, the usual lineup of right-wing tactical strike pundits did just that, pouncing on evidence that New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco shared in the mismanagement of the preparation for and aftermath of Katrina -- as if this somehow relieves Bush of his own culpability. In any case, let's keep things in perspective: 76,469 people voted for Nagin in 2002. In 2003, 731,358 people voted for Blanco. But in 2004, 62,040,610 people voted for George W. Bush. So, if the ultimate blame for inept politicians falls on those who voted for them -- well, you get the point.

Such twisted and biased logic deserves to sit there on its own, in all its glory, without rebuttal.

Back to Pitts: if you made it all the way to the end of his awful column, he closes with a question to the reader:

Blue to the left, red to the right even now, even here. This is the nation we have become.

Anybody want to take responsibility for that?

Mr. Pitts: care to take the lead?


We'll see if he writes back.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Local Pride (Continued)

Yesterday, I posted on Miami native David Paulison being chosen as interim FEMA chief.

Today, more news of local guys moving up in the world.

Rep. Marco Rubio (R) of the Florida House of Representatives, and Miami-born son of Cuban exiles, has been chosen to be the next House Speaker. Check out my post over at Babalu to read the Miami Herald's coverage.

In the few times I've seen him speak on TV, Rubio has impressed me with his articulate and poised demeanor, as well as his firm loyalty to Florida, Miami, and the Republican Party. Besides being obviously proud of a fellow Cuban-American becoming speaker of the house of the fourth most populous state in the union, I believe Rubio will provide solid Republican leadership to the state. He will also bring more attention and care to the needs of South Florida, which quite frankly have been largely ignored by previous speakers from other parts of the state who have often looked down upon us Miamians with disdain.

Back in 2002, Republican Representative Jerry Melvin of Fort Walton Beach took a potshot at Miami, especially Cubans and Haitians, following problems which plagued primary elections in Miami-Dade and Broward counties that year.

Rep. Rubio wrote a response to Melvin:

I have served with you for over three years. during that time I have heard you often make comments about South Florida in general and Miami in particular. Others often took offense, I just tried to laugh it off as an over statement of your true feelings. However, some of the things you say in your letter to the Governor cross the line.

I, like countless of Floridians, are frustruated with the way the elections have been handled down here. However, I do not think that the way an appointed elections bureaucrat organizes an election is a reflection of the people who live in that community. I do not know and quite frankly am afraid to ask what you mean by another "Cuban sympathizer".

As far as corruption, no doubt that corruption exists in Dade County government, just like it exists in ALL governments to some degree. In your neck of the woods, four out of five commissioners in Escambia County were removed from office in one shot. In Plant City Florida, scandal has tainted local elected officials this year. Miami-Dade County, has had its share of scandal but it certainly does not have a monopoly on it. By the way we also have our fair share of very good public officials, including countless members of our delegation now and in the past that have served alongside you with distinction.

As for the second to last paragraph of your letter, I really do not understand what you mean by the "Cuban and Haitian ways". I can only tell you about the people I am so very proud to represent. I represent men and women who at a very young age lost all of their hopes and dreams to a communist dictatorship.

Men who went back to fight to free their country and were betrayed at the Bay of Pigs. Men and women who were lawyers, doctors and engineers in their country, then came here to work as dishwashers, housekeepers and factory workers. They raised families here, paid taxes here and sent their sons off to die for this country in Vietnam, Panama and the Persian Gulf.

They became involved in the civic life of this country, voting, running for office and making a difference. They sacrificed and lost all of the dreams of their youth so that their children could have a better life. And thanks to God and the greatness of America their children have grown up to be the CEO of Coca-Cola, the President of the largest publicly traded hispanic owned company in the U.S., the Director of Housing and Urban Development, members of congress, four star generals, Grammy winning artists, All-Star athletes, renowned journalists and yes even members of the Florida House and Senate.

Let me tell you who else I represent. I represent men and women who served as many years in Castro's jails as I have lived. What was their crime? The dared to publicly question Castro's policies, or had the audacity to distribute literature. Men and women who went into these jails at 21 and got out at 51. I would like to think that put in the same position, I would have the bravery to pay the price they paid to defend freedom. But you never really know. Ask yourself Jerry, would you be brave enough to pay the price they paid?

This is the greatest country on earth because people like you can spew all the hatred they want without going to jail. But it is also the greatest country on earth because people like me can answer you back.

It is great because people like my parents can come here with nothing and raise four college educated professionals. The American dream is NOT a vacation home, a million dollars in the bank or the language you speak at home. The American dream is the universal hope of all parents that they can give their children a better life than their own and leave for them a better world than the one they found. I would summit that no community has lived that dream more than mine.

Bravo, Mr. Rubio, and ¡felicidades!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Local Boy Done Good

Robert David Paulison, a Miami native and former Metro Dade Fire Rescue Chief, has been chosen as interim chief of FEMA.

Based on his experience with natural disasters and leadership background, I have no doubt that he'll do a fantastic job and provide FEMA with the solid leadership it deserves.

Congratulations Mr. Paulison.

Monday, September 12, 2005

EU Commissioner Questioned on Cuba Policy

It's time for some results.

That's the message Swedish EU parliamentary Cecilia Malmstrom sent recently to EU Commissioner Louis Michel. Michel visited Cuba in March and met with Cuban authorities. He is in favor of the current EU policy of engagament with the castro regime.

Read the entire thing, published in Net For Cuba and translated by yours truly. For those of you who understand Spanish, the original article can be found here.

European Commissioner Questioned on Arrest of Innocent Cuban Youths

By Alexis Gainza Solenzal
Misceláneas de Cuba
Stockholm, Sweden.

Swedish EU parliament member Cecilia Malmström, of the Alliance of a Liberal and Democratic Europe (ALDE), formally questioned EU Commissioner Louis Michel, in charge of Development and Humanitarian Aid, regarding the arrests the part of the regime of Fidel Castro of 400 innocent Cuban youths.

In a written question sent to the European Commissioner, Malmstrom explained the background behind this deplorable event with the following words: "the regime of Fidel Catro continues violating the fundamental human rights of the Cuban people. Currently, hundreds of political prisoners are locked up in Cuban jails. Between the end of 2004 and April 2005, the Cuban government arrested 400 innocent young people in what they called "Operation Containment". The Cuban government suspects that those people could commit crimes (emphasis mine). When the arrests were made, the Cuban government used the so-called racial profiling: 95 percent of the arrested are black. The average age of the prisoners is 18, and are being held in high security prisons in spite of not committed any crimes. They have been given prison sentences that range between one and four years."

Having detailed the context of the facts, Mrs. Malmström asked Mr. Michel "what measures does the Commission intend on taking to improve the situation of those Cuban youths and of all the other political prisoners in Cuba"?

This past September 1st, Louis Michel, representing the European Commission, sent an answer to Malmstrom, in which he starts by commending the Swedish parliament member for her interest in the state of human rights in Cuba. In the following paragraph, the European commissioner describes the general position of the EU in its relation with the Caribbean island: "On June 13th, 2005, the Council repeated its urgent order to Cuba on an unconditional liberation of all the people who still remain jailed for political reasons in the country. The Council once again confirmed the aims that define EU relations with Cuba, among others, the fundamental respect of human rights and liberties of the Cuban people."

Without giving concrete results of his measures, Mr. Michel then relates on the first steps in the reestablishment of relations between the EU and Cuba: "As part of the efforts of the EU to obtain concrete results in this scope, representatives of the EU, including members of the Commission, after January 31st, 2005, have resumed high level visits (with Cuban government officials), and in relation to this, discussed the question of human rights and the situation of the dissidents with Cuban authorities and civil representatives. This occurred when Mr. Michel visited Cuba on March 25th and 26th, 2005."

After assuring that the EU continues strengthening their ties with peaceful dissidents and family members of political prisoners, Mr. Michel assertively lauds that the new European strategy of "constructive commitment" is the best one for obtaining the liberation of those unjustly jailed in Cuba: "The Commission considers that the policy based on a constructive commitment in collaboration with the Cuban authorities gives the best premise for liberation of the political prisoners and those unjustly jailed, which is the case of the 400 young people imprisoned for reasons of suspicion that they might commit crimes."

Karin Bernztzon, Cecilia Malmstrom's assistant in the European Parliament, who informed us of the above questioning, has also let us know that the reaction of the parliamentarian was due to a letter sent by Daniel Pedreira, President of the Young ONG for a Free Cuba, in which the massive arrests in Havana were related.

The preparations and visit by European Commissioner Louis Michel to Cuba at the end of March 2005 provoked several reactions in the international community, including those by Amnesty International and Reporters Without Frontiers.

Something Else to Blame Bush For

Dolphins Win! Dolphins Win!

Photo courtesy of Miami Herald Photographer Joe Rimkus, Jr.

OK so it's only the first game of the season, but you can't blame us Dolfans for getting more than a little excited after last year's suffering, right? The Dolphins spanked the Denver Broncos 34-10.

Notice I didn't post anything leading up to opening game. There were two good reasons. One, it was the 4th anniversary of 9-11 and I didn't feel it was appropriate to trivialize the commemorance of the day with a football game.

Two...I wasn't exactly confident nor looking forward to what I thought would be another miserable season. Maybe, just maybe, it won't be so bad this season.

In the meantime...my friend Jim Mandich put it best after the game

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Martinez: Accept Cuba Offer

Florida Senator Mel Martinez, who was considered by many as rather moderate on Cuba issues before running for Senator, is showing signs of this by stating that he would accept castro's offer of over 1,000 doctors to aid Katrina victims in a Herald article published today.

Martinez's statement distances himself from the traditional Cuban-American lawmaker stance which so far has been to turn down any aid offer from Cuba. It remains to be seen whether the Bush administration will follow Martinez's recommendation, or turn down the aid.

I'm sure many see accepting Cuba's offer as acknowledging a "good deed" on the part of castro, and accepting it would make el barbudo look good. I can understand that sentiment.

However, we're not talking about selling goods to Cuba for cash here. We're not talking about pumping dollars into Cuba. We're dealing with our own people who need help following a natural disaster.

My opinion will likely not sit well with many Cuban-Americans, but if castro is serious about sending 1,600 doctors here, then fine, let's take them in. We have nothing to lose here, and a lot to gain, including the distinct possibility of some talented Cuban doctors defecting.

It would also make fidel look bad for turning down U.S. and European offers of aid after Hurricane Dennis hit Cuba in July, regardless of what Ana Menendez thinks.

Martinez: Cuban aid should be welcomed

Sen. Mel Martinez said he was 'grateful' for Cuba's offer to send doctors to assist in the Katrina relief effort, though the Bush administration has not responded to the offer.


WASHINGTON - Florida Republican Sen. Mel Martinez said Wednesday that the U.S. government should accept Cuba's offer to send hundreds of doctors to treat victims of Hurricane Katrina, provided they are needed and "reasonably well-trained.''

Cuban leader Fidel Castro has offered to send nearly 1,600 physicians, potentially introducing another element of friction in the four-decade-long confrontation between the two adversaries. The Bush administration has said it will accept all offers of aid, but has also suggested that the United States did not need more doctors.

Castro's offer has put the administration in a tight spot. Refusal could be perceived as placing politics before the needs of victims.

Martinez, the first Cuban American to serve in the U.S. Senate, said he wondered if it was ''appropriate'' for Cuba to send the doctors, because many had already been dispatched to Venezuela and there was a shortage of medical help on the island. Cuba sends Venezuela doctors as part of payment for subsidized oil.

''But if we need doctors, and Cuba offers them and they provide good service, of course we should accept them,'' he said in his Washington office. ``And we're grateful for that offer.''

Martinez is distancing himself from some of his fellow Cuban-American lawmakers.

Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said: "I see no need for us to accept the doctors, because we have many U.S. doctors who can meet the medical needs of Katrina's victims. Cuban doctors should take care of poor Cubans who lack proper medical care on the island.''

Martinez recalled how Cuba rejected a U.S. offer to send $50,000 when the island was ravaged by Hurricane Dennis in July. ''I regretted that,'' he said.

Castro has refused all U.S. aid as long as Washington maintains the trade embargo against the island.

The Bush administration has not responded to Cuba's offer, which was made over a week ago.

''We will wait as many days as necessary,'' Castro said Sunday, when he thanked the doctors, many of whom had volunteered for the service.

Martinez also welcomed an offer by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, a close ally of Castro and a fierce critic of the Bush administration, to donate $1 million to the Red Cross. Venezuela will also ship one million barrels of oil to the United States this month, in addition to the usual exports. Venezuela is the fourth-largest exporter of crude oil to the United States.

Asked if he thought Chávez was using the offer for political purposes, Martinez said, ``I think at this time we accept any offers of assistance in good faith. He's offered oil. That would be very helpful.''

In December 1999, Washington dispatched two boatloads of aid for Venezuela when more than 15,000 people perished in mudslides. But Chávez refused help, and the vessels, which were transporting members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, were turned back. Venezuela never gave a reason for the refusal.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

No Vanessa, "Thank YOU"

Looks like we won't be reading any Vanessa Bauza articles for about a year. Here's her good-bye column published in the Sun-Sentinel last week.

It can be concluded after reading it that her sabbatical is a good thing for those of us who won't accept any other blame for Cuba's state other than the castro regime.

Difficult Farewell to a Place That Tested, Won My Heart

HAVANA · I arrived in Havana in January 2001 with my cat under one arm and a boxed bike under the other. The rest of my life was tucked into a stack of duct-taped, clear plastic boxes -- along with supplies of mini cassette tapes, notebooks, extension cords, reference books, files, computer equipment and a motley assortment of other materials to start up the Sun-Sentinel's new Cuba bureau.

Now, more than four years later, as I get ready to leave for a one-year journalism fellowship at the University of Michigan, I carry much more with me: memories of Cubans' legendary resilience, irrepressible ingenuity and fierce pride. Their unrestrained spontaneity and infectious humor. Life-long friendships.

Cuba is a country of contradictions. Young communists decry U.S. "imperialism," shouting "Socialism or death!" at massive rallies, while coveting the latest Nike trends. Plastic surgery is free but disposable gloves and X-ray film can be difficult to come by.

Cuba comes to you in stages. It's in the farmer who generously fills your empty gas tank with diesel fuel from his tractor when you are stranded miles from any service station. It's in the state security agents who pose convincingly as dedicated dissidents.

It's in the mothers of rafters lost at sea who push their sons' and daughters' photographs into your hands, desperately clinging to the hope that their loved ones might still be alive, somewhere.

Cuba hasn't stopped testing me. About a half-dozen American correspondents are permanently based in Havana and we are often regarded with a wary eye. Information and access to sources is limited. The fact that I work for a South Florida newspaper has at times been an additional hurdle, especially now when U.S.-Cuba relations are at their lowest point in years.

During an interview an elderly man once politely inquired how he could be sure I wasn't a CIA infiltrator. Others have declined to comment for a story saying "Eso esta complicado," a common euphemism meaning something is politically sensitive or complicated.

But for every person who has shrunk away as I pulled out my reporter's notebook many others have opened their homes and hearts to me, generously sharing their experiences, hopes or dashed dreams; patiently explaining the wrenching compromises brought by the past decade of economic hardship and the exhausting burden of being caught in the crossfire of an enduring Cold War with the United States.

It has been my privilege to write about this important time in Cuban history; to peel away the layers of rhetoric on both sides of the Florida Straits and write about a country that is so close yet inaccessible to many.

My greatest reward has been to step into the lives of ordinary people and find the moments and details that make their stories universal, familiar, binding.

Cuba is now the place against which I measure others. Anyone who has spent any time here knows it gets under your skin.

I feel a tug in my heart as I pack my things to leave, not to mention a little bit of trepidation at facing that frigid Michigan winter weather. But mostly I leave with a sense of pride in having helped establish the Sun-Sentinel's Havana Bureau, a lasting legacy to record Cuba's present and future.

Thank you for taking the journey with me.

Enlightened EU Lawmakers

Courtesy of EFE via Net For Cuba:

EU Lawmakers Say Dialogue with Cuba Ineffectual

(c) Copyright 2005. EFE News Service. All rights reserved.

Brussels, Sep 2 (EFE).- Two members of the European Parliament on Friday criticized the European policy of engaging in dialogue with the Cuban government, a strategy they contend is not producing the desired results.

Italians Emma Bonino and Marco Pannella said in a communique that, despite the Spanish government's efforts to foster a constructive dialogue with Fidel Castro's regime, the latter has freed "only 14 of the 75 dissidents jailed in April 2003, while several thousand remain in Cuban prisons for exercising freedom of speech and conscience."

The 75 mostly pro-democracy activists and independent journalists were given prison terms of up to 28 years in 2003 on charges of conspiring against Castro's government.

The two members of Italy's Transnational Radical Party said the May 20 rally in Havana of the independent civic coalition Assembly to Promote Civil Society in Cuba - considered to be the fruit of the policy of dialogue - was marred by the expulsion of several European lawmakers and journalists who tried to attend the gathering.

According to Bonino and Pannella, "following this meeting, the violations of fundamental rights have returned on a large scale."

They said this has included constant harassment of domestic political dissidents, denounced by non-government organizations like Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders.

Pannella and Bonino, a former EU commissioner, called on the Council of the European Union and the European Commission to spell out the "initiatives they really are going to take considering the the EU does not have the 'room for maneuver' it claims to have with Castro."

Received from M.A.R. POR CUBA (www.marporcuba.org)

Sunday, September 04, 2005


Last night, this sad-but-true statement was displayed on the sign for Faith United Methodist Church on the corner of Sunset Drive and SW 127th Avenue in Kendall (suburban Miami):

"Fault is the Easiest Thing in the World to Find"

Friday, September 02, 2005

Nostradamus or The Inevitable? (UPDATED)

I just saw this report in an e-mail:

It was a broiling August afternoon in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Big Easy, the City That Care Forgot. Those who ventured outside moved as if they were swimming in tupelo honey. Those inside paid silent homage to the man who invented air-conditioning as they watched TV "storm teams" warn of a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. Nothing surprising there: Hurricanes in August are as much a part of life in this town as hangovers on Ash Wednesday.

But the next day the storm gathered steam and drew a bead on the city. As the whirling maelstrom approached the coast, more than a million people evacuated to higher ground. Some 200,000 remained, however—the car-less, the homeless, the aged and infirm, and those die-hard New Orleanians who look for any excuse to throw a party.

The storm hit Breton Sound with the fury of a nuclear warhead, pushing a deadly storm surge into Lake Pontchartrain. The water crept to the top of the massive berm that holds back the lake and then spilled over. Nearly 80 percent of New Orleans lies below sea level—more than eight feet below in places—so the water poured in. A liquid brown wall washed over the brick ranch homes of Gentilly, over the clapboard houses of the Ninth Ward, over the white-columned porches of the Garden District, until it raced through the bars and strip joints on Bourbon Street like the pale rider of the Apocalypse. As it reached 25 feet (eight meters) over parts of the city, people climbed onto roofs to escape it.

Thousands drowned in the murky brew that was soon contaminated by sewage and industrial waste. Thousands more who survived the flood later perished from dehydration and disease as they waited to be rescued. It took two months to pump the city dry, and by then the Big Easy was buried under a blanket of putrid sediment, a million people were homeless, and 50,000 were dead. It was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.

Looks like the latest report off the AP wire, right? How about if I told you that the above was written in National Geographic magazine for the October 2004 edition? It's amazing the similarities, hell, it's virtually identical to what's actually occurring as we speak.

Even the author of the piece would likely acknowledge that he's no Nostradamus. It has been known for a long time that New Orleans is the most vulnerable place in the U.S. as far as hurricanes is concerned.

Here's the next paragraph in the story:
When did this calamity happen? It hasn't—yet. But the doomsday scenario is not far-fetched. The Federal Emergency Management Agency lists a hurricane strike on New Orleans as one of the most dire threats to the nation, up there with a large earthquake in California or a terrorist attack on New York City. Even the Red Cross no longer opens hurricane shelters in the city, claiming the risk to its workers is too great.

Amazing. So then, why are so many people surprised? Why did so many people that had the ability to evacuate stay behind? And, worse of all, why are so many pointing fingers in blame?

Granted, blame can be spread far and wide in this case. From local officials who couldn't think of a way to evacuate the poor and handicapped, all the way up to Federal officials who didn't react quickly.

However, I can speak at least a little for the Feds. In my work, I deal a little bit with FEMA, and I can say with 100% certainty that they take every hurricane threat seriously, whether it's a Category 1 hitting South Florida or a Cat 5 hitting Louisiana. They are in constant contact with both local officials and the National Hurricane Center in order to pass along the latest information, days before the storm hits.

I really don't think anyone could've been prepared to deal with an event of this magnitude. The part of the article about a New Orleans hurricane as big of a disaster as an NYC terrorist attack or a California earthquake may have seemed like hyperbole 2 weeks ago, but is so true today. FEMA set up camps ahead of the storm to quickly distribute aid after the storm's passage, those got wiped out. There is only 1 road leading in and out of New Orleans, and once you get there, the city is under water.

Right now is not the time to point fingers and criticize. Now is the time to help out by giving to the many organizations that are accepting donations.

UPDATED: Sirimba has some impressive figures from a FEMA press release.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Blogging for Charity

Tuesday I posted on the destruction caused by Katrina and the need to give to the victims of that disaster.

After reading Val's post in which he kept his readers hostage until he received enough donations, I decided to take part and chipped in $75 to Catholic Charities. Granted, it's not a ton of money, but it should be enough to take care of some necessities for a family of four.

Anyway, it's not about how much you give, it's about whether you give. So in the spirit of the blogathon today, please stop by here and here and donate to your charity of choice.