Miami: ‘La Lucha’

Don’t forget that we have a disposal problem” is what Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., tells us that Allen Dulles said on March 11, 1961, by way of warning John F. Kennedy about the possible consequences of aborting the projected Cuban invasion and cutting loose what the CIA knew to be a volatile and potentially vengeful asset, the exile force it had trained for the Bay of Pigs, the 2506 Brigade. What John F. Kennedy was said to have said, four weeks later, to Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., is this: “If we have to get rid of these eight hundred men, it is much better to dump them in Cuba than in the United States, especially if that is where they want to go.” This is dialogue recalled by someone without much ear for it, and the number of men involved in the invasion force was closer to fifteen hundred than to eight hundred, but the core of it, the “dump them in Cuba” construction, has an authentic ring, as does “disposal problem” itself. Over the years since the publication of A Thousand Days I had read the chapter in which these two lines appear several times, but only after I had spent time in Miami did I begin to see them as curtain lines, or as the cannon which the protagonist brings onstage in the first act so that it may be fired against him in the third.

I would say that John F. Kennedy is still the number-two most hated man in Miami,” Raul Masvidal said to me one afternoon, not long after he had announced his 1985 candidacy for mayor of Miami, in a cool and immaculate office on the top floor of one of the Miami banks in which he has an interest. Raul Masvidal, who was born in Havana in 1942, would seem in many ways a model for what not only Anglo Miami but the rest of the United States likes to see as Cuban assimilation. He was named by both Cubans and non-Cubans in a 1983 Miami Herald poll as the most powerful Cuban in Miami. He received the endorsement of the Herald in his campaign to become mayor of Miami, the election he ultimately lost to Xavier Suarez. He was, at the time we spoke, one of two Cuban members (the other being Armando Codina, a Miami entrepreneur and member of the advisory board of the Southeast First National Bank) of The Non-Group, an unofficial and extremely private organization which had been called the shadow government of South Florida and included among its thirty-eight members, who met once a month for dinner at one another’s houses or clubs, the ownership or top management of Knight-Ridder, Eastern Airlines, Arvida Disney, Burdines, the Miami Dolphins, and the major banks and utilities.

Castro is of course the number-one most hated,” Raul Masvidal added. “Then Kennedy. The entire Kennedy family.” He opened and closed a leather folder, the only object on his marble desk, then …

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