“The Miami exiles are not anticommunist,” an exile named Carlos M. Luis said one night at dinner in Miami. It was about eleven o’clock, the preferred hour for dinner in those exile houses where Spanish manners still prevail, and there were at the table nine people, eight Cubans and me. There had been before Carlos Luis spoke a good deal of spirited argument. There had been a mounting rhythm of declamation and interruption. Now there was a silence. “The Miami exiles are not anticommunist,” Carlos Luis repeated. “I believe this. Anticommunism is not their motivation.”
Carlos Luis was the director of the Museo Cubano de Arte y Cultura in Miami, an interesting and complicated man who had entered exile with his wife in 1962, deciding to move to New York after the cultural restructuring which began in Cuba with the confiscation of Orlando Jiménez Leal’s documentary film P.M., or Pasado Meridiano, and led eventually to Fidel Castro’s declaration that there was no art, or would be no art, outside the revolution. “The P.M. affair,” as it was called in Miami, had plunged Havana into a spiral of confrontation and flagellation not unlike that which later characterized el exilio, and was for many a kind of turning point.
It was the P.M. affair, involving as it did the banning of a film showing “decadent” night life in Havana, which more or less codified such repressive moves as the persecution of homosexuals later examined by Orlando Jiménez Leal and the Academy Award-winning cinematographer Nestor Almendros, by then both in exile, in Mauvaise Conduite. It was the P.M. affair that had in fact gotten Nestor Almendros, at the time a young filmmaker who had written admiringly about P.M., fired from his job at Bohemia, the Havana weekly that had by then closed itself down and been restaffed by people closer to the direction in which the regime seemed to be moving. And it was the P.M. affair that had caused a number of Cuban artists and intellectuals to doubt that there would be room within this revolution for whatever it was that they might have valued above the revolution; to conclude that, as Carlos Luis put it, “it was time to leave, there was no more for me in staying.”
“The first group left because they were Batistianos,” Carlos Luis said now, reaching for a bottle of wine. “The second group left because they were losing their property.” Carlos Luis paused, and poured an inch of wine into his glass. “Then,” he said, “the people started coming who were unhappy because they couldn’t get toothpaste.”
“You mean these exiles were anti-Castro but not necessarily anticommunist,” our host, an exile, said, as if to clarify the point not for himself but for me.
“Anti-Castro, yes.” Carlos Luis had shrugged. “Anti-Castro it goes without saying.”
That the wish to see Fidel Castro removed from power in Cuba did not in itself constitute a political philosophy was a point rather more appreciated in el exilio, which had as its legacy a tradition of considerable political sophistication, than in Washington, which tended to accept the issue as an idea, and so to see Cuban exiles as refugees not just from Castro but from politics. In fact exile life in Miami was dense with political distinctions, none of them exactly in the American grain. Miami was for example the only American city I had ever visited in which it was not unusual to hear one citizen describe the position of another as “Falangist,” or as “essentially Nasserite.” There were in Miami exiles who defined themselves as communists, anti-Castro. There were in Miami a significant number of exile socialists, also anti-Castro, but agreed on only this single issue. There were in Miami two prominent groups of exile anarchists, many still in their twenties, all anti-Castro, and divided from one another, I was told, by “personality differences,” “personality differences” being the explanation Cubans tend to offer for anything from a dinner-table argument to a coup.
This urge to stake out increasingly recondite positions, traditional to exile life in Europe and in Latin America, remained, in South Florida, exotic, a nervous urban brilliance not entirely apprehended by local Anglos, who continued to think of exiles as occupying a fixed place on the political spectrum, one usually described as “right-wing,” or “ultraconservative.” It was true enough that there were a number of exiles in Miami who believed the most effective extant political leaders in the hemisphere (aside from Fidel Castro, to whom diabolic powers were attributed) to be General Augusto Pinochet of Chile and General Alfredo Stroessner of Paraguay. In fact those two names were heard with some frequency even in the conversation of exiles who did not share this belief, usually turning up in the “as” construction, in which the speaker thinks to disarm the listener by declaring himself “every bit as hostile to the Pinochet government,” or “just as unalterably opposed to General Stroessner,” as to Fidel Castro. It was also true enough that there were a number of Cubans in Miami, most notably those tobacco growers who between the fall of Fulgencio Batista and the fall of Anastasio Somoza had managed to maintain their operations in Nicaragua, who supported the military leadership of the Nicaraguan contras not in spite of but precisely because of whatever association that leadership had with the Somoza militia.
Still, “right-wing,” on the American spectrum, where political positions were understood as marginally different approaches to what was seen as a shared goal, seemed not to apply. This was something different, a view of politics as so central to the human condition that there may be no applicable words in the political vocabulary of most Americans. Virtually every sentient member of the Miami exile community was on any given day engaged in what was called an “ideological confrontation” with some other member of the Miami exile community, over points which were passionately debated at meals and on the radio and in the periodiquitos, the throwaway newspapers which appeared every week on Southwest Eighth Street.
Everything was read. I was asked one day by several different people if I had seen a certain piece that morning, by a writer whose name I did not recognize. The piece, it turned out, had appeared not in the Miami Herald or the Miami News, not in El Herald or Diario Las Americas, not in any of the periodiquitos and not even in The New York Times, but in El Tiempo, one day late from Bogotá. Analysis was close, and overcharged. Obscure points were “clarified,” and immediately “answered.” The whole of exile Miami could engage itself in the morning deconstruction of, say, something said by Roberto Fernández Retamar in Havana as reported by El País in Madrid and “answered” on the radio in Miami.
I talked one evening to Agustin Tamargo, an exile whose radio broadcasts with such prominent exiles as the novelist Guillermo Cabrera Infante and the poet Heberto Padilla and the legendary 26 Julio comandante Huber Matos, what Agustin Tamargo called “all the revolutionary people,” had tended over the years to attract whatever excess animus happened to be loose in the community. “I come from a different place on the political spectrum than most of the other radio commentators here,” Agustin Tamargo said. “There are many Batista people in Miami. They call me a communist because I wrote in Bohemia, which was to them a leftist-Marxist paper. Actually it was maybe center.”
Agustin Tamargo entered exile in 1960, the year Bohemia, which had been perhaps the most influential voice of the anti-Batista movement, suspended its own publication with the declaration “this is a revolution betrayed.” After he left Havana he was managing editor of Bohemia-in-exile, which was published first in New York, with what Agustin Tamargo believes to have been CIA money, and then in Caracas, with what he calls “different business partners, completely separated from American interests,” the entire question of “American interests” remaining in Miami an enduring preoccupation. I recall one visit when everyone to whom I spoke seemed engaged in either an attack on or a defense of the exiled writer and former political prisoner Carlos Alberto Montaner, who had written a column from Madrid which some found, because it seemed to them to suggest that Fidel Castro could be tolerated to the extent that he could be separated from Soviet interests, insufficiently separated from American interests. I was advised by one exile that “Montaner thinks about Fidel exactly the way Reagan thinks about Fidel,” not, since even those exiles who voted in large numbers for Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984 did so despite their conviction that he was bent on making a secret deal with Fidel Castro, an endorsement.
There seemed in fact very few weeks in Miami when, on the informal network the community used to talk to itself, one or another exile spokesman was not being excoriated on or defended against this charge of being insufficiently separated from American interests. One week it was said that the poet Jorge Valls, because he had left Cuba after twenty years in prison and suggested on the radio in Miami that there should be “an interchange of ideas” between the United States and Havana, was insufficiently separated from American interests. Another week it was said that Armando Valladares, whose Contra Toda Esperanza, an account of the twenty-two years he had spent imprisoned by Fidel Castro, appeared in this country as Against All Hope, was, because he had received support from the National Endowment for Democracy, insufficiently separated from American interests. “There’s nothing wrong with American money,” Agustin Tamargo had said the evening we talked, by way of amending an impassioned indictment of another exile who was, he believed, getting it. “Or Chinese money or any other kind. I will take it if they give it to me. But only to do what I want to do. Not what they want me to do. There is the difference.”
In Miami, where he was at the time we met doing a nightly broadcast for WOCN-Union Radio about which there was controversy even within the station itself, Agustin Tamargo was regarded as an eccentric and even a quixotic figure, which seemed to be how he construed his role. “Fifty thousand people listen to me every night,” he said. “And every night I say Franco was a killer. Every night I say Pinochet is an assassin. Most of the other Cuban commentators here never say anything about Pinochet. This is a program on which people say every kind of thing about the Cuban past. We say that maybe things before the revolution were not so golden as people here like to think. And still they listen. Which suggests to me that maybe the exile is not so onesided as the communists say it is.”
We were sitting that evening in an office at WOCN-Union Radio on Flagler Street, and outside in the reception room there was an armed security guard who would later walk Agustin Tamargo to his car, Miami being a city in which people who express their opinions on the radio every night tend, particularly since 1976, when a commentator named Emilio Milian got his legs blown off in the WQBA La Cubanisima parking lot, to put a little thought into the walk to the car. “Listen to me,” Agustin Tamargo said. “You do see a change here. A few years ago no one in exile would admit that any kind of solution to the Cuban situation could come from inside. They wouldn’t hear of it. Now they admit it. They admit that a rebellion inside Cuba could lead to a military solution, a coup.” Agustin Tamargo had shrugged. “That’s a real advance. A few years ago here, you said that, you got killed. Immediately.”
Emilio Milian lost his legs because he suggested in a series of editorials on WQBA La Cubanisima that it was counterproductive for exiles to continue bombing and assassinating one another on the streets of Miami. That this was an exceptionable opinion in an American city in 1976 was hard for some Americans to entirely appreciate, just as it was hard for some Americans, accustomed as they were to the official abhorrence of political violence, to appreciate the extent to which many people in Miami regarded such violence as an inevitable and even a necessary thread in the social fabric. The Miami City Commission in 1982 voted a ten-thousand-dollar grant to Alpha 66, which was, however venerable, however fixed an element on the Miami landscape, a serious action group, one of the twenty exile groups believed by the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1978 to have had “the motivation, capability and resources” to have assassinated President John F. Kennedy, and one of the two, according to the committee’s report, about which there were as well “indications of a possible connection with figures named in the Kennedy assassination, specifically with Lee Harvey Oswald.” At a 1983 meeting, the same Miami City Commission proclaimed March twenty-fifth “Orlando Bosch Day,” in recognition of the Miami pediatrician who was then imprisoned at Cuartel San Carlos in Caracas on charges of planning the bombing in 1976 of a Cubana DC-8 off Barbados, killing all seventy-three passengers, including twenty-four members of the Cuban national fencing team.
The case of Orlando Bosch was interesting. He had been, before he moved to Miami in July of 1960, a leader in Castro’s revolution, the chief of the 26 Julio for Las Villas Province. During his first month in Miami he had helped to launch the insurgent group called the MIRR, the Movimiento Insurreccional de Recuperación Revolucionaria, which became known that August when four Castro army officers and a hundred of their men deserted their posts and took up arms in the Las Villas mountains. Over the next several years, working out of Miami on MIRR activities, he was arrested repeatedly, on various charges, but was, until 1968, repeatedly acquitted. In 1968 he was finally convicted on a federal charge, that of shelling a Polish freighter in the Port of Miami, was sentenced to ten years and paroled after four. In 1974, back in Miami and subpoenaed for questioning in the assassination of an exile leader, Orlando Bosch had broken parole by fleeing the country.
There were, in all, four Cuban exiles charged by Venezuela in the bombing of the Cubana DC-8. Two were accused of actually placing the bomb on the plane and the other two, one of whom was Dr. Bosch, of planning or arranging this placement. The fourth man was Luis Posada Carriles, who had been a member of the 2506 Brigade, the exile force trained for the Bay of Pigs by the CIA. Not least because Luis Posada Carriles also happened to be a former operations chief of the Venezuelan secret police, DISIP, the Cubana case was a sensitive one for Venezuela, and, after a decade of what appeared to many to be stalling actions, Orlando Bosch was in 1986 acquitted by a Venezuelan judge, who noted that at the time the plane actually fell from the sky “citizen Orlando Bosch was not in the company” of the two men accused of placing the bomb, both of whom were convicted.
In the case of the fourth defendant, Luis Posada Carriles, there was no final disposition, since he had the year before escaped from the penitentiary in San Juan de Los Morros (aided, it was reported, by $28,600 in payoffs), some sixty miles southwest of Caracas, and appeared to have next surfaced in the Escalón district of San Salvador, where, it was reported, he lived in a rented house and worked on the covert contra supply operation at Ilopango air base under the name “Ramon Medina.”
The name “Ramon Medina” began coming up in late 1986, at the time the first details of the contra supply network organized by Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North and Major General Richard V. Secord were becoming known, and there was some speculation that his job at Ilopango had been arranged by Felix Rodriguez, also known as Max Gomez, who in turn had been recommended as an adviser to the Salvadoran armed forces by the office of Vice-President George Bush. “We have been asked if Mr. Bush knew or knows Ramon Medina,” a spokesman for Vice-President Bush said in late October. “The answer is no. The same answer holds for Ramon Posada or any other names or aliases.”
Some weeks later, in Miami, an exhibition of Orlando Bosch’s paintings was held, some sixty oils, priced at $25 to $500 and listed under such titles as The Southern Coast of Cuba and Nightfall in the Tropics. Tea sandwiches were served, and wine. The president of the Committee to Free Orlando Bosch pointed out that the paintings had certain common motifs, that doors kept turning up, and roads, and bodies of water; that the painter was “always looking for the way to freedom.” (Luis Posada Carriles’s oils, of Venezuelan landscapes, had been exhibited in Miami a year before.) Orlando Bosch himself was still in jail in Caracas, waiting for yet another obstacle to be negotiated, the confirmation of his acquittal. He was also still, from the point of view of the United States, a fugitive terrorist, someone who, if he tried to reenter the United States, faced immediate arrest on his parole violation.
That the governing body of an American city should have declared a “day” in honor of someone with so clouded a history might have in most parts of the United States profoundly disturbed the citizens of that city, but Miami was a community in which, as the Herald had pointed out in 1985, a significant percentage of the population continued to see Orlando Bosch as a hero. “You are mistaken when you say that ‘many exiles believe that Bosch is a hero,’ ” a letter to El Herald complained on this point. “Not just ‘many,’ as you say, but ALL Cuban exiles believe Dr. Bosch to be so decent a man, so Rambo-like a hero, that, even supposing there were any truth to the allegations about that communist plane crash many years ago, Dr. Bosch would only have been trying to pay back in kind those enemies of this country who, every day, all over the world, are bombing and killing and maiming innocent citizens, including elderly tourists in their wheelchairs.”
This note of machismo was often struck when people mentioned Orlando Bosch. “Most people talk more than they act,” an exile named Cosme Barros told the Herald after the acquittal in Caracas. “Bosch has acted more than he has talked.” “He is how every man should be,” an exile named Norma Garcia told the same reporter. “If we had more men like him, today Cuba would be free.”
The case of Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles and the bombing of the Cubana DC-8 had always been complicated, as most stories in this part of the world turned out to be, by more than just one sensitive connection. There had been, besides the line from Luis Posada Carriles to the Venezuelan secret police, visible lines from both Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch to the government of the United States. According to a 1977 CIA document obtained by the Miami Herald, Luis Posada Carriles, who was later called Ramon Medina, had received CIA demolition and weapons training before the Bay of Pigs, had formally joined the CIA in 1965, had worked briefly in Guatemala and then moved on to Venezuela and DISIP, finally resigning as DISIP operations chief in 1974. Throughout this period, according to the 1977 document quoted by the Herald, Luis Posada Carriles had remained on the CIA payroll.
Orlando Bosch himself, according to CIA and FBI memos, and to staff interviews conducted by the 1978 House Select Committee on Assassinations, had been under contract to the CIA during the early 1960s, running, with Evelio Duque of the Ejército Cubano Anticommunista, a camp in Homestead, the last Florida town before the Keys. Orlando Bosch told the House committee staff members who interviewed him in Cuartel San Carlos that he had soon begun to see this Homestead camp as, in the committee’s words, “an exercise in futility.” He had begun to suspect that such CIA-sponsored camps were, again in the committee’s words, “merely a means of keeping the exiles busy.” His CIA contact had, he said, “privately and unofficially” confirmed this suspicion.
This was a peculiar climate in South Florida, and had been so since 1960. Signals seemed to get mixed. Transmissions seemed to jam. Some atmospheric anomaly seemed to create trick mirrors, in which those people (or personnel, or assets) who were to be kept busy (or disposed of) and those people who could be strategically deployed (or used) appeared to be one and the same, their image changing with the light, and the distant agenda, in Washington. Sometimes even those people who were to be kept busy (or strategically deployed) and those people who were running the distant agenda appeared to be one and the same, or so it might have seemed to anyone looking in the mirror when the images spoke. “You have to fight violence with violence,” Orlando Bosch was quoted as saying in the Miami News in 1978. “At times you cannot avoid hurting innocent people.” The same year, 1978, Richard Helms, who had been directing CIA operations from Washington during the time Orlando Bosch was running the camp in Homestead, said this to the House Select Committee on Assassinations: “I would like to point out something since we are so deeply into this. When one government is trying to upset another government and the operation is successful, people get killed.”
In 1985 and 1986 it was said in exile Miami that the coup, the coup in Cuba, the “solution from inside,” the “military solution” Agustin Tamargo had mentioned the night we spoke in his office at WOCN-Union Radio, would take place in three, maybe four years. In 1985 and 1986 it was also said in exile Miami that the coup would not take place. In 1985 and 1986 it was also said in exile Miami that the coup, were the coup allowed to take place, which it would not be, would occur along anti-Soviet lines, and could begin among certain officers from the one Cuban military school to which there had been assigned no Soviet trainers. Still, this coup would never take place. The reason this coup would never take place, it was said by various people to whom I spoke in exile Miami in 1985 and 1986, was because “the United States wants a Cuba it can control,” because “a coup would mean a new situation,” and because “in the changed situation after the coup they would hate the United States even more than the communists do.”
The coup which the United States would never allow to take place had in fact by the 1980s largely supplanted, as an exile plot point, the invasion which the United States had never allowed to take place, and was for the time being, until something more concrete came along (the narrative bones for this something, the projected abandonment of the Nicaraguan contras, were of course already in place), the main story line for what el exilio continued to see as its betrayal, its utilization, its manipulation, by the government of the United States. A rather unsettling number of exiles to whom I spoke cited, as evidence of Washington’s continuing betrayal, the federal prosecutions, on charges involving bombing and assassination during the 1970s and 1980s, of the Cuban exile group called Omega 7. Others cited the Reagan administration’s attempts to deport the so-called “Mariel excludables,” those Mariel exiles whose criminal records would normally be grounds, under American immigration policy, for deportation or exclusion. Many, including Agustin Tamargo, cited the launching of Radio Martí, about which there had been, it seemed, considerable controversy within the exile community. “Radio Martí is a department of the Voice of America,” Agustin Tamargo had said the evening we met in his office at WOCN-Union Radio. “Which is a guarantee to me that when the American government makes its deal with Fidel Castro, Radio Martí will say amen.”
I had then been in Miami only a short time, and had not before been exposed to this local view of Radio Martí as yet another way in which the government of the United States was deceiving the exile community. I said to Agustin Tamargo that I did not quite understand. I said that I, and I believed many other Americans, including several to whom I had talked in Washington who had been involved with the issue as it passed through Congress, had tended to think of Radio Martí as something the Miami exile community specifically wanted. I said that I had in fact met Miami exiles, for example Jorge Mas Canosa, who had gone to some lengths to see the Radio Martí legislation enacted.
“Rich people,” Agustin Tamargo said.
I allowed that this was possibly true.
“The same rich people who are Republicans. Listen. I hate communists, but I hate some of these exiles more.” Agustin Tamargo was on this subject a dog with a bone. “They are why we are here all these years. If a man like Che Guevara were on our side, we would have been back in Cuba long ago. However. Instead of Che Guevara, we have Mas Canosa. I’m sorry. I mention him only because he is one of the richest.”
This was one of those leaps to the ad hominem toward which exile conversation seemed ever to tend. I had known that there was within the community a certain resistance to the leadership claims of Jorge Mas Canosa and the other supporters of the Cuban American National Foundation, an exile information group largely funded by Miami exiles of considerable means. I had also known that this resistance derived in part from the well-publicized conviction of the Cuban American National Foundation, a group somewhat more attuned than the average Miami exile to the pitch at which an American congressman is apt to lose eye contact, that exile aims could best be achieved by working within the American political system; that, in other words, the time had passed for running raids on Cuba and shelling Soviet-bloc ships in the Port of Miami. Still, even ad hominem, even given the fact that Jorge Mas Canosa and the Cuban American National Foundation had been largely responsible for Radio Martí, the point about Radio Martí as proof of American perfidy remained obscure to me, and I had looked for help to another exile who had joined us that evening, a young man named Daniel Morcate.
“I disagree with Agustin strongly on Radio Martí,” Daniel Morcate had said, and then, deferentially: “But then the whole exile community is divided. On that question.” Daniel Morcate, whose wife Gina was a writer and an assistant to Carlos Luis at the Museo Cubano de Arte y Cultura, had left Cuba at fourteen, in 1971. He had spent four years in Madrid and lived since (except for one year, 1979, when he returned to Madrid to work for Carlos Alberto Montaner) in Miami, where he was, at the time we met, working for WOCN-Union Radio and teaching philosophy at Saint Thomas University, an institution founded in Miami by Augustinian brothers formerly affiliated with Villanueva University in Havana. He was among those younger exiles who defined themselves as philosophical anarchists. He had stressed that evening that he was “not a man of action,” but that, at certain times and under certain conditions, he supported the idea of action. He was, he had said, “a man of words,” and he chose them carefully.
As this might suggest, Daniel Morcate’s position on Radio Martí and the Cuban American National Foundation (which was to say, I was beginning to see, his position on working within the American system) was subtle, even tortured. His own concerns about Radio Martí had been sufficient to keep him from accepting one of the Radio Martí jobs which had been passed around Miami as a form of patronage, and he differed from those of his contemporaries who did work in Washington, both for Radio Martí and for the Cuban American National Foundation, on several key points. Despite the fact that he was not, as he had said, a man of action, Daniel Morcate did believe, as the Cuban American National Foundation pointedly did not believe, that now was as good a time as any for running physical actions against the government of Cuba. He also believed that groups running such actions should seek support not only from the United States but from other nations.
Still, given these exceptions and under certain limited conditions, he agreed in principle with such Washington exiles of his generation as Ramon Mestre at Radio Martí and Frank Calzon at the Cuban American National Foundation that it was possible for exiles to coexist with and even to influence the government of the United States. “I think that many goals of the United States government are very legitimate,” Daniel Morcate said. “Many Cubans do. And so they believe that they can use the United States government without compromising their own ideals. This is what many people in the Cuban American National Foundation believe.”
“They believe in publicity,” Agustin Tamargo had said, interrupting.
“I happen to think that someone like Frank Calzon is a deep-rooted nationalist,” Daniel Morcate had insisted. “I believe that he thinks he is utilizing the United States government.” He had paused, and shrugged. “Of course the United States government thinks the same about him.”
Agustin Tamargo had been patient. “Look. Radio Martí is an instrument of American foreign policy.” He had ticked off the points on his fingers. “The American government decides that it is going to coexist with Castro and the next day we will have a long story on Radio Martí about our cooperation with the United States government. We have no say in this. In the Reagan administration more than ever. The Reagan administration has one goal in Cuba. Which is to separate Castro from Moscow. Not to overthrow Castro. They put in jail anybody here who says he wants to overthrow Castro. They put in jail the Omega 7. We have been taught to throw bombs, taught to work with every kind of desgraciado, and then they throw us in jail. We have no choice in the matter. There is absolutely nothing going on now. There is no bombing, there is no fighting in the customs line, there is no tax, there is no terrorism, there is nothing.”
I supposed that what Agustin Tamargo meant by “no tax” was that there was no community effort, as there had been on occasion in the past, to finance actions against Cuba by collecting from each exile a part of his or her earnings. I did not know what he meant by “no fighting in the customs line,” nor, because he seemed at that moment almost mute with disgust, did I ask.
“Nothing,” Agustin Tamargo had repeated finally. “Under Reagan.”
That there was in Miami under the Reagan administration “nothing” going on was something said to me by many exiles, virtually all of whom spoke as if this “nothing,” by which they seemed to mean the absence of more or less daily threats of domestic terror, might be only a temporary suspension, an intermission of uncertain duration in an otherwise familiar production. There was in Miami a general sense that the Reagan administration, largely by the way in which it had managed to convince some exiles that its commitment to “freedom fighters” extended to them, had to some extent coopted exile action. There was also in Miami a general sense that this was on the Reagan administration’s part just another trick of another mirror, another camp in Homestead, say, another interim occupation for Luis Posada Carriles or his manifold doubles, and as such could end predictably. Some exiles spoke with considerable foreboding about what they saw as the community’s misplaced wish to believe in the historically doubtful notion that its interests would in the long run coincide with those of Washington. Some exiles suggested that this wish to believe, or rather this willing suspension of disbelief, had not in the past been and was by no means now an open ticket, that there would once again come a point when exile and Washington interests would be seen to diverge, and diverge dramatically.
These exiles saw, when and if this happened, a rekindling of certain familiar frustrations, the unloosing of furies still only provisionally contained; saw, in other words, built into the mirror trick, yet another narrative on which to hang the betrayal, the utilization, the manipulation of el exilio by the government of the United States. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see some Cubans attempting to recreate political violence in the United States,” Daniel Morcate had said the evening we met in Agustin Tamargo’s office at WOCN-Union Radio. He had been talking about what he saw as the Reagan administration’s reluctance to directly confront Fidel Castro. “There is a very clear danger here that nobody is pointing out. I wouldn’t be surprised if other Omega 7 groups were emerging.”
I had heard something similar from Raul Masvidal, the banker and 2506 veteran who had been named in a poll as the most powerful Cuban in Miami. When I saw him in his cool office with the poster that read YOU HAVE NOT CONVERTED A MAN BECAUSE YOU HAVE SILENCED HIM, I had wondered if he believed that a perceived divergence of exile and Washington interests, a perception in Miami that promises were once again being broken, could bring about a resurgence of the kind of action that had characterized the exile until recently. Raul Masvidal had looked at me, and shrugged. “That kind of action is here today,” he had said. I had asked the same question of Luis Lauredo, who was then the president of Raul Masvidal’s Miami Savings Bank and was, as the president of Cuban-American Democrats, perhaps the most visible and active member of that 35 percent of the Dade County Cuban electorate who were registered Democrats.
Luis Lauredo had nodded, and then shook his head, as if the question did not bear contemplation. “I was talking about this last night,” he said finally. “With some of the Republicans.” We had been sitting across from each other at lunch that day, and I had watched Luis Lauredo filet a fish before he continued. “We had a kind of gathering,” he said then. “And I said to them, listen, when it happens, ‘I’ll cover your backs.’ Because they are going to lose all credibility. It’s like a Greek tragedy. That’s the way it’s going to be. When it happens.”
“Those radio guys who attacked me are just looking for ratings,” Carlos Luis said one day when I had met him at the Museo Cubano and we had gone around to get something to eat and a coffee, just out of the rain, in the courtyard of the Malaga restaurant on Eighth Street. “Which is why I never answered them. I did a program with Agustin Tamargo, which was good, but I never answered the attacks.”
The rain that day had been blowing the bits of colored glass and mirror strung from the tree in the Malaga courtyard and splashing from the eaves overhanging our table and we had been talking in a general way about action of the left and action of the right and Carlos Luis had said that he had come to wonder if silence was not the only moral political response. He had a few weeks before, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the death of Albert Camus, written for El Herald a reflection on Camus which had this as its subtext, and it was to this subtext that the “radio guys” had been responding, there apparently being in Miami no subject so remote or abstruse as to rule out its becoming the focus for several hours of invective on AM radio.
“In any event that’s the way things are here,” Carlos Luis said. “It’s very confusing. The guy who attacked me to begin with was totally incapable of discussing Camus’s position. Which was a very tragic one. Because the choices Camus had in front of him were not choices at all. Making a choice between terrorism of the right and terrorism of the left was incomprehensible to him. Maybe he was right. As time goes by I think that men who were unable to make choices were more right than those who made them. Because there are no clean choices.”
Carlos Luis drummed his fingers absently on the wet metal table. It was possible to walk from the Malaga to the bungalow on Seventh Street where Eduardo Arocena, who the federal government successfully maintained through three trials had been the leader of Omega 7, had been arrested with a Beretta and a Browning and an AR-15 and an UZI and a target list. It was also possible to walk from the Malaga to the parking lot where Emilio Milian had lost his legs for suggesting on WQBA La Cubanisima that exiles might be working against their own interests by continuing to bomb and assassinate one another on the streets of Miami. On my way to the Museo Cubano de Arte y Cultura that morning I had noticed in a storefront window this poster: ¡NICARAGUA HOY, CUBA MAÑANA! SUPPORT THE FREEDOM FIGHTERS FUND. COMANDO SATURNINO BELTRAN. FREEDOM FIGHTERS FUND, P.O. BOX 661571, MIAMI SPRINGS FL 33266. JEFATURA MILITAR BRIGADA 2506, P.O. BOX 4086, HIALEAH FL 33014.
This was a year and a half before the Southern Air Transport C-123K carrying Eugene Hasenfus crashed inside Nicaragua. There was between the day of Ronald Reagan’s first inauguration and the day the C-123K crashed inside Nicaragua “nothing” going on, but of course there was also “something” going on, something peculiar to the early 1980s in Miami but suggestive of the early 1960s in Miami, something in which certain familiar words and phrases once again figured. It was again possible to hear in Miami about “training,” and about air charters and altered manifests and pilots hired for one-time flights from Miami to “somewhere” in Central America. It was again possible to hear in Washington about two-track strategies, about back channels and alternative avenues, about what Robert C. McFarlane, at that time the Reagan administration’s National Security Affairs adviser, decribed variously in the The Washington Post in 1985 as “a continuity of policy,” “a national interest in keeping in touch with what was going on”; a matter of “not breaking faith with the freedom fighters,” which in turn came down to “making it clear that the United States believes in what they are doing.”
What exactly was involved in making it clear that the United States believed in what the freedom fighters were doing was still, at that time in Miami, the spring of 1985, hard to know in detail, but it was already clear that some of the details were known to some Cubans. There were Cubans around Miami who would later say, about how they happened to end up fighting with the Nicaraguan contras, that they had been during the spring of 1985 “trained” at a camp in the Everglades operated by the Jefatura Militar Brigada 2606. There were Cubans around Miami who would later say, about how they happened to join the Nicaraguan contras, that they had been during the spring of 1985 “recruited” at the little park on Eighth Street a few blocks west of the Malaga. Nothing was happening but certain familiar expectations were being raised, and to speak of choices between terrorism of the left and terrorism of the right did not seem, in the courtyard of the Malaga on Eighth Street in Miami during the spring of 1985, an entirely speculative exercise. “There are no choices at all,” Carlos Luis said then.
This is the third in a series of articles on Miami.
June 25, 1987