Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Agony of DeFede.

Yesterday I sent Jim DeFede of the Miami Herald a quick email about the column he wrote concerning his interview with Ricardo Alarcon during his recent visit to Cuba. Amazingly he responded. Below you will find my note to him, his response, and my response to him. They speak for themselves.

Dear Mr. DeFede,

I read your interview with Ricardo Alarcon with great interest. I congratulate you on some difficult questions that you posed to him. The thing that struck me about your column was the absence of an opinion by you, the writer, about his dodges, half answers, and deflections. After all you are columnist not a reporter. Surely you did not go there with the intent of simply repeating Alarcon's statements. Do you intend to comment on his statements?

It seems to me you could have easily pinned down Alarcon when he was dismissing the opinions of the Cuban exiles in Miami. You could have said "well it's obvious you have little regard for the opinions of Cubans in the United States, why should Americans in the U.S. have any regard for the "million man marches" staged by the Castro regime?"

Alarcon talked about Posada Carriles as if he's on vacation at Disney World, when he is in custody. He says that if we don't extradite him then we are obligated to put him on trial here. You could have easily said "what makes you think that's not going to happen?" After all the guy was only detained a month ago. To them it's just a game of gotcha. Even if we tried Posada Carriles, found him guilty and sentenced him to life in prison, they'd find another reason to complain. You could have asked him if he thinks Cuba's courts are fair. Would Posada Carriles get a fair trial in Cuba? He would have dodged the question and asked you about American courts. He would have said that we convict the innocent and let guilty go free. Because the regime can't stand the scrutiny.

I'm waiting for the column where you tell us what your thoughts are now that you are back. Look, I'm going to be honest with you. I'm a young Cuban-American born here. I'm politically conservative and I know you are politically liberal. We have different views on a lot of big issues, that's fine. But something in me tells me you are an intellectually honest guy, meaning that if something is wrong you're going to call it out regardless of your personal ideology. I want to know if you think all of us Cubans in Miami are devils that Castro makes us out to be or did you see (even from your sheltered experience in Cuba) that we're the ones telling the truth?

Most sincerely,

Henry Gomez


Hi Henry,

I think the column pretty well speaks for itself. You are right, I could have kept pushing him, but it wouldn't have mattered. I think what the interview showed was that he was only going to answer the questions he was interested in answering. I have received a number of emails from people saying just that. And I believe that his answers and even his non answers are revealing.

As to my doing a column saying whether I think exiles are the devil that Castro portrays or if I think, after my trip to the island, that the exiles are right, well that's a lot harder than it sounds.

First of all, I don't think there is one monolithic exile view. And my own views are complicated. I believe Posada is a terrorist. I think the embargo is a mistake. I think Castro loves the embargo. I think remittances are essential. I think limiting travel for family members to once every three years is cruel. I think change in Cuba has to come from within Cuba. I think Miami Cubans can play a role in fostering that change, but not nearly as important a role as they often think. I think the dissidents on the island are extremely brave but incredibly divided right now. I think the issue of national reconciliation in a post-Castro Cuba is far and away the most daunting challenge the country is going to face. I don't think Cuban exiles are well served by the pandering spewed by many of the Cuban-American commentators on the radio today. I think American politicians - both Democrat and Republican - who claim to be strong on Cuba, aren't really interested in bringing about change because they like things just the way they are. And on and on and on...

As I said, it is a complex subject.

The only thing I know for sure is that I look forward to the day when Cuba is free. And I have always felt that way.

Best Wishes,


Look, I understand you get a lot of mail and I don't pretend to monopolize your time so I don't expect another response so I want to thank you for the one below. I guess, my problem with the column is that you don't comment on what he said. It seems you are just parroting what he said rather than opining about it. I know it's not your job to present the exile community's position but I think it is your job to absorb what he said and tell us if you think it's bullshit or not. If you had an interview with GWB about the war and asked him the tough questions and he equivocated like Alarcon, you would have commented on it. At least I think you would have. My request was a for a definitive column about what you saw and heard there (not just with Alarcon) and your take on it. I got the distinct impression that your point of view was changing (however slightly).

I think your opinions about how to bring about change in Cuba and what the role of the US should be and what should happen with the embargo are pretty much standard fare for non-exiles. I think some of your opinions in that regard are cynical and unfounded (like saying that some people don't have Cuba's freedom in mind). There's a whole host of things I could debate you about (in a civilized rational manner) but as I said I know you are busy. If you ever want to talk with someone who believes in the hard line toward Castro but can articulate calmly, I'm extending the invitation.



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