ATTACK BY CASTRO’S "DIPLOMATS"
by Agustín Blázquez with the collaboration of Jaums Sutton
On Friday, April 14, 2000, approximately 15 "diplomats" stepped out of the interior of the Cuban Interests Section on 16th Street, N.W. in Washington, D.C., shouting obscenities and attacking a small pro-democracy group of 14 U.S. citizens keeping a peaceful vigil outside the building’s iron gates.
This vigil, as well as others conducted in the Washington metropolitan area are part of a grassroots movement of individual Cuban Americans and others who want to help the cause of justice and human rights for Elián. According to Georgetown University law student, Jorge Rodríguez, one of the victims, the purpose of the vigil was to "ask the Cuban Government to permit Elián's father to speak freely without any fear of intimidation. We were also raising awareness about the fact there is no free speech or freedom of assembly in Cuba and that Elián will face such oppression if he is returned to Cuba."
According to the victims and witnesses, the attack took place shortly after an ABC television crew left the scene at about 7:30 p.m., when the group was about to call it off for the day. The attack occurred on the sidewalk outside the Cuban Interests Section and was witnessed by the District Police and Secret Service that had to intercede to stop the attack. The police report filed by the Secret Service officers who witnessed the incident says, "Cuban employees of the mission came out and began to assault the demonstrators on the front sidewalk."
Among the U.S. citizens attacked by the "diplomats" were students, professionals and government employees. Catholic University law school student Mauricio Claver-Carone said, "Cuban diplomats applied tactics which are routinely used in Cuba to silence opposition. Harassment and intimidation will not be tolerated in the U.S. and we want the Clinton Administration to take concrete steps to investigate and hold these lawbreakers accountable." Claver-Carone was punched twice in the face and chest. His portable bullhorn was taken from him by a "diplomat" who smashed it on the sidewalk after attempting to strike his head. He says, "We were speaking not out of hate . . . we were speaking out of love and fraternity. We did not touch; we did not shove."
Estrella Carie Noda, a federal employee in Key West, Florida, says that she was "tossed into the air. I was pummeled. I have bruises on my arms and legs." Ignacio Córdova, who was hit with a flagpole, went to George Washington University Hospital and is currently taking pain medication. Alvaro Larin, a veterinarian from New York was thrown to the ground and beaten. Victor Andrés Triay, a Ph. D. history professor in Connecticut was hit twice on the head but managed to duck being hit with a flagpole. He was thrown to the ground and beaten. After he returned to Connecticut he went to his medical center and is on medication due to the resulting back pain. Former U.S. Department of State employee, Jorge Benitez, Ph.D, received repeated blows to the head.
Also part of the group attacked were Georgetown University law student Mario Morlote, attorney Brigeda Benitez, María Alonso, a medical equipment salesperson, Dennis Albaijes, a federal government electrical engineer, Nelson Lima, a Virginia businessman and Néryda Lima, a retired teacher in Virginia. Israel Moya, a mechanical engineer graduated in Puerto Rico and now a federal government employee, managed to duck some of the attackers blows. Moya said, "Cuban diplomats chose to violate our laws and must be held accountable for their attack on peaceful protestors."
One of the police officers at the scene who was trying to stop the attack, was unable to make one of the "diplomats" stop striking one of the victims and had to hit him with his nightstick. After that the attackers retreated inside the Cuban Interests Section and closed the gate. One of the "diplomats" was identified as Armando Collazo, First Secretary of Consular Affairs. As a rule, most of Cuban "diplomats" in the U.S. are members of Cuba’s dreaded State Security (SS). Their chief goal is to further Castro’s efforts against the U.S., often resorting to subversion and spying.
On April 17, Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas sent a letter to the U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright demanding that she "forcefully protest" Castro’s government. Also, Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, sent letters to Albright and FBI Director Louis J. Freeh requesting "a fair review of the incident."
In a press conference in front of the Interests Section on April 18 (barely covered by the U.S. media), Miami City Mayor Joe Carollo said, "Never in our history have we witnessed anyone from any embassy, interests section, or consular office come out and have diplomats attack and beat up U.S. citizens and in particular American women on American soil. As Americans, I think that this cannot be allowed to happen in our country."
Carollo criticized the way Cuban Americans have been so unfairly portrayed by the news media, calling them extreme and violent for exercising their constitutional right of peaceful protest. The inflammatory bashing of Cuban Americans without impunity in the U.S. has reached alarming proportions.
Recently, The Washington Post has published two racist political cartoons by
Herblock. On April 19 (page A-26)
This is as much blatant racism as suggesting the same for blacks or Jews. The Post’s apparent response to complaints was to publish a follow up by Herblock on April 21 [http://washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/herblock/herblock.htm] suggesting that Lazaro González is calling the shots. These cartoons are not a matter of the freedom of the speech of Herblock as suggested by an official at the Post to a complainant. Discrimination is against the law. Such discriminating and offensive remarks cannot be made against blacks, Jews or other minorities. The Post and Herblock owe apologies to the Cuban American community.
Sadly, the left and liberals (supposedly the enemies of bigotry) have joined hands with the socialists, communists and pro-Castro elements on the fringe of American society and have been launching virulent attacks, emanating mainly from radio, television and newspapers, which are generally under their control. This has created an unhealthy atmosphere of hatred and intolerance toward Cuban Americans. To prevent the release of the firsthand experiences of Cuban Americans, they have launched these attacks to discredit them. The media can fool many Americans with their pro-Castro propaganda but not his victims. Just as Nazi propaganda could not fool Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
In his press conference, Carollo exposed the background of the Chief of the Cuban Interests Section, Fernándo Remírez de Estenoz, whom Castro "appointed in 1986 to head Cuban government’s interests in Angola." This "diplomat" (now living in a plush Bethesda neighborhood and one of the handlers of Elián’s father Juan Miguel González), Carollo revealed "directed the use of chemical weapons, the use of chemical warfare against the African troops in Angola." How many blacks died in Africa because of this "diplomat"? How do his Bethesda neighbors feel having a man involved in genocide as the man next door?
Why are TransAfrica’s Randall Robinson and the Black Caucus, including Jesse Jackson, Maxine Waters, Sheila Jackson and Charles Rangel so friendly with Castro, Remírez de Estenoz and his "diplomats"? Shouldn’t they care more about their African brothers than their far-left political agenda? According to the recently published The Black Book of Communism, 1.7 million blacks died because of communism in Africa. Any comment from the Black Caucus?
In relation to Remírez de Estenoz’s incursion in Africa, Carollo said that in the last couple of decades only two have used chemical warfare: Castro in Africa and Saddam Hussein in Kuwait. Fox television was the only commercial network broadcasting the press conference live in the Washington, D.C. area. But they quickly lowered the volume on Carollo and the anchorman began to talk just as Carollo began to reveal this information. The anchorman said that since Carollo was not talking about Elián, they would continue with other news and would get back to him.
But in fact, they never did and whatever Carollo had to say that was of interest to the American people as background information about Castro’s "diplomats" was censored by the news media. I have not seen that information in print or on American television. And very little said or investigated by the media about the April 14 attack of U.S. citizens by Cuban "diplomats." No wonder Americans are on the wrong side of this complex issue.
Carollo said he spoke to Attorney General Janet Reno and requested an investigation of the attack. She promised a full investigation. The U.S. Secret Service, the FBI and the District Police have begun investigations and have requested information from the Cuban Interests Section, which it has declined to provide so far.
But no matter what Clinton publicly says about this incident or promises to do, there is very little chance that this issue will be properly resolved. We must not forget that Castro and Clinton have an agreement and left-wing fascist Castro is manipulating the situation and dictating the administration’s moves, as we witness the brutal seizure of Elián González in the darkness of the night of April 22, 2000, a date that will live in infamy.
Mr Blazquez is the Producer/Director of documentaries
COVERING CUBA & CUBA: THE PEARL OF THE ANTILLES