Friday, November 24, 2006

Gunman Varela: I'm like Rosa Parks

El Nuevo Herald reporter and blogger Rui Ferreira is reporting that he had a second telephone conversation with Jose Varela during today's stand-off in the Herald Building, a conversation in which Varela compared himself with civil rights activist Rosa Parks on several occasions.

At about 1:00 pm Varela repeated his demand for the resignation of El Nuevo Herald editor Humberto Castelló and added that of Tom Fiedler, executive editor of The Miami Herald.

“What I want is to tell the truth, because there has been a conflict of interests here, because [Castelló] is trying to save his head.”

“This is like her [Parks]… somebody must take the first step. And if Castelló does not go away, then I am the editor now. This is not a coup d'etat.”

“I'm doing this because…I'm called upon to do it. I can die here, but this is going to be known in Miami and I'll say it because I have credibility and I must say it…for how long am I going to put up with this nonsense and draw cartoons of Bush and a stupid Fidel Castro…the newspaper is much more than that.”

“There is no uterior nor hidden motive is what I must do today. I do not believe in the laws, [O.J.] Simpson killed his wife and now he is on the streets. The laws are changed because of people like Rosa Parks.”

“Heads must roll here, and Castelló must resign…even if they kill me. I am dead already. I am not an American citizen, I came because I am political refugee and I continue being one. I did not come for opportunistic reasons, I did not come for the American dream. Ask the people if there is an American dream, ask the people who are dying in Iraq? Now leave me alone, I must concentrate.”
UPDATE: The Herald is reporting that the gun Varela used in today's stand-off was a plastic and metal toy gun. Varela was also armed with a knife. He has been charged with 3 counts of aggravated assault.

The Herald web site also mentions covnversations that Varela had with attorney and Democratic Party activist Joe Garcia.
Garcia quoted Varela as asking, ``How is it Cubans must suffer all the time?''


Manuel A. Tellechea said...

No 1940s scriptwriter could have pulled this one out of his Remington: a disgruntled cartoonist attempts to stage a coup d'etat at The Miami Herald, topple its editor and install himself in office.

If it wasn't already the laughingstock of American journalism, The Herald has now secured that distinction in perpetuity.

However contentious Latin American journalism may be, there is no instance of an armed putsch in the offices of any newspaper. I am sure, however, that it will reported as yet another "quirk" of Latin American journalism which foreigners have transplated to this country.

delacova said...

Interesting how the Herald has done "damage control" with this situation, focusing on Varela as a disgruntled employee with emotional problems instead of his explanations for his motivations.
The Herald has omitted Varela's statement that he objected working with a convicted child molester at the Herald and demanded his dismissal. The Diario las Americas today identified that person as Benigno Dou.
The Herald has also minimized the denunciations Varela made against editors Tom Fiedler and Humberto Castello and their lack of respect for the Cuban exile community.
When El Miami Herald started in early 1976, I was given a job application to work there, but knowing the newspaper's racist record against Cuban exiles, I immediately tore it up.

heraldphobe said...

Varela may be emotionally disturbed, presumably due to serious personal problems, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's just a nut case talking pure nonsense. There might be something to what he's saying, especially the part about "a conflict of interests here, because [Castelló] is trying to save his head."

That might relate to the very strange silence of Nuevo Herald concerning Pablo Alfonso's resignation, which was the top front-page story in another local Spanish paper. It might also relate to how Castelló appears to have caved in to Fiedler over the supposed "libel" by columnist Nicolas Perez. Castelló should have simply provided an accurate English translation (as was done on this blog), asserted the fact that there had been no libel, and supported the right of Perez to express his concerns. Instead, he ran an editor's note (11/23) saying the Perez statement in question should not have been published.

If there's any reason to suspect something, but there's no proof that it's true or that it's false, then saying that it "may or may not be true" is perfectly permissible and does not constitute libel. What's so difficult to understand about that? Does this mean that if there's perceived smoke, someone can't say that there may or may not be a fire? What's going on here? Is this Miami or Havana? My opinion of Castelló has decidedly dropped. His handling of this matter is very worrisome.

I suspect some sort of "fix" may be in, like a crackdown to make El Nuevo Herald toe the party line or at least not make further trouble for Fiedler's operation at the other paper. It wouldn't surprise me at all if Castelló has been read the riot act and told to be a "team player," even if that means ignoring or betraying a very significant proportion of his readers and what they want and expect (and certainly deserve in exchange for their money and trust).

heraldphobe said...

Although Varela's recent separation from his wife has been implicated in this incident, it's worth noting that, according to Diario Las Americas, she phoned him while he was holed up at the Herald after she heard the news, and he told her that what he was doing had nothing to do with her, and then hung up on her.

From what has been made public about this episode, pretty much everything he said had to do with problems involving Nuevo Herald and Miami Herald management. Could he be simply paranoid? Possibly, but that is definitely not the only possibility.

If there is any substance to his allegations and accusations, the public absolutely has the right to know, meaning this should be seriously investigated and reported on. Will that happen? You do the math.

proudliberalcuban said...

What strikes me about the Miami Herald/ EL Nuevo Herald saga is not the reactions of the rightwing Miami Cubans, which is as expected, but the reactions of my fellow liberals to it. You’ve all missed the boat big time guys. I’m a proud life-long liberal and a Cuban who is often at odds with my family, especially on issues having to do with Cuba. (Yes, liberal Cubans do exist and I resent anyone who tries to paint all Cuban-Americans with the same brush)

This is what disturbs me. Are we expected to believe that an organization of the caliber of The Miami Herald did not know until recently that the journalists in question were transmitting in Radio Marti? Do they really think and expect us to believe that when it comes to Cuba, these persons by not working at Radio Marti would change their stripes? Have these journalists not always expressed the same clear opinions about Cuban issues? Then how could they be impartial or hold any other viewpoint about Cuba? Were they not transmitting on radio the same ideas and opinions that they write about in the paper? Radio Marti is a radio broadcast, not a secret! It was done openly, so how could they at the Miami Herald NOT know? If they truly didn’t know, then it is a sad state of affairs for a newspaper, because they SHOULD HAVE known! How could they not know that these guys would not get paid by the government, when Radio Marti is run by the government? This is supposed to be the big investigative scoop? Give me a break, and don’t insult my intelligence. Something stinks big time in the state of Denmark.

The second disturbing item is the way the whole incident was handled, in the form of a public lynching under the guise of ethics with the newspaper claiming to be the white knight in shining armor ready to save the day. If the paper decided that it wanted to enforce an ignored policy, it would have been far more appropriate to have called the journalists in question into the corporate office, have counseled them about their policy violation and told to pick, between working for El Nuevo Herald or Radio Marti. But they didn’t do that did they? Does that not sound a little suspect? I’m a cynic by nature, and just don’t trust corporate altruistic motivations. It strikes me that the paper purposefully handled a human resources issue publicly for it’s own reasons, except that it blew up in their face. For some reason, they underestimated the pubic outcry, and this tells me how out of touch the newspaper is with its community. In this case, their handling has been actually corporate suicide, perhaps because they underestimated who Cubans are. Regardless of their politics, they forget that Cubans are people who love freedom and did not want to acquiesce to a dictator who wanted them to shut up and run their lives as he saw fit.

Unfortunately in backing Tom Fiedler, liberals are backing the wrong racehorse. To a Boston University alumni like myself, the guy is an embarrassment. I agree with those in the Miami Community that call him a racist. (Yes, even at BU, that liberal institution from which Martin Luther King Jr, also hails, there are racists, as we can see from the recent Whites Only $250 scholarship currently being offered by a Young Republican student group) The Chihuahua comment about Cubans, and his allegation that he did not know it was a racist comment was over the top. Mr. Fiedler expects us to believe that he never heard of Frito Bandito depiction of Hispanics and defamatory nature of his comments? Where was he the day they discussed the depiction of minorities in media? Did he cut class?

The truth of the matter is that Cuban-Americans are a political and economic force in Miami and South Florida to be reckoned with. Whitey just ain’t use to “minorities” wielding such power. Unfortunately, many of my fellow-liberals don’t like it when minorities don’t act like minorities that need to be protected or “empowered”. Cubans in Miami long ago have been independent and beat to their own drummer. They made the City of Miami what it is today. And whitey just “don’t like” that loss of power, or the fact that Cubans have never said and will never say “yes mastah” to them. They don’t like a minority group that doesn’t know their place. They just don’t like that Miami has become “North Havana”, and to survive there, you must speak Spanish.

While I do not agree with so many of political positions most of my fellow Cubans in Miami take, they are right on this one. It is morally bankrupt to hold a public lynching and call yourself ethical. Do not be fooled, this is not an argument about journalistic ethics or about right wing vs. left-wing politics, it’s about power and control, and putting Cubans who are a powerful group of Hispanics in their place. It is not lost in the establishment of this country that Hispanics are the largest minority in this country and growing, daily changing the face of this country.

A newspaper needs to be about diverse opinions. Don’t chastise those who express the opinions that the majority of the city’s population holds. Instead, let their voices be heard while also providing a forum for dissent voices as well.

What The Miami Herald did was a cowardly racist act. Liberals are as much capable of this as conservatives. Sad but true.

heraldphobe said...

In connection with the Varela incident at the Herald, he was quoted as saying "I am Cuban and I am not any Chihuahua."

At the time of the Chihuahua incident earlier on, I read a published letter by Armando Valladares (the former Cuban political prisoner and U.S. envoy to the UN who wrote "Against All Hope") which came down very hard on Tom Fiedler and called for his resignation or dismissal.

As much as I respect Valladares, I thought maybe he was being a little extreme, but what's transpired since then involving Fiedler is not at all reassuring. Actually, it only seems to be getting worse. It's definitely not a pretty picture.

Manuel A. Tellechea said...

Let's try not to make a hero out of this very disturbed man. Yes, he made some vital points, but I think most people will dismiss the source before they take into consideration his points. I wonder if he has not unintentionally done all Cuban-Americans great harm by reinforcing the popular perception of us as intransigent fanatics living in a time-warp, which the liberal media created and has sustained for 48 years.

heraldphobe said...

It's not about painting Varela as a hero or a martyr. It's about finding out what's behind what he did (and there may have been more than one reason). The problem is, if there's actually substance to his allegations, how likely is it that the Herald organization would air that kind of dirty laundry, especially now?

Anonymous said...

The most disturbing thing to me is that no one, especially not the Herald, has published word one about the incident that occurred last month in which a vagrant made it past security up to the second floor, threatened to do harm, and became involved in an altercation with several Herald employees, some of whom needed medical attention.

On a slow news day, this lone nut would have made the national news. Given the tragic suicide by Teele in the building a year earlier, it was clearly newsworthy. Yet the Herald did not report the incident. As an ex-employee, I can guess from firsthand experience why no one has come forward about the incident: they are afraid for their jobs.

Henry "Conductor" Gomez said...


If you know anyone that will corroborate the story about the vagrant please have him/her email me. I would like to follow up with a post about that but I need a first hand account from someone. I don't have to name their name but I need to know their name to publish the story.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure there are plenty of readers of your blog that still work at the Herald and would be willing to corroborate this story. Since the suspect was arrested by Miami police I'm sure it shouldn't be too hard to fact-check. You might also ask the Herald directly for a confirmation.

Henry "Conductor" Gomez said...

So far no confirmation from anyone about the vagrant in the Herald building. Tom Fiedler denied knowledge of the incident. A call to the PIO of the Miami police has resulted in no info about the incident either. He was checking the records a little further back and I will post his answer.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Ask them if the name Gary Gin rings a bell. Unbelievable.