On April 5th, 2007, El Nuevo Herald again published an article by Juan M. Juara Silverio, veteran of the Bay of Pigs invasion and former Cuban prisoner after the invasion. Juara Silverio wrote about the "irony of history" pointing out that 3 of the 6 pilots who fought and survived against the US-backed Cuban exiles, now themselves live as exiles in Miami. Juara Silverio continued:
"Alvaro Prendes, Douglas Rudd and Rafael del Pino, abandoned their higher military responsibilities, honors and medals and became exiles to fight against the communist dictatorship, providing an example of political unselfishness and integrity."
"Del Pino, Rudd y Prendes, with their honest deeds, today unite themselves with those who fought, in unity with the ideals of liberty and justice that led Brigade 2506 to battle at Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs)."
That was perhaps the last time Rafael Del Pino was praised in the local Spanish media.
Back in 1987, Rafael Del Pino made headlines when he defected from Cuba, becoming the highest ranking military official to be exiled in the US. One Reagan administration official at the time described it as "the biggest intelligence catch we've ever had from Cuba." Upon his arrival, Del Pino was "questioned by American intelligence officers for two or three weeks" and provided plentiful amounts of new information concerning possible Cuban retaliatory attacks against the US, "Cuba's expeditionary force in Angola, about growing discontent in Cuba as the economy worsens, about the nearly 10,000 Soviet civilian and military advisers in Cuba, and about his life in the United States and his hopes for the future." Del Pino gave several interviews to US-funded Radio Marti, providing interesting transcript excerpts which were soon published by the Cuban American National Foundation in a small book titled "General Del Pino Speaks." By the early 90's, as the Cuban economy began collapsing, Del Pino's defection was used by some Cuba experts to argue of the fractured Cuban military and to predict the coming end of the Cuban regime. The predictions eventually faded, and so did Del Pino. Until this year.
Earlier this month, Wilfredo Cancio Isla from the Miami Herald reported on a lawsuit initiated by Rafael Del Pino against some Bay of Pigs veterans, Radio Mambi and other Spanish-language media outlets. According to the complaint [PDF], Del Pino alleges that his First Amendment rights were violated due to "a series of violent threats and intimidation" by hard-liners in Miami in retaliation for two published articles in El Nuevo Herald advocating negotiations between the US and the Cuban government.
Two months after Juara Silverio commended Del Pino, El Nuevo Herald published the first article in a series by Del Pino titled "La Hora de las Negociaciones" (The Hour of Negotiations) on June 25th. Phil Peters from the Cuban Triangle Blog gave a good summary of Del Pino's proposal that day. Two other articles followed, in anticipation of Cuba's July 26th Revolution Day celebration and speeches, one of them (Aug. 1) titled "Carta Abierta a Raúl Castro" (Open Letter to Raul Castro), in which Del Pino follows up his initial US-Cuba negotiations proposal, this time urging Raul Castro to lift the internal "blockade against Cubans on the island" (i.e. prohibition on property rights) and recognize that "the system does not work and... will never work."
Each article gained wider criticism against Del Pino from Miami hard-liners, each easily dismissing his calls for calibrated negotiations as "silliness" and instead reiterating the hard-line position that "the international community has the moral obligation to intervene in Cuba in favor of the defenseless and oppressed Cuban people and against the powerful and oppressive dictatorship."
By September, I also began noticing how Radio Mambi and other Spanish media outlets had unfairly criticized Rafael Del Pino for his articles, some even insulting and vilifying his character to obviate from the important political alternative he presented. Some would make the argument that this new criticism is about Rafael Del Pino's military history with the Cuban government or actions at the Bay of Pigs (where he supposedly shot at Cuban exiles on the beach from his plane), but that is a mistake.
The new condemnation and retaliation against Rafael Del Pino is purely the result of his recently published articles in the El Nuevo Herald (beginning on June 25th) advocating negotiations between the US and Cuba. Before these dates, Del Pino was hardly, if ever, mentioned by the defendants identified in his lawsuit. If this case goes to trial, I think the proceedings will reveal some truths about the Spanish media in Miami, about it's hostility and blind allegiance to a hard-line position on US/Cuba policy.