Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Ironies of Miami (Part 3)

In 1992, when Americas Watch released their first report documenting "Attacks on Freedom of Expression in Miami’s Cuban Exile Community" and describing "significant responsibility by the government at all levels, including direct harassment by the government, government support of groups linked to anti-free speech behavior, and a persistent failure to arrest or prosecute those responsible for violent attacks on unpopular speakers," Miami City Mayor Xavier Suarez threatened to sue.

Mayor Suarez found it "defamatory" that Americas Watch reported him calling an FBI-accused terrorist a "freedom fighter."[1] Back in 1983, Eduardo Arocena was a fugitive wanted by the FBI on suspicion of being the leader of the terrorist organization called Omega-7. On July 22, 1983, Arocena was arrested by federal agents and charged with crimes he earlier revealed to FBI agents while cooperating in their investigations the year before. Arocena surrendered peacefully.

On his way to his court hearing, a reporter called out to Arocena: "Why did you do it? Was it for the revolution?" Arocena replied: "Of course... All for the liberation of my country."[2] The FBI adamantly believed Arocena was the leader of Omega-7 and America's most dangerous anti-Castro terrorist. Some in the exile community felt differently. The next day, Miami Herald's Jim McGee quoted Pedro Pablo Rojas, described as head of the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association Brigade 2506, saying: "I feel sorry for him. Anybody who fights Communism has my sympathy... The best Communist is a dead Communist. If that violence is his way to fight, I won't condemn him."[3]

Arocena was eventually charged with several criminal violations and is currently serving a perpetual sentence of about 325 years according to the "Committee to Free Eduardo Arocena," which, as recently as 2004, has been advocating for his transfer to Miami and believes he deserves a Presidential pardon.

Back in 1983, as the Herald came out with several articles revealing the FBI case against Arocena since his arrest in July, Mayor Suarez was still convinced by October that the FBI had arrested a "freedom fighter."

On October 16, 1983, the Herald's Jim McGee wrote an article called "How Terrorism Sways Miami's Politicians." It was a daring piece that showed how some of Miami's political leaders at the time gave legitimacy to suspected terrorists. In the article, Mayor Suarez comes out sounding very similar to Pedro Pablo Rojas:

Suarez said he preferred to describe someone like Eduardo Arocena, the alleged leader of Omega 7, as a "freedom fighter," not a terrorist. "There is a great deal of reluctance to say, 'I condemn your tactics'" Suarez said.

[1] Miami Herald, August 19, 1992, "Prove Report in Error, Rights Group Says" by Alfonso Chardy.
[2]Miami Herald, July 23, 1983, "FBI Agents Arrest Omega 7 'Mastermind'" by Jim McGee and Bob Lowe.
[3]Miami Herald, July 24, 1983, "Arocena 'Armory' Uncovered FBI: Apartment a 'Bomb Factory'" by Jim McGee.

[Photo of Eduardo Arocena, courtesy of]


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