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Cuba Confidential

Reviews...Blurbs...Awards

 


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Click here to read Chapter 2 of Cuba Confidential: Castro Family Values

Click here to read Chapter 7 of Cuba Confidential: An Assassin's Tale in Three Acts

The Miami Herald

Michael Putney's Memories of Book Fairs Past

November 15, 2011

http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/11/15/2503901/memories-of-book-fairs-past.html

The Globe and Mail

Three Best Books of Fidel Castro and Cuba

August 11, 2006

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20060812.BKREAD12/TPStory/?query=wright  

Finalist for the New York Public Library Bernstein

Book Award for Excellence in Journalism Award  for 2003

 

Los Angeles Times names CUBA CONFIDENTIAL the Best of the Best
(Top Ten) and in the 100 Best Books of 2002

Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana

by Ann Louise Bardach/Random House: 384 pp., $25.95

Ann Louise Bardach's Cuba Confidential bears a resemblance to works
such as Claude Levi-Strauss' "The Savage Mind," Clifford Geertz's "The Religion of
Java" and Victor Turner's "Forest of Symbols," for "Cuba Confidential" is a book that
seeks to unveil to civilized eyes the seemingly cryptic meaning hidden deep within the behavior of primitive aliens. In this case it's not the islanders of some faraway archipelago who are analyzed but Cubans, both in their native habitat and in their diaspora. Few American journalists are better poised to do this than Bardach, who knows
Miami and Cuba from the inside out. Her contacts are wide-ranging in both places, her research is thorough and meticulous, her access to key figures is impressive. In many ways, this highly engrossing collection of narratives is perhaps as close to an inside view of the Cuban mess as one can hope for from an outsider. 

Los Angeles.Times

                                                      ***

                                                         

PEN USA 2003 LITERARY AWARD BOOK WINNERS

 

FINALIST: Ann Louise Bardach - Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance

                                                        in Miami and Havana   (Random House)

 

                                       

Praise for Cuba Confidential:

          

"An illuminating portrait, by a first-class investigative journalist, drawing on ten years of reporting of the half-century-long civil war that has divided Cuba against itself . . .Bardach (ed. Cuba: A Travelers Literary Companion) writes with an awareness of the Big Picture--two of her best moments come in deconstructing the Elian affair and in tracing the influence of Cuban exiles in all branches of the Bush family . . . Powerful, evenhanded, thoroughly edifying." -* starred Kirkus review

 

Cuba Confidential is the work of a reporter at the top of her game.  Ann Louise Bardach takes a fascinating new look at the case of Elian Gonzalez and then spins it into a compelling reexamination of the tortured relationship between the United States and Castro's Cuba.  With Bardach's fresh take on the young boy and the old man, you'll never look at either one the same way again.” –Jeffrey Toobin

 

"Ann Louise Bardach is America's answer to Orianna Fallaci. This is a wonderful book  - absolutely masterful at presenting both sides of the Cuba debate." –Gay Talese

 

"Ann Louise Bardach long ago established herself as America's most lucid, courageous, and well-informed observer of Cuban realities on both sides of the Florida Straits. Her new book is a tour de force, the definitive work on the still ongoing Cuban civil war that, whether it is being played out in Havana, Miami, or Washington, continues to ruin the future of Cubans and the politics of the United States." –David Rieff, author of The Exile


"Since 1959, Fidel Castro has played the anti-Christ for the
United States and vice versa. In Cuba Confidential,  Ann Louise Bardach has brilliantly chronicled and examined why the policy has not worked  for Castro or for the United States. She has also prepared us for what we must face when Castro is gone." –Sander Vanocur , veteran NBC and ABC anchor

 

 “As Cuba moves into a crisis of regime, and Cuban exiles and oppositionists debate the past as well as the future, it would be reassuring to think that all concerned had a copy of this illuminating book near to hand.”
     Christopher Hitchens

 

“If our political Establishment knew a tenth as much about Cuba, or cared half as much about it, as does Ann Louise Bardach, both the United States and Cuba would be more open societies.” –

Christopher Hitchens

 

“Ann Louise Bardach expertly explores the troubled waters of U.S.-Cuban relations since Fidel Castro came to power. Whatever your views on Cuba, Cuba Confidential offers a valuable treasure of inside information and rich insights into an international controversy that has deep implications for American politics." –Lou Cannon, author of President Reagan

 

 

"Profound and provocative Writing from the perspective of an outsider - but with the passion of someone trapped in the fascination of all things Cuban-  Bardach's work offers the best of American investigative journalism along with a multi-layered history of baroque complexity. Her dramatization of the political intrigues on both sides of the Cuban divide make Cuba Confidential as absorbing as a thriller."Uva de Aragon- Director of the Cuban Research Institute, Florida International University

“In all ways, Bardach is as passionate as a Cuban in her work- a task that has taken ten years. A  woman of considerable charm, she is a 'aplatanada cubana’ - a transplanted Cuban...and many are anxiously awaiting Cuba Confidential ."El Nuevo Herald

 

Kirkus Reviews  (**starred review)

 

Cuba Confidential :Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana by Ann Louise Bardach  September 1, 2001

"An illuminating portrait, by a first-class investigative journalist, of the half-century-long civil war that has divided
Cuba against itself.


Drawing on ten years of reporting among south
Florida's exile communities and in Cuba, Bardach (ed. Cuba: A Travelers Literary Companion pp. 453) offers an extraordinarily complete view of the personal and political gulf that separate Cubans. Here are all sorts of revelations, few of them comforting. Florida's Cubans, 95% of them white, disclaim their mixed-blood and black island compatriots, in good part on racial grounds, so that, as one Miami talk-radio host remarked, had Elian Gonzalez been black, "he would have been tossed back into the sea." Castro (who lobbied hard for the Soviets to launch a nuclear attack on the U.S.), cursed with an elephant's memory and with a deep well of vengeance, has devoted much of his energy to punishing former enemies, like the boyhood rival who served 20 years for having once punched him in the face. (Castro's friend Gabriel Garcia Marquez was once moved to remark, "I can't think of a worse loser than Fidel.")


At once pawns and generals in the superpower struggle, Cubans in the
U.S. have enjoyed unusual privileges, from the "wet foot/dry foot" policy that "grants any Cuban who makes it to land the right to stay" to perks such as free private-school tuition and special loans from the Small Business Administration. Bardach writes with an awareness of the Big Picture--two of her best moments come in deconstructing the Elian affair and in tracing the influence of Cuban exiles in all branches of the Bush family--but her focus tends to stay on individual actors, from exile terrorists who dream of assassinating Castro to families whose members, for political reasons, haven't spoken to each other for 40 or more years.


Were Castro to die tomorrow, Bardach suggests, the Cuban civil war would flare up again unabated. Powerful, evenhanded, thoroughly edifying."

 

 

Foreign Affairs

January/February 2003

 

Reviewed by Kenneth Maxwell,

 

Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana

 By Ann Louise Bardach. New York: Random House, 2002, 384 pp. $25.95

 

A marvelous and evocative deconstruction of the incestuous relationships and hardball tactics that have kept Cuba firmly under Fidel Castro and U.S. policy toward Cuba paralyzed under the influence of Miami's Cuban Americans. Bardach pulls no punches here, making her book the most accessible account of this sorry tangle yet. She has talked to everyone: crooks, spooks, politicos, hired assassins, the inner circle of Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and even the garrulous and manipulative Castro himself. This is a story of betrayal, suspicion, and conspiracies, with agents and counteragents immersed in an ongoing Caribbean Cold War where John Le Carre would feel very much at home. Bardach also documents the exile community as it shifted from favoring paramilitary strikes against Castro to launching a brilliantly successful lobbying effort within the American political system in the early 1980s, modeled on the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. As one former Washington official put it, "The Israeli lobby buys Democrats and rents Republicans, the Cubans buy Republicans and rent Democrats." As Bardach makes clear, the power of this lobby in Congress and beyond remains very much alive for now -- as does Castro.

 

 

The Washington Post

 

One Big, Unhappy Family

Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana

by Ann Louise Bardach

 

By Tom Gjelten,

a correspondent for National Public Radio who reports regularly from and about Cuba

Thursday, December 26, 2002; Page C04

 

CUBA CONFIDENTIAL: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana

By Ann Louise Bardach

Random House. 417 pp. $25.95

 

Imagine Fidel Castro getting an invitation to visit President Bush at his Texas ranch. Why not? Bush hosted Jiang Zemin there in October, serving the un-elected Chinese president fried catfish and potato salad and driving him around the ranch. And how about approaching Cuba with the delicacy and seriousness that characterize U.S. diplomacy toward Syria or even North Korea? It won't happen.

 

Cuba is a case by itself. Forget ideology and the relative possibilities of dialogue with left-wing dictatorships. To make sense of the unyielding U.S.-Cuba confrontation, Ann Louise Bardach argues, we have to see Cuba as a country torn by a 43-year-old civil war. It is a war over who has the right to fly the Cuban flag, to quote Cuban national heroes, to celebrate a Cuban heritage and ultimately to claim the country's diminishing treasure. It is a war that has divided the extended Cuban family and produced the enmity and intransigence that only family quarrels can generate.

 

Washington finds itself trapped in the conflict because the U.S. government is identified with one of the "warring parties" -- the Cuban exile community in South Florida. Readers of Bardach's book may wonder why Cuba matters here as much as it does. Disdain for the United States is a sentiment the protagonists in this civil war have sometimes shared. Fidel Castro, seen internationally as promoting revolutionary social change in Cuba and across the Third World, seems to have been inspired first by the rather meaner aim of waging war on "the Americans" whose influence in Cuba he detested. "I realize this is my true destiny," Castro wrote his confidant Celia Sanchez in 1958. Jorge Mas Canosa, the powerful leader of the Miami Cubans until his death in 1997, meanwhile boasted to an interviewer in 1992 that though he had lived in the United States since 1960, he had never assimilated. "I am a Cuban first," Mas Canosa said. "I live here only as an extension of Cuba." These men, ideology aside, may both be understood as stubborn, small-minded Cuban nationalists.

 

In "Cuba Confidential," the old story of the battle between Castro and his foes is refreshingly retold, stripped of its Cold War grandiosity and reduced to a narrative more characteristic of a Latin telenovela. Bardach organizes the book around the theme of the broken family, using the Elian Gonzalez custody dispute and the bitter splits within other Cuban families, including Fidel's, to illustrate how Cubans have been turned against one another.

 

As with any domestic squabble, the picture is not pretty. Bardach's portrayal of Castro is as unappealing as any ever drawn, showing him to be thoughtless and personally uncaring in the little ways that matter to us regular people. She tells the story of Castro standing with his elderly mother in a pouring rain at an outdoor rally, but not thinking to offer her his coat. When his son Fidelito is seriously injured in an automobile accident, he doesn't bother to visit him in the hospital. "He is by nature a singularly unsentimental man," Bardach notes with casual understatement. When one of Castro's longtime and devoted bodyguards suffers a heart attack and is forced to retire, the man is soon forgotten. "Two years later," Bardach writes, "he and his family were living on his $10-a-month pension and what his wife earned cleaning houses." Bardach reminds us of all the old comrades Castro has arbitrarily thrown into prison, including many who stood loyally by him during the revolution and even risked their lives to save his. But she does not find Castro's enemies in Miami to be much more endearing.

 

An investigative journalist specializing in Cuba, Bardach has been examining the activities of exile leaders in South Florida for years, and her book depicts them as a ruthless lot, intolerant of dissent and tacitly supportive of violence and even terrorism in service to the anti-Castro cause. Luis Posada Carriles, who acknowledges his involvement in bombing and assassination plots against Castro, remains a hero to many Cuban exile leaders, as does Orlando Bosch, who U.S. authorities believe was behind the 1976 bombing of a Cubana airliner, an act of sabotage that killed 73 people. Republican Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Cuban Americans from South Florida, have appealed to the Bush administration to show leniency to Cuban exiles convicted of terrorist acts, including murder.

 

Bardach's account of the hardball tactics of the exile leadership and the extremist views of some of the most esteemed Cuban American politicians in Miami is thoroughly documented, and it is a disturbing story. Yet as Bardach herself points out in her preface, "Cuban exiles are not a monolith." More than 100,000 Cuban Americans return to Cuba on visits each year; many Cuban families are divided, but they are not all broken. The Miami portion of this book, including the exhaustive retelling of the Elian story, goes on too long.

 

Bardach's compelling portrait of Fidel Castro, meanwhile, leaves some questions unanswered, such as how this man with "a streak of lunacy," as a State Department analyst once put it, was able to build and hold together the totalitarian system he has directed for more than 40 years. Perhaps it has to do with his strong will. Bardach reports that as a young man, Fidel once rode his bicycle at full speed into a wall to collect on a $5 bet. But she does not use such tales to explain his dictatorial record. I would have preferred more analysis and fewer quotes from former Castro compatriots.

 

Still, "Cuba Confidential" is a good book for those whose curiosity about Cubans has only recently been awakened. The Elian saga prompted many Americans to think seriously about Cuba and Castro for the first time, and it makes sense to weave the tale of the Cuban civil war around that episode and the man at the center of it. The drama of Cuba is too often blown out of proportion by zealots on both sides; this book brings the story down to size.

 

.

 

>From Library Journal
The quagmire of the shattered Cuban family is the background for PEN Award-winning journalist Bardach's investigation of the tragic parallel universes in the two Cubas: the largest island in the Caribbean and the diverse, multifaceted exile community in Miami. Since 1959, Cuban families have suffered, driven apart by politics, geography, conflicting convictions, secrets, and the anguish of separation. Four decades of seething betrayal, suspicion, and conspiracies culminated in world media attention during the Elian Gonzalez affair, the single most transforming event of Cuba-U.S. relations since the Bay of Pigs. Drawing on ten years of reporting on Cuba and its exiles, Bardach transitions effectively between profiles of aging patriarch and leader Fidel Castro and Cuban exiles seeking freedom but shunted into silence by hard-liners committed to revenge, retribution, and power. Designed for a general audience, this compact volume offers clear explanations of events, individuals, and dynamics since the Cuban Revolution, telling the story of the Gonz lez family and many others. Bibliographic citations incorporate bilingual print, online resources, and interviews. Highly recommended for purchase by large public and academic libraries and specialized contemporary Latin American studies collections.
Sylvia D. Hall-Ellis,

 

The Washington Post

The Reliable Source

By Lloyd Grove
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 15, 2002; Page C03

The Iraqi-Cuban Connection
If Cuban orthopedic surgeon Rodrigo Alvarez Cambras hadn't been so deft with his scalpel, we probably wouldn't be worrying right now about the threat of Saddam Hussein. In her new book, "Cuba Confidential," investigative reporter Ann Louise Bardach recounts an interview in which the good doctor proudly described how he saved the homicidal dictator's life.

"Cambras, who told me he counted 14 foreign leaders as patients, operated on Saddam Hussein in the late 1980s, removing an octopus-like tumor from his spinal column," Bardach writes. "It would have been fatal, Cambras said, if it had not been skillfully removed. In appreciation, the Iraqi despot rewarded him with a hospital in
Baghdad and a large fee, which Cambras said he turned over to the Cuban government. Castro rewarded him with one of the lovelier homes in the Miramar section of Havana."

Yesterday Bardach told us that Cambras -- who runs a state-of-the-art hospital in the Cuban capital, is a member of parliament and heads the Cuban-Iraqi Friendship Society -- "is an amiable, very charming man in his seventies." She added: "When he told me that he saved Saddam's life, I was so shocked I dropped my notebook. Clearly, his medical expertise would have been better served on someone else."

(A 1997 report in the newspaper the Australian asserted that the successful surgery to correct Hussein's spinal problems -- which had caused, among other symptoms, impotence -- led not only to the dictator leaving his wife and impregnating his mistress, but also to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.) As Castro's personal emissary, Cambras is a frequent visitor to
Baghdad -- most recently in July, when the Iraqi News Agency quoted him as likening Israel to Nazi Germany and condemning "Zionist crimes against our people in Palestine."

Bardach, who'll be feted at a book party tomorrow hosted by Brit journalist Christopher Hitchens and wife Carol Blue, added that she recently discussed Cambras with
Los Angeles chiropractor-to-the-
stars Leroy Perry. Visiting Cambras's
Havana mansion, Perry spotted framed photos of Hussein, Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi and former Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega on Cambras's "power wall" of famous patients. "Perry said he told him: 'You know, Rodrigo, some of these guys are bad guys.' Rodrigo just laughed and said something like 'Everybody needs a doctor.' "

© 2002 The Washington Post Company

L.A. Weekly December 26, 2003 -January 1, 2004

 

Where Are They Now?

 

Ann Louise Bardach. Listed on the masthead in 1984 as the Weekly's crime reporter, Bardach is now a contributing writer for Vanity Fair and is widely regarded as the foremost journalist writing about Cuba and U.S. policy toward Cuba. Just out is the paperback version of Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana. Christopher Hitchens commented: "If our political establishment knew a tenth as much about Cuba, or cared half as much about it, as does Ann Louise Bardach, both the United States and Cuba would be more open societies."

 

L.A. Weekly    

October 11 - 17, 2002


The Latin Implosion
Ann Louise Bardach’s Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana

by Marc Cooper

READING ANN LOUISE BARDACH'S ACCOUNTS OF life among the Cuban elites of both Miami and Havana, you reach one major conclusion: that arbitrarily stuffing all Cubans into one of two categories -- either pro-revolutionary Fidelistas on the island or counterrevolutionary gusanos (worms) in Miami exile -- no longer tracks with a much more complicated reality. While it's a neat configuration that might serve the purposes of both the ossified ideologues that the Bush administration has appointed to oversee Cuban policy and the die-hard true believers on the left who continue to venerate and apologize for Castro, it is nevertheless a paradigm as obsolete as the '57 Buicks and Oldsmobiles that still chug and smoke through downtown Havana.

Instead, a growing number of Cubans on both sides of the straits strain to find some sort of reconciliation, some sort of joint future, if not now, at least for the next generation. In Miami, there are important -- if not yet dominant -- dissident voices that want to ratchet down the screechy rhetoric and elaborate some sort of U.S.-Cuban policy that goes beyond the simple vilification of Castro. Bardach digs them all up and brings them provocatively to life on the page. And in Cuba itself, as more and more foreign tourists flock in, with the U.S. dollar now completing a decade as the official currency, and with a tenuous and uneven cultural opening under way, more and more Cubans can dare to dream of some sort of "normalization" of their lives. And once again, Bardach, with a from-the-ground approach, transmits to us a number of compelling first-person accounts of hope and disillusionment.

But in the twin Cuban capitals of Havana and Miami, that search for common ground is still impeded by hard-line leaderships that cling to a blind, blood enmity that -- as Bardach rightfully claims -- threatens to make the shattering of Cuban families the prime legacy of the revolution.

The overwhelmingly white exile community of Miami continues to be lorded over by a group of thuggish extremists that -- with strong links to succeeding American presidents and with a firm foothold in the U.S. Congress -- sabotages any move to bridge the 43-year-old gap opened up by the victory of Castro's revolution. As recently as two weeks ago we were all witness to the feverish denunciations by this faction of an agricultural trade fair that brought 300 American companies into Havana, all anxious to sell food to some fairly hungry Cubans.

On the other side, the 76-year-old Líder Máximo seems intent on taking his tenure right to the grave. And for a guy who boasts of knowing so darn much about just about everything (I once heard Castro give a three-hour talk on the artificial insemination of livestock), Fidel is obstinately and conspicuously mum on how his beloved Cuba should make the transition out of a system that is collapsing -- if not already collapsed -- all around him.

BARDACH DEFTLY UNPACKS ALL THE DETAILS, nuances, contradictions and surreal juxtapositions of the Elián González psychodrama of two years ago and distributes them among several long chapters of the book as her way of highlighting the dysfunctions and divisions within this Cuban family (and its often-loony Uncle Sam). And for the most part, this device works to get her points across. That the wacky Miami relatives of the shipwrecked youngster -- and their feverish hordes of supporters who would come out nightly into the street, sweating, panting, screaming, throwing themselves in front of police, swearing that to return Elián to his own loving father in Cuba was akin to sending him off to Dachau -- got such reverential initial consideration from the U.S. government and from then­presidential candidates Bush and Gore speaks volumes.

Common sense in this case eventually prevailed, and Elián was sent back home where he belonged. It was a distasteful, and unprecedented, defeat for the big-mouth bullies who dominate exile politics. Their humiliation at the hands of then­Attorney General Janet Reno's federal troops -- who conducted the raid that restored Elián to his dad -- for a brief historic moment threatened to provoke a major thaw with Cuba.

But only for a moment. For no sooner had Elián been rescued from his cousins' clutches than the exile leadership zealously recommitted itself to vengeance by redoubling its efforts to give Florida to Dubya Bush. We all know how that turned out. And for their successful efforts in helping him win office, Dubya has returned the favor by packing his foreign-policy apparatus with the most twitchingly anti-Castro claque of Cuban-Americans. (Veritable werewolves like Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs Otto Reich, whose eyes roll back into his head with the very mention of Fidel Castro.)

Bardach made her journalistic name not as a foreign-policy wonk or button-down diplomatic correspondent, but rather as a gritty true-crime reporter turning out a sometimes-lurid string of murder stories -- including some for this publication back in the 1980s. First sent to Cuba a decade ago, she tenaciously made the island her territory, returning a dozen times and interviewing Castro at length on two occasions and churning out glossy profiles for Vanity Fair and other national publications. But throughout she has maintained her unflinching police reporter's view of things. And rather than emitting gassy lightweight essays, Bardach does things the old-fashioned way; she reports the hell out of her subjects, filling what are no doubt countless notebooks and then sorting it out and reassembling it all in entertaining narratives that daringly and shamelessly flirt with the tabloid.

This approach accounts for both the overwhelming strength and the nagging weakness of this book. Bardach doggedly tracks down, corners and interviews just about every major player in this half-century-old drama: Castro, his exiled sister, his brother-in-law (now a right-wing U.S. congressman), the father of one of Castro's once-most-trusted aides who was purged and executed a dozen years ago, the gangsters who monopolize exile politics, both sides of Elián González's family, dissidents here and in Havana, policymakers, the cronies of Jeb Bush, the self-congratulating terrorists who in the name of anti-Castroism blew up an airline two decades before anyone heard of Osama, and dozens of others who make up this schizophrenic historical mosaic.

She never hesitates to ask the most uncomfortable questions, and the end product is a steaming pot of curdled personal ambitions, rivalries, jealousies and betrayals stewed with the volatile intrigue of international geopolitics. It's hard to get any closer to either Fidel or his now-deceased arch rival Jorge Mas Canosa than Bardach does.

THE ONLY REAL FLAW IN THIS WORK IS THAT THIS decidedly non-political, non-ideological approach to matters tends to downplay, well . . . the politics. Plumbing the psyche of policymakers can give us valuable additional insight into their politics, but almost never serves as a full explanation. There are compelling economic, social and (in Cuba's case) security factors that also shape such tormented histories as that between the U.S. and Cuba over the last five decades, and many of these are simply overlooked in Cuba Confidential.
On the other hand, scholarly and not-so-academic treatments of this subject abound and continue to reproduce with no letup. Since the summer nearly a half-dozen major books have appeared on things Cuban, and some -- like Julia Sweig's Inside the Cuban Revolution -- offer valuable glimpses back into just how
Cuba came to revolt in the first place. But of all these newest entries on the Cuba shelf, Bardach's book stands out as the one that gets us closest to the heart -- if not the mind -- of the matter.

The Cuba specialist Saul Landau, upon returning from a recent visit to the island, remarked that Cuban society today is like a big airliner that circles and circles and circles some more. Can it find a way to safely land, and if so, where? Or will it simply and horribly crash? Bardach grabs our hands and ushers us right into a front-row first-class seat. To paraphrase Bette Davis: Fasten your seat belts -- it's going to be a bumpy flight.

       

CUBA CONFIDENTIAL: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana

By ANN LOUISE BARDACH | Random House | 417 pages | $26 hardcover

 

The Christian Science Monitor, May 1, 2003

Copyright 2003 The Christian Science Publishing Society  
Christian Science Monitor (
Boston, MA)


May 1, 2003, Thursday


HEADLINE: A family feud across the
Straits of Florida

BYLINE: By Catherine Moses

HIGHLIGHT:
The Elian Gonzalez crisis exposed the deep, twisted roots of the US-Cuba conflict

BODY:
Fidel Castro is cracking down on dissent. Again. And he's blaming the
United States and its hard-line policy toward Cuba. At a time when most Americans support an easing of the restrictions placed on Cuba, some may wonder why the Bush administration continues to pursue a hard-line policy. Ann Louise Bardach's "Cuba Confidential" helps answer that question. By profiling the conservative Miami community that has long held sway over policy toward Cuba, Bardach reveals the underlying dynamic of US foreign policy.

Cuba and the US have a relationship laced with emotion, temper, and love. It is a story of divided families, enormous egos, and great risks. In many ways, it is a family feud played out across the Straits of Florida, illustrated by the saga of a little boy. "Cuba Confidential" takes the reader on the perilous voyage made by Elian Gonzalez across the sea and into the morass of Cuban-American politics in the heart of Miami's Little Havana.

One fateful night in November 1999, 14 people boarded a small overloaded boat for a journey across the
Straits of Florida. Bardach makes their sad stories very real for us. As their boat encounters difficulties, we watch them slowly drift away into the sea as they reach out to save one another. Ultimately, 11 die.

Elian was found floating in an inner tube off the
Florida coast. Bardach's extensive interviews with the friends and family members of those who perished en route to the US reveal that love, not politics or a quest for freedom, was the motivation for all those who set sail. Notably, Elian's mother, Elizabet Broton, was traveling not for her own freedom nor for her son's freedom, as argued in much of the media coverage, but to join her boyfriend in the US.

After a decade of reporting on
Cuba and winning a PEN Award, Bardach has crafted the individual stories of these travelers to provide an intimate look at the value Cubans place on personal relationships.

Landing in the center of
Miami's Cuban community may have been Elian's most difficult ride. Much of "Cuba Confidential" studies the heart of Little Havana. Bardach's in-depth description of politics in this unique community reveals a system with no tolerance for freedom of speech or differences of opinion. Ironically, as in Havana, there is one acceptable political line. Those who dare stray from it face threats, intimidation, bombings, and other forms of violence.

Just as Elian's father, Juan Gonzalez, cast his lot with Fidel Castro, Elian's
Miami relatives relied on the Cuban American National Foundation to orchestrate their case - from media appearances to legal battles.

The political and financial influence of this conservative Cuban community is far reaching. Endless television coverage captured a glimpse of the passions involved in the conflict, but more telling is the array of powerful political figures who paid visits to Elian Gonzalez, the apparent complicity of judges who had conflicts of interest in the case because of campaign donations, and the harsh criticism dealt to Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald journalists who did not clearly advocate that Elian stay in the US.

A family affair

The private life of Fidel Castro further illustrates the theme of love and vengeance in this conflict. Bardach explores the personal aspects of the US-Cuba relationship by tracing the family ties that complicate it.

In his youth, Castro married Mirta Diaz-Balart. Her brother, Rafael, was Castro's best friend and went on to become deputy minister of the Interior. As Bardach tells it, Rafael exposed Castro's adultery and caused a bitter divorce several years later. Rafael's son, Lincoln Diaz-Balart, grew up to be a profoundly anti-Castro Cuban-American congressman with close ties to the Bush administration. Indeed, his influence with the White House may help explain the hard-line policy being pursued today.

Bardach's interviews with Castro, his family members, and his inner circle challenge some of the conventional wisdom about the indefatigable communist and his confidants. Her portrayal of Castro's brother, Raul, is particularly revealing.

Although the conservative segment of the Miami Cuban community lost considerable influence in the wake of Elian's travails, the hard-line nature of current
US policy reveals that their power in the White House continues to prevail. "Cuba Confidential" brings us to the roots of that power and the nature of this conflict.

* Catherine Moses teaches political science at
Georgia College and State University. She is the author of 'Real Life in Castro's Cuba.'

Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana
 
Ann Louise Bardach
 
Random House 384 pp., $ 25.95

(c) Copyright 2003. The Christian Science Monitor

 


 St. Petersburg Times

Both Sides of Miami and Havana Series: BOOKS

November 10, 2002
by DAVID ADAMS

Abstract:
Ann Louise Bardach cleverly weaves the story of Elian Gonzalez into this tale of divided families. Elian's mother drowned trying to flee
Cuba, leaving behind the boy's father who remains loyal to Fidel Castro. We all know what that led to.

Over several chapters, which provide the meat of the book, Bardach rips into the exile community, exposing its politicians as "the roughest, toughest crowd this side of the mujahedeen (holy warriors)." Their obsession with Castro turned
Miami into the "capital of U.S. terrorism," she writes.

With so much space in the book devoted to the misdeeds in
Miami, the other half of Bardach's story - Havana - gets scant attention. It cannot be said, however, that Bardach is out to defend Castro. Where he appears, the portrait is far from flattering.

CUBA CONFIDENTIAL: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana
By Ann Louise Bardach
Random House, $25.95, 397 pp

After five-year-old Cuban rafter boy Elian Gonzalez was found floating on a rubber inner-tube in the
Straits of Florida in November 1999, his story dominated the headlines for months.

The determination of Cuban exiles to prevent him from being returned to his father in
Cuba perplexed public opinion worldwide. The image of Cuban Miami was forever scarred.

Now comes the book that attempts to make sense of it all.

Cuba Confidential is a long overdue examination of what lies behind the long-running feud between Fidel Castro's
Cuba and Miami's Cuban-American exiles.

Several writers have previously addressed the story from either side of the
Straits of Florida. Miami Herald reporter Andres Oppenheimer gave a gripping account of Castro's Cuba in his book Castro's Final Hour. David Rieff's The Exile also thoughtfully tackled the pain and wounded pride of the Miami Cubans.

But, as the subtitle suggests - "Love and Vengeance in
Miami and Havana" - Bardach is the first author who has tried to look at the rift from both sides.

To do that she explains how
Cuba and its exiles are divided as much by family as by politics. She makes a strong case, going back to Fidel Castro's own break with his first wife Mirta Diaz-Balart.

The Diaz-Balarts remain Castro's chief enemy in the
United States. His former brother-in-law, Rafael Diaz-Balart, is an influential figure in exile politics, while Lincoln Diaz-Balart is the leader of the anti-Castro cause in Congress. He will be joined by his younger brother, Mario Diaz-Balart, who was recently elected to one of Florida's new legislative seats.

Bardach cleverly weaves the story of Elian into this tale of divided families. Elian's mother drowned trying to flee
Cuba, leaving behind the boy's father who remains loyal to Castro. We all know what that led to.

Bardach is right to point out that such symbolic, high-profile cases are only the tip of the iceberg. Many Cuban families share similar, tragic stories. But she struggles to sustain the human thread of her story, side-tracking instead into the murky waters of
Miami exile politics.

Over several chapters, which provide the meat of the book, Bardach rips into the exile community, exposing its politicians as "the roughest, toughest crowd this side of the mujahedeen (holy warriors)." Their obsession with Castro turned
Miami into the "capital of U.S. terrorism," she writes.

Among the most notorious incidents, she describes how
Miami exiles blew up a Cuban airliner in 1976 in which 73 people died.

She also describes how hard-line exiles imposed a climate of fear and intimidation in
Miami that will forever go down as a dark chapter in the city's history.

Bardach accuses state and federal agencies of succumbing to political pressure to drop investigations into Cuban exile corruption and political violence. Republicans and Democrats alike are also depicted as exile lackeys in their quest for campaign contributions.

Prominent among them is Jeb Bush. Bardach describes how Bush used his "cache" as the president's son to assure "his place in the exile firmament as an influential and reliable player."

It was wealthy exiles who steered Bush into a series of lucrative deals in
South Florida's real estate market. Along the way the Bush name would be tainted by association with the likes of Miguel Recaray, currently an FBI fugitive in Spain.

While her account is an important contribution to chronicling these events, Bardach adds little in the way of new information. Cuba Confidential isn't quite what the title implies. Instead, she relies largely on published newspaper reports from the time.

With so much space in the book devoted to the misdeeds in
Miami, the other half of Bardach's story - Havana - gets scant attention. It cannot be said, however, that Bardach is out to defend Castro. Where he appears, the portrait is far from flattering.

At times Bardach's obvious distaste for hard-line exile politics gets the better of her leading her to make exaggerated claims.

Chief among these is her assertion that the exiles' political control of
Miami created a degree of corruption the "depth and breadth" of which is "unparalleled in the U.S."

In reality
Miami is much like other U.S. cities - New York and Chicago for example - that struggled in their early existence to learn the rules of the democratic system.

Bardach also fails to take sufficiently into account some of the more positive changes taking place in
Miami, above all the manner in which second-generation Cuban exiles brought up with American values are beginning to make their presence felt.

Terrorism and corruption, while not altogether a thing of the past, are being increasingly overtaken by the desire to build bridges with the island. Through their remittances and family visits this new generation is narrowing the divide.

[Illustration]
Caption: dust jacket for
CUBA CONFIDENTIAL by Ann Louise Bardach; Photo: PHOTO
Copyright Times Publishing Co. Nov 10, 2002

**

The Miami Herald - Sunday, October 06, 2002

CUBA CONFIDENTIAL: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana.

By  Ann Louise Bardach.

Random House . 384 pages. $25.95.

Opinionated journalist tackles Miami-Havana ‘family feud’

BY IKE SEAMANS

Cuban exiles began to emerge as Miami's dominant force in the mid-1970s. As they flexed their political muscles, WPLG-TV's former investigative reporter Clarence Jones predicted that within 20 years, Miami politics would be no different from the politics of pre-Castro Cuba.

Investigative journalist Ann Louise Bardach brings this prediction full circle in Cuba Confidential, an  extraordinary examination -- and condemnation -- of Cuban Americans and their politics. She unleashes a barrage of charges against what she calls ''the roughest, toughest crowd this side of the mujahadeen [holy warriors]'' who have made Miami the ``capital of U.S. terrorism.''

Only one other book has tackled this terrain. By contrast,  In the Land of Mirrors: Cuban Exile Politics in the United States by Maria de los Angeles Torres reads like a high-school term paper. Bardach's stinging indictment boils and erupts like a geyser:

• ''Corruption has been a growth industry in Miami'' since Cuban Americans ascended to power.

• Exiles who fled a tyrannical dictator created a ''mirror system'' to intimidate and stifle dissent.

• The Miami FBI (especially current top man Hector Pesquera) and police are ``paralyzed by conflicts of interest and unrelenting pressure from the exile leadership.''

• Prosecution of exile violence has been ``exceedingly rare or limp-wristed.''

• Most local media, including The Herald and El Nuevo Herald, fear retribution if they criticize powerful Cuban American leaders.

Miami's politics and culture are products of  “four decades of seething betrayal, suspicion, and conspiracies directed to and from Havana.''

Bardach has been sharpening her teeth on Cuban Americans for 10 years in The New York Times, Washington Post and several magazines including George, Talk and The New Republic. It would be easy to categorize her as a wild-eyed, biased basher except that she provides convincing evidence and sources for almost every accusation.

The impetus for this highly opinionated yet well-researched book was the Elián González ''circus'' two years ago, which Bardach says gave average Americans ``their first peek into the roiling ecosystem of Miami.''

Bardach savages some non-Cubans who joined in, awarding ''the coup de grace for self-aggrandizement'' to Sister Jeanne O'Laughlin, president of Barry University: ''. . . a disaster . . . an embarrassment . . . a vocal partisan . . .who evidently did not take the vow of poverty.'' O'Laughlin hosted Elián and his grandmothers in her Miami Beach mansion, a gift from a wealthy Catholic patron.

The passion and tenacity during the ''Elián War'' explains a lot about the Cuban psyche. The fight was so intense it left many non-Cubans baffled. ''For Fidel Castro and many Cubans,'' Bardach writes, ''the personal is the political. For them, the four-decade stalemate between Miami and Havana is the natural outcome of an extended broken family. In certain respects it is a huge family feud.'' A quote from former Broward assistant state attorney and radio host Alberto Milián appears to support the sentiment: ``We are sadly self-destructive.''

Within days of Elián's rescue at sea, the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) and a ''platoon of counselors and wise men'' began campaigning to keep the boy here, claiming it would be ''immoral and heresy'' to return him to his  father. They created the mantra ''Elián's mother died for his freedom,'' although Bardach says family and friends in Cuba told her Elisa Brotón fled to be with her boyfriend. ''She left because she was in love,'' says Lisbeth Garcia, Broton's best friend.

Castro also quickly recognized a golden opportunity. ''He immersed himself in the Elián drama,'' writes Bardach, ``with an obsessive zeal similar to that which he had attended to the Cuban Missile Crisis.''

Bardach is despised by some in the Miami exile community, which brands her a communist and ''Castro lover.'' Neither accusation is evident in this book, which includes an old interview with the Cuban president. Although she dubs him the ''movie star dictator,'' she doesn't glorify his regime and frankly discusses his failures, brutal treatment of opponents and the curtailing of human and civil rights. She also has an interesting take on Castro's relationship with his estranged Miami in-laws, the Díaz-Balarts, calling their relationship ``the Cuban equivalent of the Hatfields and the McCoys.''

Bardach is much tougher on the late Jorge Mas Canosa, the iconoclastic, politically active founder of CANF ''cut from the same cloth as Fidel Castro'' who believed he was ''the emperor of Miami.'' He sued The New Republic for an article she wrote in 1994 headlined ''Clinton's Miami Mobster'' (the magazine's words, not hers, she writes). The suit was settled out of court, and there was no retraction. She also reveals testimony from the depositions charging Mas Canosa bribed numerous politicians, including the late Miami Mayor Steve Clark and Joe Gersten, the former county commissioner who fled to Australia in 1993. Mas Canosa denied it.

This blunt book's towering strength -- putting the spotlight on a serious political and cultural problem in Miami – is also its glaring weakness. In her quest to connect exile big-shots and politicians with countless nefarious schemes and plots, Bardach gives no credit to Cuban Americans for doing anything positive in a city filled with their notable achievements. She does admit that since Elián, ''The steamy climate in exile Miami has cooled by more than a few degrees'' as many Cuban Americans realize they must change their image. Unfortunately, what most people outside of South Florida know about them is skewed and overshadowed by the denunciation and criticism they received for the Elián spectacle. Cuba Confidential will only confirm and  reinforce that negative view.

Ike Seamans is senior correspondent for WTVJ NBC6.

 

Publishers Weekly

CUBA CONFIDENTIAL: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana

 

Ann Louise Bardach. Random, $25.95 (384p) ISBN 0-375-50489-3

The 2000 custody battle between little Elián González’s father, acting, according to Bardach, as the surrogate for the Cuban government, and his exiled Miami relatives, the surrogate anti-Castro forces, became a relentless media event and international affair. The PEN award–winning investigative journalist uses the Elián story as a starting place to examine the larger issues that have roiled Cuba-U.S. politics for four decades. Relying on interviews with Castro, U.S. and Cuban government officials, relatives from both sides of Elián’s family and members of the Cuban-exile community, she explores the sources of American enmity toward Cuba and the blood feuds (for example, the Florida congressman Lincoln Díaz-Balart is the nephew of Castro’s former wife) that inform anti-Castro sentiments among Cuban exiles. Along the way Bardach finds craven political opportunism (hoping to secure Cuban-exile support, Bush and Gore both backed keeping Elián in the U.S. during the 2000 presidential campaign), political corruption facilitated by the power of the Cuban-exile community in the Miami area, and a shocking tolerance, by post–September 11 standards at least, within the exile community and U.S. government for terrorism directed toward Cuba….All in all, though, Bardach’s muckraker is entertaining and disturbing, as it reflects on the power of the dubiously motivated Cuban-exile community. 16 pages of photos not seen by PW. Agent, Tina Bennett. (On sale Oct. 1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EFE

15 de octubre 2003

 

LIBROS

"Cuba Confidential" por Ann Louise Bardach expone conflicto cubano como disputa familiar  

15/10/2003  19:46  CUL

Por Lydia Gil

Nueva York, 15 oct (EFE).- La recién publicada segunda edición de "Cuba Confidential" de la galardonada periodista Ann Louise Bardach resulta aún más reveladora que la primera en su análisis de la larga enemistad entre Cuba y los cubanos en Miami.

Publicado originalmente el año pasado, "Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in
Miami and Havana" (Cuba confidencial: amor y venganza en Miami y La Habana) este exhaustivo reporte de las relaciones entre los cubanos de la isla y los del exilio toma como punto de partida la saga por la custodia de Elián González.

Y la semejanza entre esta disputa y la de Fidel Castro por su hijo Fidelito, cuatro décadas atrás.

La idea central del libro parece situarse en la creencia de que el conflicto entre Cuba y el exilio cubano se comprende mejor desde el punto de vista de una disputa familiar y el sufrimiento, rencor y amargura que necesariamente emana de esta situación -de ahí el "amor y venganza" del título-.

En este perturbador recuento, Bardach demuestra la intransigencia de ambas partes, culpables de perpetrar rencores e incapaces de considerar los innumerables beneficios de un acercamiento.

Si bien esta idea de un conflicto civil no es completamente original, el haber escogido a la familia de Elián González y la de Fidel Castro como prototipos del mismo resulta una estrategia eficaz ya que ambas figuras han logrado penetrar en la imaginación colectiva del pueblo estadounidense, aún fuera de Miami.

En "Cuba Confidential" Bardach hace gala de sus dones investigadores en una prosa que se lee
como una como una novela detectivesca.

En efecto, su experiencia
como periodista policial se evidencia en la exhaustiva investigación de sus personajes y en la atención al detalle que presenta sin colocarlo en orden de importancia.

LAZOS FAMILIARES.

El libro abre con 2 esquemas: el árbol genealógico de Fidel Castro Ruz y los lazos familiares entre los 15 pasajeros que acompañaron a Elián González en su desventurada travesía.

El haber situado este apéndice al principio
del libro se revela como una herramienta de lectura esencial ya que sin ella sería difícil de seguir la larga lista de personajes entrevistados y los lazos que corren entre éstos a ambos lados del estrecho.

Además, el hecho de que figuras tan importantes
del exilio anticastrista como Rafael y Lincoln Díaz-Balart compartan el mismo árbol genealógico de Fidel presenta evidencia visual de la tesis de Bardach.

Sin embargo, Bardach hace hincapié en cómo Castro se ha mantenido firme en la separación de su vida personal de la política, distinción que, según la autora, sólo se aplica a sus lazos familiares, sobretodo en cuanto a su abundante prole.

Bardach afirma que esta
resistencia de Castro a incluir a sus hijos en su vida pública y no haber provisto un modelo familiar para su pueblo ha tenido graves consecuencias para la institución de la familia cubana, evidentes en su alta tasa de divorcio, infidelidad y, sobretodo, ruptura familiar por exilio.

La pasión de Bardach por la materia es innegable dada la gran cantidad de entrevistas que cita en las páginas de su libro, partiendo de sus extensas entrevistas con Fidel Castro y su familia en el exilio, líderes y opositores del exilio cubano, familiares y sobrevivientes de la travesía con Elián.

A pesar de que Bardach no escatima en sus acusaciones de la "línea dura" del exilio cubano, las maquinaciones de la llamada "dinastía Bush", y los excesos del gobierno revolucionario, su exposición permanece en gran medida apolítica.

Si por una parte se le admira ese afán de neutralidad, por otra, el libro se hubiese beneficiado de un análisis que tomara en consideración las variantes económicas, sociales y de política global que han influido en esa larga intransigencia a ambos lados
del estrecho.

(Bardach, Ann Louise. "
Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana". New York: Vintage, 2003).EFE

lg/ma


MWM SHA CUL:CULTURA-ESPECTACULOS,LITERATURA-LIBROS

 

****************************************************
EL NUEVO HERALD
http://www.miami.com/elherald/

WEDNESDAY -
OCTOBER 16, 2002
SECCION: GALERIA \ ZOOM
PAGE C03
HEADLINE: COMENTARIO OLGA CONNOR
Confidencialmente: La Habana y Miami

El modo de Ann Louise Bardach de contar la historia de Cuba a
ambos lados
del Estrecho de la Florida es apasionante. Cuba Confidential
(Random House) es como una novela, porque se basa en las historias de
familias destrozadas, desde las que rigen el pais hasta las mas
humildes, con todos sus dramas y tragedias, chismes y detalles, en
''tramas que'', al decir de su autora, ``parecen sacados de las
tragedias de Shakespeare o de las telenovelas''.

En su proceso de investigacion y caracterizacion no le preocupo
a Bardach al publicar sus hallazgos que sus fuentes informativas se
ofendieran. Lo dice todo. Y por si fuera poco, no deja de llegar a
conclusiones propias, basadas en sus datos, lo que hace de este libro
una muestra
del genero de los grandes reportajes periodisticos, un
verdadero whodunit detectivesco.


Su formacion le viene de sus escritos de 5,000 palabras y mas
para las revistas Vanity Fair y la fallecida Talk, y el periodico The
New York Times, entre otros. Su audacia, la de haber podido entrevistar
a Fidel Castro, cuando nadie podia llegar a el, hace 10 anos. Sus
conocimientos, de haberse dedicado por todo este tiempo a
Cuba
exclusivamente y haber hablado con cubanos importantes y tambien con
gente
del pueblo en las dos orillas del Estrecho. En su libro no deja
libre de examen critico a periodicos
como El Nuevo Herald y The Miami
Herald, a periodistas de television
como Diane Sawyer, o a los del Canal
10, ni tampoco esconde los problemas sufridos por ella anteriormente con
sus articulos sobre Jorge Mas Canosa y Luis Posada Carriles.

Su presentacion de Cuba Confidential en Books & Books, en un dia
tan significativo
como el 10 de Octubre, conmemoracion del Grito de Yara
para los cubanos, no cayo en saco roto para los asistentes. Entre ellos
se encontraban numerosos periodistas, como Mirta Ojito, Rui Ferreira,
Lilia Medina, Meg Laughlin, Jane Bussey, Elaine del Valle, y un grupo
del ala liberal de Miami: Bernardo Benes, Alfredo Duran, Silvia Wildhem
y Max Castro, columnista de The Miami Herald, quien presento a la
autora.

La tragedia del Nino Elian marco al exilio cubano frente al
mundo. Bardach envuelve toda su historia con sus investigaciones sobre
ese hecho, explico al leer el Prefacio. Pudo ver toda la historia
reciente de
Cuba a traves de ese prisma, como una ''gran contienda entre
familias'', de la que no escapan los lideres
del exilio. Al punto de que
la familia del congresista Lincoln Diaz Balart y su hermano Mario Diaz
Balart, actual aspirante al Congreso, estuvo tan ligada a Fidel Castro,
que Mirta, la hermana del padre Rafael, patriarca actual de la familia,
es la madre del primogenito del caudillo cubano.

Vio en sus multiples viajes la similitud entre los fenomenos que
ocurren en
Cuba y los del exilio. ''Trate de hablar con todo el mundo en
cada lado de este debate''. Y piensa que el exilio cubano no es un
''monolito'',
como lo pretenden sus detractores. ``Los exiliados no son,
por regla general, conservadores. A menudo son campeones de la
plataforma politica que se le adscribe a los democratas o liberales en
este pais: son partidarios de generosos beneficios sociales... y solo se
comprometen con el Partido Republicano en su politica exterior hacia
Fidel Castro, que se deriva de Eisenhower y de su resentimiento con John
F. Kennedy, por no dar cobertura aerea en la invasion de Bahia de
Cochinos''.

 

****************************************************

THE GUARDIAN

Monday December 2, 2002


The Bush dynasty and the Cuban criminals
New book reveals links of two presidents and the governor of
Florida with exiled hardliners

Duncan Campbell in Los Angeles


The brother of President George Bush, the
Florida governor, Jeb Bush, has been instrumental in securing the release from prison of militant Cuban exiles convicted of terrorist offences, according to a new book. The Bush family has also accommodated the demands of Cuban exile hardliners in exchange for electoral and financial support, the book suggests.

Last year, after September 11, while the justice department announced a sweep of terrorist suspects, Cubans convicted of terrorist offences were being released from US jails with the consent of the Bush administration, according to the book, Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana, by Ann Louise Bardach, the award-winning investigative journalist who has covered Cuban and Miami politics for the New York Times and Vanity Fair.

The Bush family connections go back to 1984 when Jeb Bush began a close association with Camilo Padreda, a former intelligence officer with the Batista dictatorship overthrown by Fidel Castro.

Jeb Bush was then the chairman of the Dade county Republican party and Padreda its finance chairman. Padreda had earlier been indicted on a $500,000 (£320,000) embezzlement charge along with a fellow exile, Hernandez Cartaya, but the charges were dropped, reportedly after the CIA stated that Cartaya had worked for them.

Padreda later pleaded guilty to defrauding the housing and urban development department of millions of dollars during the 1980s.

The president's younger brother was also on the payroll in the 80s of the prominent Cuban exile Miguel Recarey, who had earlier assisted the CIA in attempts to assassinate President Castro.

Recarey, who ran International Medical Centres (IMC), employed Jeb Bush as a real estate consultant and paid him a $75,000 fee for finding the company a new location, although the move never took place, which raised questions at the time. Jeb Bush did, however, lobby the Reagan/Bush administration vigorously and successfully on behalf of Recarey and IMC. "I want to be very wealthy," Jeb Bush told the Miami News when questioned during that period.

In 1985, Jeb Bush acted as a conduit on behalf of supporters of the Nicaraguan contras with his father, then the vice-president, and helped arrange for IMC to provide free medical treatment for the contras. Recarey was later charged with massive medicare fraud but fled the
US before his trial and is now a fugitive.

Jeb Bush sealed his popularity with the Cuban exile community by acting as campaign manager for another prominent Cuban-American, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, when she ran successfully for Congress.

George Bush Sr famously appeared with her during her campaign in
Miami declaring: "I am certain in my heart I will be the first American president to step foot on the soil of a free and independent Cuba."

She has since lobbied successfully for the release of several exiles convicted of terrorist offences held in US jails but who now live freely in
Miami.

Most controversially, at the request of Jeb, Mr Bush Sr intervened to release the convicted Cuban terrorist Orlando Bosch from prison and then granted him
US residency.

According to the justice department in George Bush Sr's administration, Bosch had participated in more than 30 terrorist acts. He was convicted of firing a rocket into a Polish ship which was on passage to
Cuba. He was also implicated in the 1976 blowing-up of a Cubana plane flying to Havana from Venezuela in which all 73 civilians on board were killed.

CIA memorandums strongly suggest, according to Bardach's book, that Bosch was one of the conspirators, and quotes the then secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, as writing that the "US government had been planning to suggest Bosch's deportation before Cubana airlines crash took place for his suspected involvement in other terrorist acts and violation of his parole".

Bosch's release, often referred to in the US media as a pardon, was the result of pressure brought by hardline Cubans in Miami, with Jeb Bush serving as their point man. Bosch now lives in
Miami and remains unrepentant about his militant activities, according to Bardach.

In July this year, Jeb Bush nominated Raoul Cantero, the grandson of Batista, as a
Florida supreme court judge despite his lack of experience. Mr Cantero had previously represented Bosch and acted as his spokesman, once describing Bosch on Miami radio as a "great Cuban patriot".

Other Cuban exiles involved in terrorist acts, Jose Dionisio Suarez and Virgilio Paz Romero, who carried out the 1976 assassination of the Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier in
Washington, have also been released by the current Bush administration.

The current administration also maintains a hard line on the continuing Cuban embargo despite the urgings of many in Mr. Bush's own party to end it. The president's adviser, Karl Rove, "has urged him to fully accommodate hardliners in return for electoral victories for both his brother and himself", Bardach's book says.

For their help, many hardline Cuban-Americans have received plum jobs in the current administration: Mel Martinez, the Orlando Republican who arranged for the shipwrecked Cuban boy, Elian Gonzalez, to visit Disney World, was made housing secretary, while Otto Reich was awarded a one year recess appointment for the western hemisphere in the state department.
 

The Economist - November 21, 20002

Cuban-American Relations

Miami Rules

Nov 21st 2002
From The Economist print edition


THE Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain are long gone, but in Havana, Fidel Castro, gaunt and grey, has outlasted nine American presidents. Across the Florida straits, a million or so Cubans or their descendants now live in the United States. The exiles, mainly because of their geographical concentration in Florida—not just the fourth largest state, but a politically competitive one—have acquired an influence on American foreign policy second only to that of Israel. They have used it to sustain and even tighten a futile trade embargo, whose main achievement in its critics' eyes has been to help keep Mr Castro in power.

In “Cuba Confidential”, Ann Louise Bardach, a journalist whose work has appeared in Vanity Fair, New Republic and the New York Times, brings together the fruits of her reporting on Cubans on both sides of the Florida Straits. She is keen to show how each side has moulded the other's behaviour. This approach generates some helpful insights.

She reminds us that the sterile stand-off between Cuba and Miami is partly one within and between broken families. For example, Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a member of the House of Representatives, whom she credits with the dominant influence on the current administration's Cuba policy, is a nephew of Mr Castro's first wife. Ms Bardach is particularly sharp-eyed about Cuban families. She notes that on the island “more than half of all couples divorce, many never marry and infidelity is the national sport”.

She points out, too, that Mr Castro has set a poor example: she reckons he has had nine children with five different women.

But the author dwells more on a second thesis, that “the hijacking of the Cuban revolution” by Mr Castro has been mirrored in Miami, where “exiles seeking freedom have been shunted into silence by hardliners bent on revenge, retribution and power.” She details the rise of Jorge Mas Canosa, the late boss of the Cuban American National Foundation, who had links to the violent, terrorist fringe of exile politics and to Oliver North's 1980s contra operation in Central America.

On this, Ms Bardach, who is a tenacious reporter, scores some points. (Mas Canosa sued her for libel, but ended up settling with the New Republic.) She interviews Luis Posada Carriles, Mr Castro's most persistent would-be assassin. She is surely right to criticise George Bush senior for his ill-considered pardon of Orlando Bosch, who with Mr Posada was responsible for placing a bomb on a Cubana airliner in 1976, killing 73 civilians. She is right, too, that Mas Canosa was a caudillo, and not by instinct a democrat.

Yet in her desire to establish the equivalence of Mas Canosa and Mr Castro she overreaches, falling into conspiracy theory (“even when corruption is prosecuted in Miami, it may not be so much in the interests of the public as in the interest of certain members of the ruling elite”) or exaggeration. Exile politics are rarely pretty: the Miami Cubans are hardly alone in being riven by the desire for vengeance, sectarianism and the fear of treachery. And, as Ms Bardach acknowledges but explores only perfunctorily, Cuban exile opinion is plural, and becoming more so.

The book begins and ends with the case of Elian Gonzalez, the unfortunate six-year-old who survived shipwreck only to fall into the hands of the relatives from hell in Miami. Ms Bardach concludes that his case was “the single most transforming event for Cuba-US relations since the Bay of Pigs”, the CIA's hamfisted effort to remove Mr Castro from power in 1961. That judgment, too, looks exaggerated.

Certainly, most Americans outside Miami thought Elian should be returned to his father in Cuba. But most Americans, too, have long opposed the embargo against Cuba, which is slowly being pierced. As long as Florida politics remains finely poised and as long as Mr Castro rules in Havana, transformations will be off the agenda.

 

 

Santa Barbara News-Press  Sunday - November 10, 2002

To
Cuba, with Love

CUBA CONFIDENTIAL: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana
By Ann Louise Bardach
RandomHouse, $25.95

By Lin Rolens NEWS-PRESS CORRESPONDENT

Cuba is the conundrum off our coast. After
Fidel Castro's revolution, it went from being a playground for the
American rich to being shunned and feared as the beginning of the communist
incursion into the
Americas.

Then, Kennedy and Khrushchev went nose to
nose on Russian missiles til the Russian leader blinked, and
we've embargoed
Cuba into poverty, articularly since the Russians backed
away from them 10 years ago.

Santa Barbara's Ann Louise Bardach, has
enjoyed a distinguished journalistic career including a considerable body of work for The New Republic and Vanity Fair. Clearly smitten by things Cuban, for the last 10 years she has taken as her personal work the chronicling of the whole dynamic of
Cuba and Cubans on both sides of the Florida Straits. The result is "Cuba Confidential," which comes at you like a freight train and is part muckraking expose and part intimate examination of the people and the cultural sensibilities that make
up the ongoing telenova of Cuban life.

Ms. Bardach has done remarkable homework
by interviewing most of the principles in the ongoing telenova of
Cuba
and the intrigue that revolves around angry exiles who want to oust
the-leader-for-life, Fidel Castro, and reclaim their country. She has spoken at
length with Fidel Castro; his successful sister Juanita, in Miami; his
former brother-in-law and angry Miami activist, Rafael Diaz-Balart; the
family of Elian Gonzalez; those intimate with Nixon's buddy, Robert Vesco;
the inner circles of Jeb Bush's organization; Luis Posada Carriles, who
has dedicated his life as a terrorist to attempting to kill Castro; and the
obsessed and ruthless Jorge Mas Canosa, the exiled leader who would have
liked to replace Castro.

As the framing story for her lively account of the continuously roiling mess of intrigue, bullying and subterfuge, s. Bardach writes a remarkably detailed account of both sides of the Elian Gonzalez tug of war. She starts with the mother who left with her difficult lover and you son, more to pursue love than freedom. When two occasional fishermen pulled the child from the sea, spin doctors in both
Florida and Cuba set to work to make this child the poster boy for their causes. In Cuba, his school desk was enshrined and government
organs harangued about the boy until everyone had had more than
enough. Here, in the ongoing media frenzy, the distant and troubled relatives
became saint-like and dolphins were said to have protected the boy in the
turbulent sea.

Although you may feel you've heard enough about Elian to last a lifetime, Ms. Bardach offers startling insights and information that reflect the
self-serving manipulation of partisans on both sides and the angry rift in
extended Cuban families on both sides of the Straits that will not heal until
new generations look to more moderated means and Castro -- now 76, but who comes from a family known for living long -- dies or steps aside.

Ms. Bardach has spent a number of hours
talking to Castro. Wary, but clearly unafraid, she finds him enigmatic
and fascinating: "Born and dispatched into this world with the engine
of an athlete, Castro has the discipline of a warrior, the intellect of
a chess master, the obsessive mania of a paranoiac and the willfulness of an
infant," she writes. Given his history and the more than 600 attempts on
his life, "unquestionably, he has been blessed by the luck of the gods."

During her talks with Castro, she counters
his boasting about his achievements of "education, health and
sports" (In fact, Cuban literacy rates are higher than those in the
U.S.)
with his failures in "breakfast, lunch and dinner."

She also has spent days with those who
would be his nemesis. Jorge Mas Canosa, apparently as unrepentantly
megalomaniacal as Fidel, ran the exile media with an iron hand and used every
economic tool and all manner of violence to keep people in line. Luis
Posada Carriles, the terrorist backed by exile money, is now ailing and old, but
he has carried out assassination attempts, hotel bombings and the biggest
airline bombing before Sept. 11. He reminded Ms. Bardach, "Every pig gets
its Christmas Eve."

Bill Clinton comes under considerable fire
here for his pandering to exile political pressures, but it is the Bush
family that Ms. Bardach takes to serious task, exposing generations of, at
best, underhanded favors and double-dealing that have skewed everything
from the granting of contracts to election results to gubernatorial and
presidential appointments. The exiles in
Miami have a political clout far
greater than their numbers and they wield it with expertise and brutal
effectiveness to achieve their goals.

But the cultural, economic and political
membrane that the older generations maintain with vigor is
breaking down. The dollar is, to the chagrin of Castro, accepted currency in
Cuba, and a million tickets from Miami to Havana have been sold by charter
airlines. Cuban artists, once strictly forbidden by staunch anti-Fidelistas, are beginning to be welcomed back into the
Miami community.

What Ms. Bardach doesn't include here is
important: The politics of the saga fall essentially by the wayside. But
that's another book. Any island culture is tightly woven and inbred, and
it is the mosaic of anger and pain of this volatile Latin culture torn apart
that she sees so well: For Cubans, the "us and them" is really "us and us."
      

 

Los Angeles Times Book Review -  Sunday - December 8, 2002   


BEST BOOKS OF 2002 -  THE BEST OF THE BEST

 

 By Steve Wasserman

 

It is a pleasure to recommend to readers a clutch of books published in the last year that we found exemplary. Any such list is subjective, even idiosyncratic, of course, since it is impossible to read every worthy book that beckons. We are nonetheless promiscuous readers whose greatest delight is to happen upon a story or subject we had no idea we were interested in but which, in the hands of a gifted and graceful author, proves compelling and unforgettable. Or, alternatively, to have an author complicate a subject we thought we already knew, challenging us to think harder and more deeply. Here, in alphabetical order by author, are 10 works of fiction and 10 of nonfiction that are among the many works that afforded the greatest pleasure and helped us see the world with fresh eyes.

 

NONFICTION

 

Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana Ann Louise Bardach, Random House

 

The Country Under My Skin: A Memoir of Love and War Gioconda Belli, Alfred A. Knopf

 

Selected Essays John Berger, Pantheon

 

Charles Darwin: The Power of Place Janet Browne, Alfred A. Knopf

 

War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning Chris Hedges, PublicAffairs

 

In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692 Mary Beth Norton, Alfred A. Knopf

 

A Bed for the Night: Humanitarianism in Crisis David Rieff, Simon & Schuster

 

The Truth About Babies Ian Sansom, Granta Books

 

Nonrequired Reading Wislawa Szymborska, Harcourt

 

Writing Los Angeles Edited by David L. Ulin, Library of America

 
Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana

Ann Louise Bardach

Random House: 384 pp., $25.95

Ann Louise Bardach's "Cuba Confidential" bears a resemblance to works such as Claude Levi-Strauss' "The Savage Mind," Clifford Geertz's "The Religion of Java" and Victor Turner's "Forest of Symbols," for "Cuba Confidential" is a book that seeks to unveil to civilized eyes the seemingly cryptic meaning hidden deep within the behavior of primitive aliens. In this case it's not the islanders of some faraway archipelago who are analyzed but Cubans, both in their native habitat and in their diaspora. Few American journalists are better poised to do this than Bardach, who knows
Miami and Cuba from the inside out. Her contacts are wide-ranging in both places, her research is thorough and meticulous, her access to key figures is impressive. In many ways, this highly engrossing collection of narratives is perhaps as close to an inside view of the Cuban mess as one can hope for from an outsider.

-- Carlos Eire

SALON.COM

 

Joe Conason's Journal

A few fine books. Plus: The night Trent Lott "did the right thing"; who is the Eli Lilly Bandit?

 

Dec. 19, 2002  |  A Few Fine Books

As a writer, my personal inclination at this time of year is to give books as gifts -- a prejudice that I naturally hope others share. I don't believe in "10 best" lists but I want to recommend three important books I've been reading recently.

 

In addition to his other skills, Mark Green is a formidable investigator and lucid, engaging writer. "Selling Out: How Big Corporate Money Buys Elections, Rams Through Legislation, and Betrays Our Democracy" (HarperCollins) is the most insightful of many books on this vexing subject, filled with passion as well as prescription. Green has seen the problem from every side now, as citizen, advocate and politician. Now that everyone understands the limitations and problems of the McCain-Feingold law, he points toward deeper reform as the answer to popular cynicism -- and shows how such reforms are already working both here and abroad.

 

Another issue that seems certain to rise in salience is this country's foolish, destructive policy toward a certain island off the coast of Florida. The twisted history of that policy comes alive, with all its amazing characters and events, in "Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana" (Random House). There is simply no reporter who has worked this story with the talent, diligence and enterprise of author Ann Louise Bardach. She is fearless and funny -- and so is her book. But don't give it to the president or any of his relatives.

 

Many books have been written about Sept. 11. Several of them are quite good, but I have yet to read a book as comprehensive and timely as "The Age of Sacred Terror" (Random House). The authors, Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, both served on the counterterrorism staff of the National Security Council during the Clinton administration. This is the real story, based on what we know to date, of the origins of Islamist fascism, the slow response of the civilized world to its aggression, what was done and what wasn't done that might have prevented that movement's most horrific plot from succeeding. It is a useful corrective to many of the myths propagated for political advantage in the aftermath of that crime.

[2:32 p.m. PST, Dec. 19, 2002]

 

 

 

SALON  January 28, 2003

http://www.salon.com/books/int/2003/01/28/bardach/index.html

 

Cuba Confidential

Ann Louise Bardach talks about the fading of Fidel, the end of the embargo, and the drive for democracy -- and why exile leaders aren't happy about any of it.

 

- - - - - - - - - - - -

By Damien Cave

 

Jan. 28, 2003  |  Ann Louise Bardach calls her obsession with Cuba "un enfermidad," a sickness. Checking the wire-service news every day, exchanging gossip with friends in Havana and Miami, devouring each year's harvest of Cuba-related books and movies -- these are just a few of the illness' symptoms. And while it's true that others have been equally stricken -- Ernest Hemingway being the most prominent casualty -- few of history's Cuba-philes have managed to contribute as much as Bardach has to today's ongoing Cuba debate.

 

For the past decade, Bardach, now a columnist for Newsweek's international edition, has been the most vigorous reporter on the Cuban scene. Everything from Cuba's post-Soviet lunatic paradoxes to Miami's tolerance for terrorism has been the subject of her investigative attention. In the midst of a world filled with intrigue and polarization, she's always managed to be an equal opportunity critic. Leaders on both sides of the Florida Straits have learned to fear her efforts.

 

"Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana," Bardach's latest book, will likely continue that trend. Much of the reporting comes from Bardach's old assignments, and scholars of Fidel Castro will probably find few new insights that haven't already been discussed at length elsewhere. But the book is nonetheless fascinating and important. A family portrait of Cuban and Cuban-American dysfunction, "Cuba Confidential" offers both a scathing profile of Fidel Castro's cold, cruel psyche and a comprehensive behind-the-scenes account of how exile leaders have ruled Miami with an iron fist. Even the section on the Elián González saga -- a tawdry affair that few of us would like to revisit -- comes alive again thanks to Bardach's extensive reporting and critical insight.

 

With the advent of the increasingly popular Proyecto Varela referendum, how close is Cuba to democratic reform? Why are some leaders of the Cuban exile community so dead-set against change? How long will the U.S. embargo, or for that matter Fidel himself, last? And what will the future of a Cuba without Castro look like? Salon spoke to Bardach about her present feelings on the Cuba condition.

 

Oswaldo Payá, Cuba's most famous dissident, visited Miami last week and received a mixed welcome. Exile leaders denounced him for legitimizing the regime while polls showed that 68 percent of Miami exiles support him. What do you make of Payá and his visit?

 

Let's put it this way. The first person to make a dent into Fidel Castro, successfully, is Oswaldo Payá. This is the first successful organized opposition -- but I don't think you ever want to forget that Elizardo Sanchez and many other dissidents have paid big dues. But Payá has really gone to the mat with this one.

 

Jimmy Carter also hit one out of the ballpark. When he gave that speech on live Cuban TV in Spanish, he gave legitimacy to the Proyecto Varela [a peaceful opposition movement that has collected more than the 10,000 signatures required for a referendum on democratic reform in Cuba]. Remember, before Carter, the only people who knew about it were the people who signed it. After Carter, everyone on the island knows about it. It went from 11,000 people who knew about it to 11 million.

 

That speech totally trumped the Bush administration. To a Cuba watcher like me, the Carter speech was a really big event because it trumped the hardliners in the White House. They tried to sabotage Carter's visit with that whole thing about Cuba having biological and chemical weapons. That was done to discredit him. They let Carter go [to Cuba] thinking, what could Jimmy Carter do? He's a pathetic little peanut farmer from Georgia?

 

Who knew he was going to transform the Cuba debate? And on top of that, it gets Jimmy Carter the Nobel Prize. It gets Payá the Sakharov Prize [Europe's most prestigious human rights award] -- and I think Havel has nominated him for the Nobel. Now that's not bad for 20 minutes in Havana. It just tells you what can happen with constructive engagement.

 

I've yet to hear, however, that more people are signing on to Varela now that it's better known. Have you heard anything about the effects of Carter's speech in Cuba?

 

Everybody knows about it. Let me give you a story. I wrote an editorial about a person involved in this. It talks in veiled terms about a friend of mine who was going to sign it. This is a person who was very involved in the government, at the very top. And you have a person like this saying that the Varela Project is the most important thing to happen in the last decade and [this person] is desperate to support it. This is such a telling anecdote. This is a person who was making explosives to export the Cuban Revolution around the world. When people like that, on this level, are ready to support it, then discontent, at varying degrees, exists from top to bottom.

 

What do you make of the exile leadership's decision not to support Payá?

 

Well, in fact some of the leadership did support him, and it really shows the split that I talk about in the last chapter of "Cuba Confidential": how serious this is going to get. The fact that you now have the [Cuban American National] Foundation supporting Payá and the polls show that 70 percent of Cubans in Miami support him, but then you have Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen [South Florida's Republican representatives, both of them Cuban exiles] saying he's illegitimate because he's part of the whole Castro government deal.

I don't know if you know this, but they were pressuring the administration to disavow Payá and actually criticize him when he went down to Miami on May 20 last year. But Bush didn't do that; he in fact embraced [the project], which stunned me. He gave a thunderous anti-Castro speech down there, but he embraced the Proyecto Varela. This must be what they call a knife in the heart -- un puñal en el corazón, as they like to say dramatically -- for Lincoln and Ileana. And you can see that this is a big problem. Even the famously cowardly publisher of the Miami Herald has embraced Proyecto Varela.

Remember that the Varela Project is Catholic based. So you have a lot of the tradition of Augustine and a lot of the Jesuit liberation theology in this. And of course, that's a great way to deal with Castro because it's hard for him to get a handle on that one. It's very brilliant. And I really think that Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Ileana, they shot themselves in the foot this time.

The problem with Lincoln and Ileana is this: They are both mentored by their fathers -- two men who are deeply embittered hard-liners who basically will not be happy unless Fidel is hanging by his heels à la Mussolini in Calle Ocho. That is their bottom line. It's about vengeance, which is why I wanted that subtitle on my book -- "Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana." It's all about vengeance. It's not about, let's get this over with, let's get this moving, let's get a good solution, let's get as much as we can. It's about, we must achieve some level of vengeance here.

 

And Fidel, as you point out, is the same way.

 

Absolutely. Because they're all coming out of this machista ethic. That's the whole tragedy of the Cuban debate: Cubans leave Cuba but they take Fidel Castro with them. The politics of denunciation, which were to a large extent created in the revolution with CDRs [Committees for the Defense of the Revolution] and snitching and such, was exported to Miami. You have the same process. You have the big three radio stations doing the same thing, denouncing people to keep them straight, functioning as Big Brother of Miami.

One of the reasons that vengeance is the response you get from so many older hard-liner Cubans is that Fidel Castro has a way of emasculating people. His policies, particularly in a machista culture like Cuba's, make people feel emasculated and humiliated. That's why they want a pound of flesh afterwards.

If you stay in Cuba a long time and hang out with Cuban friends, you see that what they go through on a daily basis is humiliation: to have to beg for this, to beg for that. You try to get in this hotel or that one -- it's a humiliating cycle and it's never really been explained, even though they do not have the privations of, say, Guatemala or the atrocities we saw in Chile or Argentina even.

Castro has kind of institutionalized begging. Even though you don't have the death squads and the disappearances and the torture, when you make people feel like they're beggars, that's where you get that kind of rage. I wish I had spent a bit more time writing about that.

 

The level of rage in Miami, however, seems to be diminishing. Polls show that an increasingly high percentage of Cuban-Americans, for example, no longer support the U.S. embargo. And as you mentioned, there's been a split in opinion over Payá. When did this shift get its start?

You cannot underestimate how things unraveled after Jorge Mas [Canosa, the head of the Cuban American National Foundation] died. You basically had Mas holding things together with the force of his personality. Of course, he had a huge amount of charisma and no one crossed him. From the minute he died, it's been a free-for-all.

I actually think that Jorge Mas never would have gambled on Elián González. He would have right away sized that one up and walked away from it. Trying to tell the American public that a father should have his son taken away because he lives in Cuba is not really winnable. I don't think Mas would have done this out of any virtue or anything. I think he would have looked at it and said, what would it take to take the kid away from the father? And he'd say, we're not going there.

I think that Jorge Mas Santos, the son, doesn't get nearly as much credit as he should. It takes no courage, no bravery, to rail against Fidel Castro in Miami. That takes nothing. But it takes a lot of guts to say, let's try this a different way. Jorge Mas Santos has been willing to do that, even in the shadow of his father. People forget that he fought very hard to bring the Latin Grammys and all that it meant to Miami.
 

How do you think the Bush administration will handle this shift, given the importance of Florida to national politics?

Somebody who is very close to this White House said to me at a party recently, "OK, you're the expert on Cuba: What do I tell this administration about how to get rid of this turkey?" How do we get rid of this embargo and get it over with?

 

This is from an ideologue on the right. This is before the 2002 election in October. And I said, if I were George Bush and I were thinking about this, I guess I would do whatever I had to do to get my brother elected and hold on to my base for the next election. Then I would cut them loose.

Because if you don't cut loose on this embargo, you're hemorrhaging every day. Every day you're losing people in the Senate and the House. If they keep going against this, they're going to drag this turkey to the next election. And how much time and how much capital and how much money do you want to use to hold on to this thing that there's no support for among the general population, or our allies? There's even an erosion of support every day in South Florida.

 

By Ann Louise Bardach

Random House
384 pages
Nonfiction

 

Let me be clear: I'm not against embargoes. I think sometimes embargoes work. We have to thank an embargo for the shift in South Africa that gave the disenfranchised the right to vote. Sometimes embargoes work. I think you can give an embargo around 10 years; if you're really patient, you give it 15 to 20 years. You don't give an embargo or any policy 43 years without meeting your goals or at least some of your goals. All we keep doing is tightening it and we're getting less and less and less.

At some point you say, this is insane, we're not achieving anything. The U.S. has to step back and say, OK, we lost, he won, how do we shift this? There has to be strategic, cool-headed thinking about how to bring democratic reform to Cuba and not about achieving vengeance and getting a pound of flesh.

 

But given the circumstances, do you think it will ever happen? Do you think we'll see an end to the embargo, say before the next election?

They've got their hands really filled with North Korea and Iraq. How can they waste capital and time on Latin America and Cuba?

I think what they'll do is give lip service to the [old guard]. They'll say, "Oh God, in our heart we feel for you," and they'll keep pushing them to the side, giving a wink and a nod to the Republican free-traders who are the majority and who just in principle want to trade with Cuba. They'll let them put together a veto-proof thing and they're going to attach it to some bill and be over with it. Remember, it was Kissinger in 1976 -- a Republican -- who was ready to toss our Cuba policy out.

 

What do you predict for the next decade in Cuba?

 

The central player remains Fidel Castro. But Fidel Castro is nothing if not a survivor. He's eaten 10 American presidents for breakfast. He's chewing on his 10th president. He will give ground only based on what he needs to give ground. He can only save his bacon with tourism. And the nature of tourism is that you have to let foreigners come in. So he has to graduate tolerance and openness -- a loosening of the belt.

0n the other hand, I must say, I thought I'd seen and heard it all in Cuba. But when Jimmy Carter left after that big speech and everyone knows about Varela and suddenly Fidel Castro smashes through that referendum to make [socialism] permanent: That was such spectacularly bad behavior even by his standards. I just thought, the sheer insult to Carter! I just thought he would wait awhile and do it in a less obvious way. It just showed that he so desperately needed to show who was in charge.

I remember the first time I met Fidel Castro, I said to him, why don't you do something like Holland and Sweden and just do some kind of socialism? You lost the Russians; why not can the hardcore communism? You don't have the money to pay for it anyway, so make it a mixed economy, which of course it is now.

But he's afraid of losing control. What he lives and breathes is the fear of what happened to Gorbachev, who he -- actually in the film I just saw ["Comandante," Oliver Stone's new documentary] -- describes as this well-intentioned man who destroyed his country. That's what he believes; that perestroika before glasnost is what doomed Russia. He was in there until the bitter end trying to convince Gorbachev not to open it up.

The collapse of Russia haunts Fidel Castro. It just made him become more convinced that he couldn't yield. But as we see, he yields every day, as needed.

When I first started doing this 10 years ago, all the smart people, the really smart disenchanted nomenklatura, the dissidents, all said, you don't understand: It's really simple, Fidel can't stay in power without the embargo. I said, don't be ridiculous, all he does is rant every day about the imperialistas. And they said, you don't understand.

And then sure enough, as I tried to show in my book, at every critical juncture, he pulled the plug on ending it. Just look at it: Who is the winner from the U.S. embargo? There's only one winner here, and it's him.

 

What about after Castro? What do you think will happen?

I don't see anyone having an appetite for bloodshed. The only people who have an appetite for bloodshed are a few people in Miami. And the thing about them is, it's never going to be their blood. I think it's very interesting that Lincoln Diaz-Balart criticizes Oswaldo Payá for selling out to the regime, but he's not willing to be in Cuba and go to prison. I love how they like to criticize people from their nice homes in Miami -- people who have been in solitary confinement. It's amazing to me. The hubris! They're sitting there in Miami Beach and criticizing people who have really made a difference, like Elizardo Sanchez, who spent 11 years in prison. It's outrageous.


salon.com


Author photograph by Danny Rothenberg

 

Commentary Magazine

 

October 2002

In Castro’s Kingdom


Love and Vengeance in
Miami and Havana
by Ann Louise Bardach
Random House. 397 pp. $25.95

An  American Housewife in Havana
by Isadora Tattlin
Algonquin Books. 308 pp. $24.95

Reviewed by
Mark Falcoff

ANY WRITER who has tried to sell a book proposal about Latin America to a New York publisher is familiar with the reaction—boredom, indifference, contempt, a gaze out the window to check on the weather . . . unless, of course, the subject is Cuba. Why this should be so is not hard to understand. Cuba may be among Latin America’s smallest, poorest, and most rapidly decaying nations, but it is also the source of one of the longest-running engagements in our own culture wars. As two new books demonstrate, Cuba remains the stage for larger ideological battles, and even for the occasional second thought.

The central idea of Cuba Confidential is that, cold-war posturing aside, the Castro regime and the community of anti-Castro Cuban exiles in South Florida are best understood as the violently estranged branches of a single family. As the journalist Ann Louise Bardach explains, it is not just politics but bad blood that separates Fidel Castro from his former brother-in-law, Rafael Díaz-Balart, an eminence grise of the exile community, or from his one-time nephew, Lincoln Díaz-Balart, a Republican congressman from Miami and the point man for anti-Castro forces on Capitol Hill.

 

Another emblematic family quarrel of this relationship revolved around a five-year old boy by the name of Elián González, who in 1998 was fished out of the waters between Cuba and Florida after his mother and her boyfriend, along with several other adults, perished on a raft while making their way to the U.S. The boy’s father, divorced from his mother but by all accounts involved with his son, demanded his return to Cuba, unleashing the most intense passion play between Miami and Havana since the revolution itself. Bardach emphasizes that such cases are far from unique; few Cuban-American families have escaped unscathed from the tragic events of the last forty years.

 

A regular contributor to the celebrity-mad Vanity Fair, Bardach is vaguely left-wing in her views but in no way an apologist for the Castro regime. As a matter of fact, some of her comments about today’s Cuba are among the most devastating I have ever read. As she aptly writes of the octogenarian ballet diva Alisia Alonso, the woman can “barely walk” but, “like her country, she insists she can dance.” Bardach points out that Castro has deliberately turned aside many opportunities to normalize relations with the U.S., and she even claims to have confronted him with the remark that if the greatest “achievements” of his revolution are “education, health, and sports,” its signal failures have been “breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”

At the same time, however, Bardach subscribes to the regnant ideology of American journalism: that Communism may be bad, but anti-Communism is much, much worse. Her argument, such as it is, is that the leadership of the Cuban exile community has turned Miami into a kind of fascist state, enjoying a strange impunity from American justice, especially with the Bush dynasty in the saddle. Her indictment—a pastiche of baroque details—is rich in half-truths, near-truths, and untruths, as well as the occasional fact. She speaks pejoratively of those—Jeb Bush, Jeane Kirkpatrick—with whom she disagrees, while treating apologists for Castro, like the U.S. National Council of Churches, as neutral arbiters.

Bardach freely admits—indeed, she emphasizes—that Castro’s revolution has been a monumental disaster for Cubans on both sides of the divide. But, having demonized those who have escaped his grip, she cannot say what their attitude should be toward a regime that has sundered families, destroyed careers, and sent unnumbered thousands to their deaths, either in the shark-infested waters of the Florida Straits or on foreign battlefields fighting for world Communism. As her own account demonstrates, as long as Castro is in charge, and as long as the U.S. continues to take roughly 30,000 dissatisfied Cubans off his hands each year, the festering resentments of the exile community will not die.

 

What both these rather different books confirm is that, having destroyed Cuba’s sugar industry, lost its Soviet patron, cast thousands of its most productive citizens into prison or exile, and embraced an economic system that does not and cannot work, Castro has been reduced to living on residuals from the domestic and foreign branches of the hate-America club. But how much longer?

 

MARK FALCOFF is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. His new book, Cuba the Morning After, will be published early next year.

 

 

 

 

Fighting Castro from Florida
Reviewed by Roger Gathman
Sunday, December 1, 2002
©2002 San Francisco Chronicle.

 

URL: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2002/12/01/RV126259.DTL

Cuba Confidential

Love and Vengeance

in Miami and Havana

By Ann Louise Bardach

RANDOM HOUSE; 417 PAGES; $25.95

 


In 1991, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Andres Oppenheimer, wrote a book titled "Castro's Final Hour." In the preface, Oppenheimer noted that he wasn't predicting an exact date for that hour because "it may be a matter of weeks or, like Winston Churchill's finest hour, which lasted beyond what anybody expected, a few years." But as usual, that report of Castro's demise was greatly exaggerated. This patriarch's autumn seems as if it will never end.

 

The persistence of the "maximum leader," not only in defiance of the hemisphere's greatest power but also in defiance of the discontent arising out of some 40 years of gross misrule, is a problem that all Cuba watchers must wrestle with. Ann Louise Bardach, journalist and editor at Vanity Fair, has come up in "Cuba Confidential" with an answer that is consonant with her magazine's weltanschauung: Cuba and its exiles form one big dysfunctional family.

 

The idea that history is a family affair is a synthesis of a vulgar Tory feeling for hereditary power and the modern myth of psychoanalysis, preserving and magnifying the kitschy aspect of both schools. However, if the Elian Gonzalez case proved nothing else, it showed that kitsch, like war, is politics by other means. Bardach's book uses a finely grained report on the ins and outs of Elian's rescue, the child's quasi-adoption by the publicity- loving Miami Gonzalez family and his return to the bosom of his father to drive home her two themes: one, that caudillo politics, as it is practiced in Havana and Miami, has deadlocked Cuba's political alternatives; and two, that the Cuban diaspora, which has resulted in the geographic division of families, is an inducement to family psychodramas that embody the political discourse of both the Castroite and the anti-Castroite sides.

 

Bardach's story travels between two poles, Cuba and Miami, just as Bardach herself has done in the past 10 years. The more unexpected side, for the U.S. reader, is the story of how Miami's anti-Castro leadership became a malevolent cyst in U.S. politics. If

 

Bardach's account of southern Florida politics is right, Miami is the biggest loss to U.S. democracy since Capone moved his operation to Cicero, Ill. Bardach's profile of Jorge Mas Canosa, who, until his death in 1996, was the great jefe of Miami's ultras, portrays a man who has touched all areas of U.S. politics. You can tell by his dirty fingerprints.

Mas Canosa was, successively, a Cuban refugee, a CIA trainee, an adroit businessman, probably a secret financier of the anti-Castro terrorist network (which intermingled, in the '80s, with the secret Iran-Contra network) and a Republican Party boss. It is both alarming and unsurprising that Mas kept pictures of Somoza and Pinochet in his office; the peculation of the former and the murderousness of the latter were his lodestars.

 

Bardach includes enough information about the way the Cuban exile leadership operates since Mas' death to leave us in no doubt that we are dealing with a pure strain of the authoritarian tradition. From using the radio to create nonstop invective against "communists" (defined as anybody who supports, for instance, lifting the U.S. embargo on Cuba), to the bombings and assassinations, the corruption of public officials, the physical assaults on dissidents and the gathering of spontaneous "mobs" to interrupt targeted speakers, the exile leadership displays all the marks of the tin-pot dictator, without quite having the sway.

 

Among Bardach's juicier stories is that of the entanglement of the Bush family with some of the more unsavory members of this crew. Jeb Bush, for instance, who was the Dade County Republican Party chairman in the heady '80s (that era when the destinies of freedom fighters and drug smugglers crossed, to the apparent satisfaction of all concerned). His associates then included Camilo Padreda, who pleaded guilty to defrauding HUD in 1989, and Miguel Recarey, an old friend of Tampa's Mafia boss, Sam Traficante, who has been an FBI fugitive since 1987.

 

Bardach implies that Bush further ingratiated himself with the hard-line exile leadership by successfully lobbying his father, George, for a pardon for Orlando Bosch, a notorious anti-Castro terrorist convicted of numerous bombings and murders. When President Bush made a speech (with its rote denunciation of Castro) at Miami's Cuban Liberty Council in May of this year, Bosch was to be given a seat in the front row for a rare photo op. Bush's handlers, however, realized that capturing the president on film with a man connected with blowing up a civilian airliner might not be a good idea, post- Sept. 11, so the potential Bush-Bosch encounter was scotched.

 

Bardach is less interesting about the "movie star dictator," Castro. Her interview with him is, like many similar journalist enterprises, oddly unrevealing, as the glamour of having captured the exotic tyrant seems to overwhelm the critical faculty. Others have written more to the point about the bleak island Castro has made, a Club Med for lefty Swedes, to which the average Cuban is invited only as a service employee or a prostitute. Meanwhile, out in the countryside, running water is still a luxury. The boast of literacy is vitiated by the lack of literature: Castro has systematically harassed the best Cuban writers, most of whom have long fled. Bardach's intensive travels in Cuba make her a

witness to the island's squalor.

 

Oddly, for a book that attempts to cover the current state of Cuban-U.S. relations, she does not report in depth about Jimmy Carter's recent visit. Carter's promotion of the Varela Project, which calls for a plebiscite, is probably the freshest event in Cuban-U.S. relations in decades. Predictably, the Varela Project has aroused the opposition of both Castro and Miami's anti- Castro leadership.

 

Cuba libre, indeed. Someday, it will happen, but only if it is organized in tandem with another, equally difficult liberation: Miami's.

 

Roger Gathman is a writer in Austin, Texas.

 

©2002 San Francisco Chronicle.

 

 

Vintage Edition:

 

                     FRONT JACKET QUOTE:

 

"Bardach knows Miami and Cuba from the inside out. Her contacts are wide-ranging in both places, her research is thorough and meticulous, her access to key figures is impressive. This highly engrossing collection of narratives is perhaps as close to an inside view of the Cuban mess as one can hope for from an outsider." Los Angeles Times

 

 

 

                           BACK COVER:

 

The Los Angeles Times names CUBA CONFIDENTIAL the Best of the Best -

                    one of the 10 Best Books of 2002

 

"An extraordinary examination...a well researched book." Miami Herald

 

In Cuba Confidential, the old story of the battle between Castro and his foes is refreshingly retold, stripped of its Cold War grandiosity…. An investigative journalist specializing in Cuba, Bardach has been examining the activities of exile leaders in South Florida for years …Bardach's portrayal of Castro is as unappealing as any ever drawn." The Washington Post

 

A marvelous and evocative deconstruction of the incestuous relationships and hardball tactics that have kept Cuba firmly under Fidel Castro and U.S. policy toward Cuba paralyzed under the influence of Miami's Cuban Americans. Bardach pulls no punches here, making her book the most accessible account of this sorry tangle yet. 

Foreign Affairs

 

 

Cuba Confidential is a long overdue examination of what lies behind the long-running feud between Fidel Castro's Cuba and Miami's Cuban-American exiles.…Bardach is the first author who has tried to look at the rift from both sides. St Petersburg Times

 

                     Inside Jacket Quotes:

 

Finalist for the New york Public Library Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism Award  for 2003

 

"An illuminating portrait, by a first-class investigative journalist, drawing on ten years of reporting of the half-century-long civil war that has divided Cuba against itself . . . Powerful, evenhanded, thoroughly edifying." -* starred Kirkus review

 

 

"Bardach's interviews with Castro, his family members, and his inner circle challenge some of the conventional wisdom about the indefatigable communist and his confidants. Her portrayal of Castro's brother, Raul, is particularly revealing." Christian Science Monitor

 

"For the past decade, Bardach, now a columnist for Newsweek's international edition, has been the most vigorous reporter on the Cuban scene. Everything from Cuba's post-Soviet lunatic paradoxes to Miami's tolerance for terrorism has been the subject of her investigative attention. In the midst of a world filled with intrigue and polarization, she's always managed to be an equal opportunity critic. Leaders on both sides of the Florida Straits have learned to fear her efforts. "Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana," Bardach's latest book, will likely continue that trend."   SALON

 

"Ms Bardach…a tenacious reporter…is particularly sharp-eyed about Cuban families."

The Economist

 

"The twisted history of [U.S.-Cuba} policy comes alive, with all its amazing characters and events, in "Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana". There is simply no reporter who has worked this story with the talent, diligence and enterprise of author Ann Louise Bardach. She is fearless and funny -- and so is her book.'" Joe Conason, New York Observer

 

Bardach's muckraker is entertaining and disturbing." Publishers Weekly

 

"Bardach's book uses a finely grained report ... to drive home her two themes: one, that caudillo politics, as it is practiced in Havana and Miami, has deadlocked Cuba's political alternatives; and two, that the Cuban diaspora, which has resulted in the geographic division of families, is an inducement to family psychodramas that embody the political discourse of both the Castroite and the anti-Castroite sides. Bardach's story travels between two poles, Cuba and Miami, just as Bardach herself has done in the past 10 years. " San Francisco Chronicle

 

"Ann Louise Bardach, has enjoyed a distinguished journalistic career (and) for the last 10 years, has taken as her personal work the chronicling...Cubans on both sides of the Florida Straits. The result is "Cuba Confidential," which comes at you like a freight train and is part muckraking expos and part intimate examination of the people and the cultural sensibilities that make up the ongoing telenova of Cuban life."

Santa Barbara News-Press

 

"For excellent background on the Diaz-Balart family, which now holds two seats in Congress, see Ann Louise Bardach's Cuba Confidential."  Mickey Kaus - SLATE

 

"[Bardach's] comments about today's Cuba are among the most devastating I have ever read.  Mark Falcoff, Commentary

 

"In all ways, Bardach is as passionate as a Cuban in her work- a task that has taken ten years. A  woman of considerable charm, she is a 'aplatanada cubana' - a transplanted Cuban." -El Nuevo Herald

 

"Ann Louise Bardach is America's answer to Orianna Fallaci. This is a wonderful book  - absolutely masterful at presenting both sides of the Cuba debate." -Gay Talese

 

"Ann Louise Bardach long ago established herself as America's most lucid, courageous, and well-informed observer of Cuban realities on both sides of the Florida Straits. Her new book is a tour de force, the definitive work on the still ongoing Cuban civil war that, whether it is being played out in Havana, Miami, or Washington, continues to ruin the future of Cubans and the politics of the United States."

David Rieff, author of The Exile

 

"Cuba Confidential is the work of a reporter at the top of her game.  Ann Louise Bardach takes a fascinating new look at the case of Elian Gonzalez and then spins it into a compelling reexamination of the tortured relationship between the United States and Castro's Cuba.  With Bardach's fresh take on the young boy and the old man, you'll never look at either one the same way again." -Jeffrey Toobin

 

"Since 1959, Fidel Castro has played the anti-Christ for the United States and vice versa. In Cuba Confidential,  Ann Louise Bardach has brilliantly chronicled and examined why the policy has not worked  for Castro or for the United States. She has also prepared us for what we must face when Castro is gone." -Sander Vanocur, veteran NBC and ABC anchor

 

 "If our political Establishment knew a tenth as much about Cuba, or cared half as much about it, as does Ann Louise Bardach, both the United States and Cuba would be more open societies." -Christopher Hitchens

 

"Ann Louise Bardach expertly explores the troubled waters of U.S.-Cuban relations since Fidel Castro came to power. Whatever your views on Cuba, Cuba Confidential offers a valuable treasure of inside information and rich insights into an international controversy that has deep implications for American politics."

-Lou Cannon, author of President Reagan

 

"Profound and provocative… Writing from the perspective of an outsider - but with the passion of someone trapped in the fascination of all things Cuban-  Bardach's work offers the best of American investigative journalism along with a multi-layered history of baroque complexity. Her dramatization of the political intrigues on both sides of the Cuban divide make Cuba Confidential as absorbing as a thriller." –

 Uva de Aragon- Assistant Director of the Cuban Research Institute,

Florida International University

 

 
The New York Times

May 16, 2003, Friday
SECTION: Section E; Part 1; Page 25; Column 1; Movies, Performing Arts/Weekend Desk

HEADLINE: Times Reporter Wins a Book Award

BODY:
Keith Bradsher of The New York Times was awarded the New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism on Wednesday for his book, "High and Mighty: S.U.V.'s -- The World's Most Dangerous Vehicles and How They Got That Way" (Public Affairs).

The annual award includes a $15,000 prize. Mr. Bradsher, the paper's
Hong Kong bureau chief, was formerly based in Detroit. The four other finalists, each of whom received a $1,000 prize, are: Ann Louise Bardach for "Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana" (Random House); Richard Bernstein of The New York Times for "Out of the Blue: The Story of Sept. 11, 2001, From Jihad to Ground Zero" (Times Books, Henry Holt & Co.); William Langewiesche for "American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center" (North Point Press); and David Rieff for "A Bed for the Night: Humanitarianism in Crisis" (Simon & Schuster).  

 

AMAZON  Spotlight Reviews 

12 of 18 people found the following review helpful:

5 out of 5 starsBanana Republic Politics and South Florida, March 26, 2003

 

Reviewer: Richard Mensah from Philadelphia, Pa

Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana is a definitive look at the two very different communities of the Cuban exiles in Florida and New Jersey and that of the nation of Cuba. Ann Louise Bardach provides an clear and primarily unbiased look at how the Cuban Revolution of 1959 caused a rift not only between America, which used the island as a sin city playground, and Cuba but between families who choose to support Castro and those who opposed communism. Bardach's book is part history and part sociology. Thoroughly researched and written with style of writing that keeps the reader highly interested chapter after chapter, "Cuba Confidential" hits many topics ranging from politcal corruption and terrorism to family values and race relations. Three of the most interesting and intriguing chapters are those of "Calle Ocho Politics", "An Assassin's Tale in Three Acts" and "The Third Rail". I found them the most interesting because they focused on the political climate of South Florida and the overwhelming influence of the Cuban exile community on the government of the state of Florida. As a history and political science major in college, I read about the strength of the primarily conservative Cuban Americans in South Florida but I never researched how pervasive and corrupt it was and still is. "Cuba Confidential" details the long list of injustices committed by some cuban officals in Florida and the Tammany Hall political machines that they run. Even the federal government through such agencies as the FBI are found to be influenced by the power and cohersion of Cuban politicos.
If you want to learn about the darker side of the "
Sunshine State" then read this book. While covering topics that have been done to death like Elian Gonzalez, it still serves up more than most readers outside of Miami ever knew about Cuba and Cuban Americans. It is a must have for both the casual reader and someone looking to start a scholarly research into Cuban Americans and Florida politics. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition

 

All Customer Reviews
Average Customer Review: 3.16 out of 5 stars

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 5 out of 5 starsDisturbing! But a Great Read!!!, March 19, 2004

 

Reviewer: simplycuban from Waldorf,, maryland USA

My Dad was a balsero, who eventually made it to Phila. where I was born, he went back to fight against Castro and we have never seen or heard from him again!I never got an opportunity to talk with him about all the politics involved in this Castro-Cuba thing but this answered so many questions. YOu're reading history but its not dull or stilted at all. Thank you Ms Bardach for a great book and although I know you lost many contacts, for writing this way. I applaud you, for your honesty and courage!!!

 

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:

5 out of 5 starsLoving Cuba is hard love, March 9, 2004

 

Reviewer: Jerry Scott (see more about me) from Annandale, VA United States

Yes, the Cubans have suffered under Castro. I agree and understand their pain. So? The Cuban American millionaires and terrorists (Bosch for example) in Bardach's book suffered and then triumphed by bringing their ideas, ideology, and conniving ways to the US under the guise of seeking freedom--Freedom to do what? Toss bombs and acid at other exiled Cubans exercising Constitutional rights? Become another demagogue like Jorge Mas Canosa, rip off the Americans, create an ethic Cuban ghetto that excludes other Latinos, spit on concert goers trying to see Cuban musicians, bribe and other wise nefariously influence Florida politics? All this and heaven too.

Well, you detractors of the book have called it disgusting and other things but the truth hurts doesn't it? I have spent time in Cuba as a US diplomat (1987-89)in the US Interests Section and know many of the people mentioned by Bardach. Her descriptions are right on the money, e.g. Elizardo Sanchez, a real hero in the Cuban human rights movement. That the Miami right wingers are against the Varela Plan is truth not fiction, and as for checking sources and reliability nothing in Havana or Miami is what it appears to be so what's the use trying to verify what's not on the record? Her book names names, dates, countries, files, memos, etc enough to satsfy me and the general reader. Of course, if you have an Anti-Castro agenda this book will infuriate you, and obviously has by the looks of some of the reviews. All I have to do is put the screwed up, angry, menacing looks we saw on TV in Miami during the Elian debacle and fit those faces to the irate reviewers. And so it goes. Perhaps one should just read Samuel Huntington's latest screed on Hispanics (Foreign Policy Magazine, March 2004) to know the Cubans want to turn South Florida into their own Banana Republic. Lord have mercy, and will the last American leaving Miami please bring the flag. Thanks Ms. Bardach for exposing this ugly under belly on both sides of the drink. Watch out for the bombers.

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:

5 out of 5 starsBest Book on Cuban Miami Politics Ever, January 26, 2004

 

Reviewer: A reader from USA

I am a Cuban who lived in Miami all my life and just moved to New jersey; if I were to acknowledge to the Cuban community I left behind that I agree with this book, I could be hurt. Thank you, author, for bringing to light what it's like to live in a world surrounded by the Cuban "Mafia" who wants Cuba back to being in the monstrous hands of Corporate America. I lived close to where the Elian saga occured, and MIami became too opressive for me to continue living there. Every word in this book is factual.On a brighter and lighter note, if you Cubanfiles out there have children or grandchildren and want to get them the greatest little bilingual Cuban picturebook around (all Cuban characters, set in Cuban Little Havana's Calle Ocho Festival, written by a Cuban and illustrated by a Cuban), find, DRUM, CHAVI, DRUM!/TOCA, CHAVI, TOCA! This Cuban book isn't about politics, but it depicts the livlier and more beautiful side of Miami Cubans (we are not all monsters as the media sometimes loves to portray us!)

This book is a must. I applaud the author for the impeccable research. I wish a Cuban would write a book like this, but she might be hurt...

 

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful:

5 out of 5 starsHonesty May Not be Popular, December 9, 2003

 

Reviewer: Fred/Debbie Anderson (see more about me) from Washington, DC USA

Bardach's honesty about American foreign policy regarding Cuba and the power that the corrupt Miami Mafia have on Florida, and after the last presidential election, national, politics has not won her many friends in the Miami Cuban population. Elian was used and manipulated by Marisleysis and her father, two people who shouldn't be entrusted with the life of a roach, much less a little boy. But the Miami Mafia was willing to sacrifice him to these two pathological personalities in order to score one against Castro. Then there is Orlando Bosch, a convicted terrorist who was paroled into the United States by Bush the First against the orders of his acting assistant attorney general. In the Banana Republic regimes of Little Havana and the White House, it doesn't matter how many innocent civilians you kill nor how many children's lives you throw away as long as you do it in the name of fighting communism. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition

5 out of 5 starsGreat Book!, November 14, 2003

 

Reviewer: mausmiss1 (see more about me) from Frankfurt Deutschland

What a great book!! I used to live in Miami and can tell you that everything she writes about is TRUE. A large group of the exiled community (especially the older ones) dream of a renewed regime a la Batista, where they were able to take advantage of people. I experienced the Elian saga first hand, these people are a bunch of fakes, ungrateful and demanding and ard are portrat perfect in the book!
I would love to go to
Cuba and see the REAL cubans.

Booklinker.com

Friday April 25, 2003

http://booklinker.blogspot.com/2003/04/cuba-confidential-love-and-vengeance.html


CUBA CONFIDENTIAL: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana

An ajiaco is a spicy Cuban stew. Cuba Confidential is just such a book, filled with myriad tasty insights, bubbling quietly in hidden corners.

Written by the experienced and thoughtful journalist Ann Louise Bardach, Cuba Confidential helps shed some light on what, to an outsider, is one of the most puzzling political stews leftover from the twentieth century.

Taking the recent Elian Gonzalez case as its starting point, the author delves into the intricacies and byzantine political machinations of the both the Cuban exile community and the stolid and enduring dictatorship of Castro, recasting what many see as a Cold War leftover into a bitter family feud that divides Cubans on both sides, sundering relationships and tearing deeply personal scars. The author's expertise and long relationship with both sides of the Cuban coin reveals the depth of political intransigence that cripples both sides, preventing both true discourse and productive change - trapping both countries in a mutually destructive relationship that neither encourages nor rewards finding common ground.


Bardach is particularly chilling when she digs into the role of Miami's embittered and politically powerful Exile community of Calle Ocho (the so-called Third Rail of Florida politics (as in the rail that will electrocute you if you touch it)), the control and dominance they have established over South Florida, the strings they pull and power they wield. Filled with vivid glimpses of the inside wheels of power and personal motives (Janet Reno, the Miami-born US Attorney-General under Clinton weeping in her office over the vicious characterizations and personal attacks that exploded in the wake of the Elian affair; the particular callous disregard for the well-being of Elian by his exile relations; the manipulation of the press....and so on. Read the book for a full view.), the book in particular highlights two contrasting characters - the graying Fidel Castro and the Exile leader Mas Canosa and CANF.

One of the particular nuggets of note in the book is the intricate ties between the Exile community and the Bushes; George Sr., George Jr. and Jeb (Governor of Florida); and the infamous "hanging chad" electioneering that in the end, decided the presidency and shaped dramatically the future of the US. Interestingly enough, prior to September 11, 2001, one of the most infamous acts of terrorism in the Western hemisphere was the bombing of Cubana 455 in 1976 which killed 73 people (including almost the entire Cuban National Fencing Team). Carried out by Orlando Bosch (an exile with strong ties to CANF and Mas Canosa), Bosch was later pardoned by - you guessed it - George Bush Sr. This tends to make anyone who follows the current administration's pronouncements on terrorism a bit leery...

Cuba Confidential starts a bit slow and I for one found the intricacies of Cuban family ties to be difficult and somewhat tedious to work through, but persistent readers are well-rewarded with a well-written, quality glimpse inside what can only be called the unrivaled family feud of the last century.

Morning Star Online

Monday January 31, 2005

http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/index2.php/free/culture/books/cuba_divided


CUBA CONFIDENTIAL: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana

By Geoff Bottoms

USING the Elian Gonzalez affair as a starting point to relate the ever-simmering stand-off between Miami and Havana, Ann Louise Bardach attempts an even-handed account of relations between Cuba and its exiles that has kept the disastrous US policy of blockade in place, divided families with tragic consequences and provoked crises by encouraging waves of illegal emigres across the Florida Straits.

According to the author, her book seeks to chronicle the parallel tragedies of "the hijacking of the Cuban Revolution by Fidel Castro and a similar phenomenon, albeit modified, in Miami - as exiles seeking freedom have been shunted into silence by hard-liners bent on revenge, retribution and power."

True, she castigates both Castro and Jorge Mas Canosa alike and exposes the ebb and flow of the fortunes of the Bush family in relation to their dealings with the Cuban exiles while accusing the revolutionary leadership of exploiting the genocidal US blockade, yet a bias can still be detected.

Describing Castro as "the movie star dictator, the ham actor who has steadfastly refused to leave the stage," Bardach reserves no such comment for US presidents of all shapes and sizes or their administrations who merely "trade off sensible and enduring solutions for short-term electoral gains in one or two counties in south Florida and in Union City, New Jersey."

Her underlying message is that the kind of change that the US wishes to impose on Cuba can only come with the death of Castro eerily echoes the recent report of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba providing a blueprint for "regime change" and the annexation of Cuba to the US.

Yet Bardach is the most celebrated journalist in the US with respect to the Cuban-US mafia and this book represents 10 years of interviews with 11 trips to Cuba and more than a dozen to Miami, Union City, Puerto Rico and Venezuela.

Her reporting straight from the hip has cost her a press visa to Cuba on several occasions.

Recognising that the exile community in Miami is not monolithic and even claiming that it is predominantly liberal, she attributes affiliation to the Republican cause simply to its hard-line policy towards Cuba, quoting a member of the terrorist 2506 Brigade as saying that many of them were "left-wingers fighting Batista ... now we're right-wingers fighting Castro."

Perhaps the most significant revelation in the context of the release of four convicted Cuban-US terrorists by the outgoing president of Panama last year is the conclusion of the chapter devoted to Luis Posada Carriles, which describes him as a habitue of Miami's terrorist circles and explicitly predicts that he would soon be strolling through the streets of Miami.

Having interviewed him in 1998, Posada admitted receiving funds from the Cuban-US National Foundation and being in possession of four different passports from different countries bearing false identities.

"I have a lot of passports," Posada told the journalist. "If I want to go to Miami, I have different ways to go. No problem."

As an account of the ongoing battle between Havana and Miami, this is a lucid, informative and entertaining piece of investigative journalism that is all too rare in the US, with family trees, timelines and comprehensive notes placing everything in context.

Calling it civil war or a family feud, as Bardach does, emphasises the human cost of this tragedy, yet there is no escaping the fact that Cuba remains the apple of annexationist dreams going back 200 years.

With or without Castro, the struggle for the right to self-determination will continue.


SUN-SENTINEL of Fort Lauderdale


SUNDAY - AUGUST 6, 2006
SECTION: BOOK REVIEWS

In the dark? Books can shed light on Cuba's struggles


If you've followed the news this week, you've undoubtedly watched South Floridians and the world react to the news of Cuban president Fidel Castro relinquishing power to his brother, defense minister Raúl Castro, after 47 years in power. For those who want to learn more about the history of Cuba, Delray Beach head reference librarian Adam S. Davis recommends books about Cuba's history from the revolution to Castro's regime and the exile community in South Florida.

Q. What newer books do you recommend about Cuba under Castro's
rule?

A. Castro's Cuba edited by Charles W. Carey, Jr. is a
collection of essays by Cuban citizens, visitors, journalists and Castro
himself. Carey's work provides firsthand accounts of Cuba since the
revolution from opposing viewpoints with a smattering of black-and-white
photos and a short 20th century chronology

Those interested in the intersection of history and culture
also should consider picking up Inside Cuba: The History, Culture and
Politics of an Outlaw Nation
edited by John Miller and Aaron Kenedi.
This book is unique in that it explores the country's past and its
future, including a chapter on post-Castro Cuba. This book, though a
couple years old, is very timely and captivating for those of us who
want more background on current events.


Q. What books do you recommend about the Cuban Revolution?

A. A few books come to mind that may interest readers. Cuban
Revolution: Years of Promise
by Teo Babún and Victor Andrés Triay is a
splendid photographic history of the Cuban Revolution that includes
photos never seen before its publishing. The photos and accompanying
essay are brutally honest, and may be too graphic for some readers.

However, this book interested me because it not only includes
pictures of Castro and other leaders of the time, but also is mostly
composed of photos of everyday people who were involved in the
revolution. The reader really gets a sense for what it was like to be
part of the revolution, and unfortunately, what it was like to be
against the revolution.
         

Though Cuba: Order and Revolution by Jorge Domínguez and
Revolution in Cuba by Herbert Matthews are both older books, they are
still very popular histories of Cuba during the revolution. While
Domínguez's book introduces the reader to three eras of Cuban history
(starting with Cuban independence and making his way to life under
Castro), Matthews' book deals strictly with Castro's rise to power, and
the subsequent changes that occurred in Cuba post-revolution.

Q. What books address the plight of Cuban exiles in Miami?
 

A. If readers want a real taste of Cuban culture here in
Florida, I would suggest visiting Little Havana in Miami. But for those
who stay closer to their homes and libraries, pick up Cuba Confidential:
Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana
by Ann Louise Bardach. In this
exposé, readers will find insights into Cuban politics in the United
States through interviews with Castro, his sister, the family of Elián
Gonzalez, and Miami politicos.

For readers who enjoy reading history and politics in more of
a literary format, I suggest Cuban-American Literature of Exile: From
Person to Persona
by Alvarez Borland. If this doesn't satiate the
reader's need for Cuban-American literature, visit the Delray Beach
Reference Department to take a look at Cuban-American Fiction in English
by M. Delores Carlito for further inspiration.


Link


The Globe And Mail

THE ENIGMATIC COMANDANTE
Saturday, August 12, 2006

The man who has ruled over Cuba for almost half a century, Robert Wright says,
cultivated his own mystique

By Robert Wright

Last weekend's revelation that Fidel Castro was recovering from intestinal surgery and had ceded power to his brother Raúl put the world's Cuba-watchers on full alert. Speculation about what is really happening in Havana is running wild. Castro is dead or on death's doorstep, some observers claim. No, others say, he has merely staged a dress rehearsal so he can observe what will happen to his Revolution when he actually passes from the scene.

Even had Fidel not handed Raúl the reins, the pundits would still have been out in force this month, pondering the post-Castro future. That is because Fidel Castro turns 80 tomorrow. At least, that is what his birth certificate says. But historians now accept as probable that he was actually born in 1927, not 1926 as Castro himself claims, and that his father doctored his birth records to get him into prep school a year early.

The mysterious circumstances of Castro's birth are part of the larger enigma: The man has ruled Cuba for almost half a century, yet he remains virtually unknown to his own people and to the outside world. Fidel has always known the advantages of being a man of mystery, which is why he has so assiduously cultivated his own mystique. (A curious mix of respect and fear prevents most ordinary Cubans from even referring to El Jefe by name.) It is not known, for example, how many children he has (estimates range from eight to 15), nor with how many women, nor whether he remarried after his divorce from Mírta Díaz-Balart in 1948. No one knows for certain whether Fidel's own birth was illegitimate, nor even whether Raúl is a brother or a half-brother.

Demystifying this enigmatic world figure begins, for me, with Fidel: A Critical Portrait (William Morrow, 1986), by the late New York Times reporter Tad Szulc. Szulc is the only English-language biographer of the intensely private Castro to have enjoyed unfettered access to him. Despite their "absolute" ideological differences -- Szulc was a Kennedy liberal through and through -- the Commandante agreed to be interviewed on one condition: "You may paint me as a devil so long as you remain objective and you let my voice be heard." Szulc researched and wrote the book in Havana, with Castro dropping in on him and his wife from time to time, but the book was not "authorized" and neither the Commandante nor anyone in his entourage ever vetted it.

In contrast with the seemingly endless parade of books that superficially deify or demonize Castro, Szulc's Portrait offers a three-dimensional picture of the man over the first 25 years of his rule. Szulc's Castro is a complex figure: mischievous, prudish, secretive, self-important, vain, courageous and extremely lucky. Never fawning, Szulc is nonetheless capable of praising Castro's gifts as a great world leader. He is "immensely attractive and contagiously energetic," Szulc writes. He is a man of great intellect and "prodigious memory."

He is also a "perfectionist to the point of pedantry," spending hours and hours rewriting the lengthy speeches that seem so spontaneous when spoken. On the matter of Castro's iron-fisted grip on Cuba, Szulc observes that the Commandante "bristles at any suggestion that he is a dictator." But this does not prevent Szulc from offering his own poignant diagnosis of Cuba's political and economic ills: Castro's "psychological inability, rather than conscious refusal, to let go of any power."

Szulc's book remains the best biography of Fidel Castro, for my money, but it has recently acquired another claim on my affections. As the intrepid New Yorker journalist Seymour Hersh discovered when conducting interviews for The Dark Side of Camelot (Little, Brown, 1997) -- my second Castro pick -- it was Szulc, of all people, who first came up with the idea for Operation Mongoose, a covert program of paramilitary operations against Cuba launched by the Kennedy administration in 1961. Mongoose actions included hotel bombings, the sabotage of industrial and agricultural sites, the contamination of Cuba's sugar crop and, most infamously, all manner of hare-brained schemes to murder Castro, including poisoned milkshakes and exploding cigars.

Szulc, Hersh reveals, not only suggested to Kennedy staffers that the United States embark on an aggressive policy of regime-change in Cuba, he discussed the matter privately with attorney-general Robert Kennedy and later acted as "the linchpin" in a long-running CIA operation designed to foment discontent within Castro's military. (For Castro, the CIA has always been Public Enemy Number One. Presumably, Szulc's history as a CIA operative was not known to Castro when they were collaborating on his biography.)

The secret life of Tad Szulc is but one of the extraordinary revelations unearthed by Hersh as he began shaking the skeletons out of the Kennedy closet. Predictably, some of Hersh's more salacious discoveries in The Dark Side of Camelot concern president Kennedy's social proclivities, including his connections to the mob and his extramarital liaisons.

But the most interesting political revelations are those concerning the Kennedy brothers' fixation on Fidel Castro. Jack and Bobby were not merely aware of the CIA's plotting against the Cuban leader, Hersh writes, "they were its strongest advocates." In a short chapter, Trapping Nixon, Hersh explains how JFK used classified intelligence about the Bay of Pigs invasion against Richard Nixon during the 1960 presidential race.

A chapter on Operation Mongoose, Target Castro, describes the Kennedys' obsession with eliminating the Cuban leader. Hersh, a writer not given to overstatement, writes bluntly of attorney-general Robert Kennedy that his "enthusiasm for the assignment" of murdering Castro made him "the most feared, and despised, official in the government -- especially at the Central Intelligence Agency." Fidel Castro may have been an unusually paranoid leader but, as Hersh demonstrates, it was for the best of reasons.

My third pick is Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana (Random House, 2002), by Vanity Fair journalist Ann Louise Bardach, which chronicles the decades-old blood feud between Fidel Castro and his enemies in Cuban Miami. It is no secret that the Cuban-American émigré community has served as the wellspring of anti-Castro passion in the United States since at least 1981, when Jorge Mas Canosa founded the Cuban American National Foundation.

What makes Bardach's book so engrossing is that her approach to the Havana-Miami story is not merely political, but deeply personal. "The Cuban Revolution has ravaged the Cuban family much as the Civil War in the United States ravaged American families," Bardach writes. To cite only the most prominent of the many family breaches to occur after 1959, Fidel Castro's erstwhile in-laws, the Díaz-Balarts, fled the Revolution and became his arch-enemies in Miami-Dade. The late Rafael Díaz-Balart, Castro's one-time brother-in-law, became a leading figure in anti-Castro political circles, and two of his sons, Lincoln and Mario, are today serving as U.S. congressmen.

Equally fascinating is Bardach's description of the non-Cuban family ties to this drama, which extend to the Bush family, the two Georges and current Florida governor Jeb. In 1999, five-year-old Elián González precipitated a war of words that struck everybody outside of Havana and Miami as inexplicably vicious. Few observers could imagine why Castro spent the better part of a year obsessing over this little boy. Bardach offers a convincing explanation: The struggle over custody of Elián tapped the decades-old reservoir of animus between Castro and the exile community, turning it into one of "the most transforming events in Cuban-U.S. relations since the Bay of Pigs."

Castro's convalescence continues to stoke the rumour mill but, in truth, there has been talk of the "post-Castro future" of Cuba since at least the 1970s. Speculation of this sort peaked after 1989, when the subsidy-dependent Cuban economy collapsed along with the former Soviet Union. Even Castro's apologists conceded at that time that his reign could not survive without the Soviets. But, of course, they were wrong. Castro not only persisted but found a new ally -- and benefactor -- in Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. The hope among anti-Castro types that the Commandante would be deposed by impoverished and disgruntled Cubans has once again given way to resignation to what they call the "biological solution" -- the death of Fidel.

And so, the world continues to watch and wait.

Robert Wright teaches history at Trent University in Oshawa, Ont. His Three Nights in Havana: Pierre Trudeau, Fidel Castro and the Cold War World will be published next year.

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bardachreports.com 2006