Was there resistance when you set up your radio station?
Now considered a moderate Cuban-American, Aruca conspired against the
revolutionary government in Cuba in the late 1950s, and was sentenced to jail.
After escaping he came to the U.S. In 1979, Aruca founded Marazul Tours, a
travel agency that provides service to Cuba. He also is a radio commentator on
Miami's Radio Progreso.
Yes, from the moment we opened our offices in Miami, in 1986, we felt the
pressure--there is no doubt about it. There is a segment of the exile
community that I call the evil industry, which is very involved in preventing
anything that resembles normalization with Cuba. Our offices have been bombed,
the windows broken and so forth. So from day one up to this moment, we are
feeling pressures from doing that business here. It goes with Miami.
Oh, yes, it goes with Cuban Miami. Whoever wants to do something normal with
Cuba in Miami, even if it is legal and it is ethical, would have to be willing
to pay a price, unfortunately.
You went from being arrested by the revolution in Cuba to being a moderate.
What's it been like?
I would say that being a moderate in Miami is difficult, because they are
really very radical when it comes to Cuba. I was educated by the Catholic
Jesuits in Cuba. I was very much of an anti-communist. However, I was a bit
to the left of center--always was. When I came to the United States and
studied at Georgetown, it was the first time in my life that I could freely
research whatever issue I wanted, and without social pressures. It was the
first time in my life that I really enjoyed a free environment. I didn't enjoy
that with the Jesuits or the years I lived in Cuba. And I came to the
realization that the best thing that could happen to Cuba was not for us to
keep on fighting against it, but to see how we could contribute to create a
situation that would allow it to change. And therefore I became a very strong
defender of dialogue.
Do you remember when Elián first arrived?
The first thing I heard about Elián was that, even before he got out of
the hospital, the Cuban-American National Foundation (CANF) had already made a
poster out of him. The CANF planned to send those posters to Seattle, where
the meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) was taking place, and use
that poster as propaganda against the Cuban side. During the first few days,
the whole line that was being explained or fed was that that would be decided
in the local court. After that, it became fairly well established that it was
a federal issue. And from the very first day, what I realized was that these
sectors of the Cuban exile community have bought into this case fully--and I
think very much to their regret, by now.
Why do you think they bought into this?
Even before they knew anything about the child, they were already making a
political poster out of him. Basically they saw this is a great occasion to
humiliate the Cuban government. They thought they were going to get a local
court to handle it and decide in their favor. And they went lock, stock and
barrel into the issue. By the time they realized they were getting deeper and
deeper, I think it was too late and they just kept making it worse. If you
analyze the whole process, it was a sequence of mistakes--some mistakes worse
than the ones they had made before--until they had no hope.
How did the idea of sending the poster to the WTO originate?
It was just to be used as propaganda against Cuba. Basically, the message was
that even children with their mothers are leaving Cuba and risking their lives.
It was a political message they wanted to convey that they thought would be
detrimental to whatever Cuba was trying to accomplish during the WTO meeting.
What was the point?
At the time, remember that Castro was expected to attend, although he
eventually didn't. So I think they intended to have, first, a personal
humiliation for Fidel Castro, but also a political message against whatever
Cuba was trying to accomplish at that meeting. They would be able to portray a
child whose mother had died, who risked their lives trying to get to freedom.
And they probably felt Fidel Castro would feel very uncomfortable with that.
You don't think it has anything to do with trying to live in freedom?
I must confess that I do not believe very much whenever these Cuban exiles talk
about freedom in Cuba or anywhere else, because they have used their power in
Miami to accomplish everything except freedom for everybody in Miami. There is
no freedom of expression within the Cuban community. The few free expressions
freely expressed here through the media usually have come at a high risk, and
usually through very specialized efforts to get some type of commercials to
back it up. Whenever they talk about diversity of opinion, democracy or
freedom, they don't mean it. Basically, what they have done is eliminate the
American Constitution from Miami.
In which way?
They have violated some of the most important principles guaranteed by the
Constitution, that is, freedom of expression. Even today, if you analyze
the Nuevo Herald, which is the daily Spanish paper in the city, you will
find that in their editorial pages they don't have a single columnist that
writes an opinion different from what the traditional exile position is. And
when you're talking about a newspaper in the United States, if you can be as
categorical as I am being, that means that they have managed to smash public
opinion here quite a bit.
Is it the same with Ordinance 101?
In a way, it's something similar. They managed to have an ordinance approved
at City Hall that would prevent any kind of relationship between public funds
or public property and anything that had to do with Cuban athletes, Cuban
artists, or any company that might have cooperated with Cuba. For all
practical effects, nobody could come here with a show, an exhibition, or a
sports game if Cuba had any kind of link to it. They couldn't come here and
expect any kind of public support. And it cost us millions, in terms of events
that have had to move to some other areas because they couldn't be done here in
What was the rationale?
They would support anything in Miami that, in their opinion, creates an
obstacle to normal relations with Cuba. That has been their traditional
position. That is why I refer to their position as a philosophy or theory of
total isolation. Somehow they have created an alternative Cuba here. They
need that in order to prosper. Consequently, if anything violates that total
isolation they wish to maintain with Cuba, they're going to try to achieve it.
We have more than one million Cubans living in Dade County, and I dare you to
go through all the radio stations in Spanish and see if you find any one of
them playing music from Cuba, which is absurd.
But it's all about Cuba?
They use Cuba as a political thesis behind which they hide, in order to amass
more and more power here. They have enough support behind them to elect
politicians. Those politicians give them contracts, so they can make more
money. When they make more money they can contribute more to elect more
politicians. That is why I call them an industry. They have created here a
very complex situation.
The polls that have been taken by very prestigious institutions in south
Florida, such as Florida International University and University of Miami, have
all shown that only a very small percentage of Cubans in Miami would go back to
Cuba even if Fidel Castro wasn't in power. The last figure I recall was
something like 20-25 percent, not more than that. So that theory has become
more of an excuse behind which to hide and contribute to their own development,
their own political power and their economic development, economic growth.
Can you talk about a the obsession they have about Fidel Castro.
Fidel Castro is a very easy target for them to personalize the issue. What
serious effort have you seen from the exile community to overthrow Fidel Castro
in the last ten years? The last efforts they have had are legislative efforts,
such as the Torricelli bill or Cuban Democracy Act, the Helms-Burton Act. All
that was taking place at a time that the Soviet bloc had collapsed. They'd
really expected that Cuba would collapse. They always said Cuba is a satellite
of the Soviet Union. Well, once the planet disappeared, you don't expect the
satellite to go around by itself. So they invested in those pieces of
legislation, hoping to perfect the embargo that was already in place, in order
to create an upheaval in Cuba, and eventually a coup d'état. Once that
didn't happen, eventually they concentrated more and more in preserving their
power here and increasing their power here.
They want to humiliate Fidel Castro whenever they can. That builds their power
here. If they had managed to have Elián's case decided by local courts
and they won, they would have shown that the Cuban community in Miami is still
invincible--"whenever we pick up an issue, we win." And that is why they're in
so much trouble now, because this was the first serious issue that they
What is the Elián story about?
What happened with Elián was months of this issue building up. A high
percentage of that type of exile, mind you, has a very low level of education.
In that way, they're a very good reflection of what Cuba was before the
revolution, educationally. So these are people that have been kept in a fairly
high level of ignorance, who are easily moved by emotional arguments.
Obviously many of them have suffered because of the Cuban process, but you put
all that together and you get . . .
Castro is the eternal enemy?
For some of the exiles, yes, of course. He's going to be their eternal enemy
until they die. That's the way they see it, no doubt about it. Back in 1978,
Fidel Castro even tried, for the first time, to change policy in relations to
Cubans in the United States, and he carried out what was known as the dialogue
sessions. He invited Cubans from the United States to come and dialogue and
find a solution, for example, to release political prisoners, or to allow
Cubans from the United States to travel to Cuba. Immediately, all those who,
one way or the other, thought that that was an answer were called traitors in
Miami. I was in Miami at the time, and I can tell you that the businesses were
bombed, and people lost their jobs. Professional people who were established
in very prosperous businesses lost those opportunities because of the social
pressures. When it comes to smashing opposition, this is a very un-American
city--you better understand that.
What would the local courts do for them?
They say that that case should have been solved at the family court, here in
the state of Florida or in Dade County. And actually, they managed to have one
local court make a decision, and it was in their favor. It was found
immediately afterwards that the judge who made that decision had a conflict of
interest. She had been elected through the efforts of the guy who was acting
as the coordinator and spokesman for all these forces that wanted to keep
Elián in Miami. Unfortunately, local courts here are elected. When you
want to be elected, you need a lot of money for your campaign.
What did you think of Lázaro [Elian's great uncle in Miami]?
I really never thought that the federal government was going to give up on
implementation of the law just because Lázaro González and
another bunch of Cubans keep believing that the law isn't going to be applied
in Miami. I think they misread the whole issue. From the very beginning, they
didn't realize this became a very important issue. A very high percentage of
American public opinion was behind the legality. For the first time, these
people who have been untouchable had against them the law, public opinion, and
the stated objective of the federal government. In my opinion, that had to be
solved the way it had to be solved. As a matter of fact, I'm one of those who
believed that it probably should have been solved sooner. But I wasn't
surprised by the federal action--believe me, I was not.
Why were they surprised?
Because it is the first time as far as I can recall. . . . I laugh because, I
suppose, for many of the people in your audience, this is going to be weird.
These people have never felt the pressures as a group, as a political
organization, as a social effort, as an industry--which is what they are. They
never really lost a battle here. They are above the law. Some of the
companies that are linked to that industry have been investigated now for three
years on corruption charges, and we're still waiting for the results. So these
people really enjoyed a tremendous amount of impunity. When they saw that
happen, the world collapsed on them. And I think it's been a terrific lesson.
The Elián case marked the beginning of the unraveling of that industry.
What do you mean by "the industry?"
The "evil industry" is what I call the segment of the Cuban exiles that has
tremendous control of media, money, and politicians. It's a very complex
When happened when you saw Reno come here?
I developed a tremendous respect for that lady, although I disagree in the
slowness of the actions. That lady really tried to do what she thought was
right, in very difficult conditions. And she even put herself in a position of
coming to Miami and being called all kind of names, and facing all the
opposition that she faced here, even though she is a very prestigious daughter
of Dade County. I think the attitudes taken by a segment of the Cuban
community in relation to Janet Reno shows to what degree the defense of a
narrow agenda can take some to even badmouth a person that Florida should be
They are disrespectful of Clinton and Reno?
They are disrespectful of any personality, anywhere in the world, that
disagrees with their thesis. The moment you get away from their thesis, you
are considered an enemy and they become steamrollers. They want to roll all
over you, simple as that.
So much for freedom.
[Yes],I keep saying that whenever they use freedom as a reason to do something,
But they let the father,Juan Miguel, come to Miami?
I really wouldn't know. They never thought he would come. One of the things
that kept happening throughout the Elián González process is that
they would ask for things, thinking that they would not happen. And once they
happened, they would have to turn around and find another argument.
Specifically, in the case of Juan Miguel González, at first they said,
"Let him come to this country." When they started to perceive that maybe he
was going to come, they started saying, "Let him bring the family." When he
came with the family, they said, "Let him bring them to Miami." Maybe the next
thing they would have said is, "Let him parade down Eighth Street and let us
throw eggs at them."
Their basic objective here was not to have the father take his son back with
him to Cuba. Their basic objective is for that child to stay. If the father
had come and decided to stay in the United States, that would have meant a huge
coup. The moment they started to realize that Juan Miguel does not have an
intention of staying here, they started calling him all kind of names. He's
simply "Castro's agent." It's ridiculous.
Or else they believe that he's not free to decide for himself?
Except that it's very difficult to believe. By now, we know that any Cuban who
wishes to stay in the United States, as soon as he has one foot on dry land,
all he has to say is "I want to stay" and he'll stay. So I'm pretty sure that
Juan Miguel González knows that as well as any Cuban, both in Cuba and
Miami. So I have to assume that he's freely deciding he wants to go back to
his country with his child.
And some think that Greg Craig--Juan Miguel Gonzalez's attorney--works for
They're full of conspiratorial theories. You're never going to stop them from
being conspiratorial. Juan Miguel González has been talking by himself
to the attorney general of the United States. What better opportunity? You
just open your mouth there and say, "Madam Attorney General, basically what I
want to do is to stay in this country." And that would have ended the game
right there. I think they're finding this case extremely hard to crack,
precisely because they were convinced that that man would never come to the
United States. It really shattered all their plans and all their explanations.
And the grandparents are there. . . .
Who were here before. (laughs) When the grandparents were here, they called
them all kinds of names, because of their behavior and because they decided to
go back. In a way, it's a bottomless pit. If you ever expect to satisfy the
desires of the fanatic, you're going to die frustrated. And that's what we're
dealing with here--a bunch of fanatics.
. . . Did they want the father to defect, or the child to stay?
They needed the child, in the sense that they have fought that battle from the
very beginning. So the first objective was to see if the child stays. Even
before they perceived that the father was coming, they were claiming that they
would give the child up immediately if the father comes to the United States.
They were convinced that if he did, he was going to stay. It's as simple as
Of course, their conclusion is that nobody freely wants to live in Cuba. In
that sense, they are as far away from reality as in many other topics. There
are Cubans who wish to abandon Cuba and there are many Cubans who wish to stay
in Cuba. The estimates I have read or heard give as many as two million Cubans
may want to leave Cuba, but Cuba has eleven million people. So it's still a
very large number. I don't know how many Mexicans or Dominicans want to leave
Mexico, but I'm pretty sure the majority of Dominicans and Mexicans are happy
living in their country, even though it may not be in the best of material
conditions. Which just shows that these anti-communists have become extremely
materialistic, because the bottom of their argument is pro-materialism.
Does freedom play any role?
I don't really believe that freedom played any role whatsoever here. It was a
battle for a political objective--that is to humiliate Cuba. It was a
political investment, badly planned, badly carried out. Instead of providing a
heck of a lot of profit for them, it's provided them a lot of defeats. I have
to say that those who lead this evil industry, this segment of the exile
community--they do not believe in freedom. They have not practiced freedom in
the United States. Why would they be expected to practice freedom anywhere
else, including in Cuba?
And what about the rest of the Cubans in south Florida?
They supported their position. The means of communication in Miami do not
inform them properly. In relation to anything that has to do to Cuba, they are
making decisions solely based on false or incomplete information. That is part
of what my program does. I say, "You were told one thing this morning by the
Nuevo Herald. And this is what the Herald said in English, and
it's two different versions. So these people have been manipulated in their
ignorance. For a series of reasons, I don't deny that behind that evil
industry is an important segment of public opinion from the Cuban-American
Is public opinion a big part of this?
It's very difficult to say, although I wouldn't have any problem in saying that
in general, over 50 percent of the Cubans in Miami favor the embargo and favor
a policy of isolation in relation to Cuba. The number is decreasing, and one
of the reasons is as the older guys are dying. But I wouldn't be surprised if
the majority still feel that way. Beware of polls along those lines here.
With Cubans, we're always a little bit paranoid, but we have become even more
paranoid in Miami. And no Cuban is going to tell you the truth in a telephone
interview, if that truth may be found out by people who defend the thesis of
isolation in relation to Cuba. He will be paying a high price, and they're not
It is unbelievable what they have managed to accomplish. The unfortunate fact
is that this was accomplished at the beginning of the 1960s with the help of
the federal government. This became a foreign policy objective in relation to
what was going on in Cuba. And they were granted all kind of immunities and
privileges from the very first day, because that was the interpretation of
national interest at the time. Although we might disagree, the consequences
were that this group, who was already very well-trained to succeed in
capitalism--because they had already been successful in capitalism in Cuba--got
totally supported and totally financed by the federal government for quite a
few years. So in a way, the conditions of the time helped create a monster
that has kept on increasing its power, even after US policy in relation to Cuba
started to change.
How has the US policy changed?
The Cuban revolution took power in 1959. A portion went socialist--went
communist. Immediately it became a danger to US national objectives, at least
as they were defined at the time. And Cuban exiles became a very important
instrument of that policy against the Cuban revolution. Consequently, Cuban
exile groups in Miami started receiving all kinds of help and protection from
the federal government. So some of the characteristics that you are seeing
today were developed with the assistance of the federal government in the early
Except that the policy changed. As circumstances changed, the federal policy
kept changing. But these guys would not change. The opposite. Now they are
challenging the federal government in almost any area they see fit. They
challenged them against Elián; they are already calling the Supreme
Court all kinds of names here. Their objectives have nothing to do with the
welfare of the Cuban people, the welfare of south Florida, or the welfare of
the United States. Their objectives are to increase their power, their profit,
and tremendous influence that they have developed here in south Florida. That
is their objective.
Their objective isn't to topple Fidel Castro?
That's a secondary thing. If it happens, they'll be very happy. Imagine all
the power they have accomplished here without taking over Cuba. Imagine the
level of power they would have if they take over Cuba with two million Cubans
What would be the consequences?
You would have a tremendous amount of power in the hands of persons who don't
even believe in democracy in the first place. What happens if they decide to go
ahead and join the drug industry in order to make profits? How do you stop
them if they control government, the government in Cuba? Something similar to
what the Mafia tried to do with the Batista government in the 1960s could
happen if they took power in Cuba. I don't know what their limits are, because
they're limitless in terms of their ambition. They have proven that.
But you wouldn't be sitting here if they were that malevolent.
They have tried, so maybe the conclusion is that I'm lucky. But they have
They've tried to kill you?
Oh, yes, at least the police have told me several times to watch out. I don't
think they're good people at all. Go to the early 1970s and you're going to
see political assassinations in Miami. People were killed in 1971-1972 for
saying even less than what I'm saying now. There's a guy who was shot to death
after visiting his son in the hospital--I think it was 1972--because he said at
the time that our policy in relation to Cuba is wrong and we need to start a
dialogue. They shot him. They killed him. The same thing with another guy
who used to manufacture boats here in the early 1960s, in the early 1970s. So
we're not talking about people that have not proven their capacity to kill
They killed him financially. (laughs) Bernardo they didn't kill physically,
but from everything I know, they killed Bernardo financially, precisely because
Bernardo participated in that dialogue that I mentioned in 1978. They never
forgave him for that. And he was a very well-respected executive of a bank
here. They ruined his career.
Well, welcome to Miami. It is astonishing.
If you allow me to say something positive, we're changing. We are improving.
They are losing power, and Elián's case has helped a lot. The real
miracle is that out of this tragedy, these people are losing power. And that
is extremely good for everybody concerned--the Cuban people, all of us in south
Florida, Cuban and non-Cubans alike, and even American national interests.
Some say you need the approval of the Cuban government to sustain your
Well, I would say it's the opposite. I went into business precisely because I
wanted to find a legal way to establish connection with Cuba. I really
believed in that. Secondly, the day that total relations are established in
Cuba, our business position is going to find it extremely tough to survive. We
will be competing in a totally open market with the best American travel
operations. And even though I have enough confidence, it's going to be a
tough, very tough game. So if I were thinking of my personal welfare or the
welfare of my company, I would be very satisfied in prolonging the embargo
policy for a few more years.
You've appeared on television in Cuba?
Yes. It isn't acceptable to the exiles in Miami but, of course, it was totally
unacceptable that I started my radio program to start with. The fact that I
appear on Cuban TV should be taken hand in hand with the fact that other
persons of the moderate world in Miami are appearing. That is maybe also part
of the miracle of Elián. It has also helped open doors within Cuba.
Cuba has become more flexible, as far as their policy on communication and
media, precisely because of this affair. So Cuba has also benefited from this
affair, and so have the Cuban people.
Did you start appearing on Cuban TV during the Elián case?
That is correct. I had appeared once on Cuban television. But the first time
they interviewed me live on a Cuban TV program was during the Elián
And it opened doors?
Oh, it has opened doors. And you are probably going to interview some leaders
of the moderate community here in Miami who portray themselves clearly as
opposition to the Cuban government and they have been interviewed on Cuban TV.
What about the civic/business leaders' negotiations with the U.S. government
in the final days ?
You must relate it to the previous effort that had taken place just a few days
before. For the first time, the Cuban-American National Foundation had been
identified as agreeing to set up a meeting in Washington, D.C. It was to be at
the Vatican embassy between the relatives in Miami with Elián and Juan
Miguel, his father, and his lawyer in Washington, where the child was going to
be left with his father. And they could not deliver. The relatives changed
their mind. Some other conservative forces, but obviously more moderate than
the people of the Foundation, said, "We need to take over." And that is when
you had a group of conservative persons of the exile business world join in as
intermediaries. They came in too late, and they came in hoping that their mere
presence was going to make the federal government stop. Obviously, they
failed. The government was not going to stop that late in the game.
Did they almost come to an agreement?
It has been clearly proven afterwards, with all the information that came out,
that they were not close to an agreement at all in the last few hours. They
were convinced that the federal government, and Janet Reno particularly, had
been looking for a way out of this. They felt their presence was so important
that the federal government was going to step back. And they didn't realize
that it was too little, too late.
What about the raid?
First of all, I really believed that there was no other choice. Those people
were not going to hand over the kid. It was totally justified. And it was
carried out in a very professional manner. The press has reported that the
forces around that house and inside of that house had set up a very complex
operation that included intelligence mechanisms, so they would know when the
federales were coming. So it was a very active operation, including the
participation of Cuban radio stations here. Many of these exiles have had
military training, all kinds of training from the time they were working for
the CIA. They knew how to organize, and they had organized precisely to
prevent the federal government from acting.
Some believe that they should have been given a warrant.
I don't think they would have given them the child. As a matter of fact, the
agent did knock on the door and waited. I don't remember now if it was 15 or
20 seconds, but he waited a few seconds, and knocked again. And by that time
they had placed a sofa behind the door. Particularly where that house was
located, which was in the heart of Little Havana, as soon as the radio station
starts saying, "The federales are coming, the federales are coming," you're
going to have hundreds of Cuban exiles jumping onto that house.
They say they are not violent.
That is a total lie, and a negation of the history of Miami. I invite you to
go to the records, particularly in the early 1970s. From the moment they
started realizing that the federal government was not going to invade Cuba and
overthrow the government, they started practicing terrorism in Miami. In the
early 1970s, you are going to find that in a period of less than five years,
close to 100 bombs went off in Miami, including at the FBI office. The bombs
were placed by Cuban exiles who felt betrayed by the American government.
People who were promoting a dialogue with the Cuban government were
assassinated. If anything, the path of this segment of the exile community has
been a very violent path in Miami.
Do you feel secure today?
Well . . . I feel fine. I have taken risks all of my life. I'm probably going
to keep on doing that. I believe in what I'm doing. And I feel better today.
I feel more secure today than I felt two or three years ago. By now, our
position has become much more legitimized, much more supported. Therefore, the
more that happens, the more expensive it is for them to take actions against
me. So I feel more secure now than I felt two years ago.
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