[Marxism] If Castro Had a Talk Show, It Might Sound a Bit Like This (NYT)

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Thu Dec 7 08:19:23 MST 2006

As it says here, Francisco loves to talk, and I love to
hear him talk because he is one of the most heroic,
intelligent, and fast-thinking people I have ever had the
pleasure to know. He possesses extensive knowledge shaped
by common sense. He's always learning along with teaching.
The world is a better place because of Francisco Aruca. I'm
glad The New York Times has taken notice even if the
article is sometimes obnoxious (believe me, Francisco is
not doing anything for money!).

Jane Franklin

December 7, 2006


If Castro Had a Talk Show, It Might Sound a Bit Like This

MIAMI, Dec. 6 — At the far right end of the AM radio dial, a
broadcast from a parallel universe emerges from the static:

Come-hither advertisements from Cuba’s state travel agency. Reportage
from last weekend’s Fidel Castro birthday parade in Havana, complete
with an admiring assessment of Soviet-era tanks. Excerpts from
speeches by whichever Castro brother is running the country.

It is not a signal-jamming effort beamed from the Cuban coast like
some kind of reverse Radio Martí. It is not, compadre, a joke of any

It is Francisco Aruca, onetime Cuban political prisoner turned Castro
admirer, speaking out from a little radio station on the industrial
north side of Miami or, more often these days, from the comfort of
his home office in the lush suburb of Pinecrest.

For 15 years, Mr. Aruca, founder of the first American company to run
charter flights to Cuba, has doubled as on-air apologist for a man
whom the vast majority of Cuban-Americans in Miami consider a
despicable and murderous dictator.

In doing so, Mr. Aruca speaks to — and for — a tiny community of
committed Cuban-American leftists who have endured years of public
scorn, threats and, in the not-too-distant past, violence.

“I listen every day; it’s the only way you can keep fairly informed
in the Banana Republic of Miami,” said Eddie Levy, chairman of the
Cuban American Defense League, a civil rights group. “I consider him
a hero. We come and go, but Aruca’s there every day.”

Mr. Aruca’s legions of critics dismiss his show, “Ayer en Miami
(Yesterday in Miami),” as a glorified infomercial for his business,
Marazul Tours, which depends on good relations with the Cuban
government and would benefit handsomely from the lifting of travel
restrictions to Cuba, one of Mr. Aruca’s many causes. Mr. Aruca buys
his time slot, an hour every weekday morning, on the station, WOCN-AM

Whatever its means of support, the very persistence of the show has
made it into something of an institution, however widely ridiculed.
While it is anyone’s guess how many of Miami-Dade County’s 700,000
Cubans actually listen to the program, Mr. Aruca remains a perennial
target on mainstream Spanish-language radio, the dominant medium of
Cuban-American political discourse here. A popular song these days
has a character impersonating Mr. Castro and discarding his customary
fatigues in favor of “the Adidas outfit that Aruca bought me at
Dolphin Mall,” where much of Miami shops.

During the call-in segment of Mr. Aruca’s show on Monday, all four
phone lines were constantly busy. On the other end were at least as
many foes as fans, which is how Mr. Aruca, 66, says he likes it.

“I really believe that what I’m doing is useful for the Cubans in
Cuba, for the Cuban-American community in Miami, that it is useful in
the U.S., which has wrong relations with Cuba,” said Mr. Aruca, a
cheerful, box-shaped man with a face like a friendly bulldog. “And
given the mediocrity and lack of freedom of expression and diversity
that is in Miami, I have found that doing something I’ve always
enjoyed, which is talking, I can be useful.”

Mr. Aruca, born 60 miles west of Havana, was a student at a Jesuit
school when Mr. Castro took power in 1959, and he became part of the
counterrevolution soon after. He said he organized student strikes
against the government’s crackdown on free speech and was promptly
arrested and sentenced to 30 years in jail. He escaped a few weeks

Mr. Aruca rethought his politics after he made his way to Georgetown
University, where he earned degrees in economics. “I was in
Washington during the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement, and
came to realize that anti-Communism was not enough reason to go to
war,” he said. He now identifies himself as a “Christian socialist,
not a Marxist,” though he said he considered Mr. Castro a “political

Mr. Aruca started Marazul Tours in 1979, soon after the American
government began allowing family visits to Cuba. When he opened an
office in Miami in 1986, he said, his windows were routinely smashed.
His office was later firebombed, and a Human Rights Watch report on
right-wing intimidation in South Florida singled out Mr. Aruca as a
leading victim.

Joe Garcia, the former executive director of the Cuban American
National Foundation, the leading voice of the Cuban exile community,
said Mr. Aruca was first and foremost “a man who does business with a
loathsome regime.” As for his on-air opinions, Mr. Garcia said, “He
calls things as he says he sees it and as he benefits from seeing

Mr. Aruca’s company and a few other tour operators are his show’s
only sponsors other than the Cuban travel agency. He said most
businesses dared not advertise with him for fear of boycotts.

One segment on Monday was a report that Mr. Aruca recorded after
birthday parade in Havana, which the ailing honoree did not attend.
“Somebody sitting next to me said that the Cuban infantry is not
supposed to be able to march,” Mr. Aruca says on the tape. “Looks to
me like they’re marching pretty well.”

After playing (and praising) an excerpt from a speech at the parade
by Mr. Castro’s brother, Raúl, inviting the United States to begin
diplomatic discussions, Mr. Aruca opened the phones.

“Did Fidel give you sneakers, the sneakers he used there?” a man

“If you’re going to joke around, go to other shows,” Mr. Aruca said,
hanging up on the caller. “Besides, Fidel doesn’t know my shoe size.”

Terry Aguayo contributed reporting.


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