It Ain’t Easy, Mr. Defede

I’m sure many of you have read or heard about the case of Sgt. Carlos Lazo, a combat medic with the 81st Brigade of the Washington state National Guard, a Cuban-American, that served a tour of duty in Iraq. Sgt. Lazo is lobbying congress to have the travel restrictions for Cuban-Americans lifted so that he may travel to the island to see his two sons.

It’s a heartbreaking case, really. Here we have a war hero who dutifully and proudly risked his life serving his new country, now forbidden by that very same country from seeing his family on the island.

I must admit this is a bitter pill to swallow and I am sure there are more cases where the new travel restrictions are in fact detrimental to Cuban families. As a Cuban-American, one in favor of the embargo and the travel and remittance restrictions, it’s a very delicate and troubling subject to contemplate.

As Cubans, we pride ourselves in our closeknit families. And if you have frequented this blog, you know my feelings about my family. You know the admiration and love I have for each and every one of my relatives. My family has been more than instrumental in my being who I am today. I don’t know what life is like without a father or mother or grandparents and I cant imagine what it must be like to be a father having to leave his children behind. It must be an all consuming longing and heartache.

I dont want to rehash this argument now, however, but I think I made my feelings on the subject rather clear in a post titled “No Es Facil” last year. The final paragraph of which read:

Still, I feel for my friend and wish there was something I could do. And if he decided to go, I would gladly give him a ride to the airport. I would gladly pick him up when he got back. I would gladly sit with him and listen to his account of his trip. I would share those moments when he first saw his grandmother of grandfather. I would ask about his aunts and uncles and how they live and how he was received. I would learn how it was when he had to leave. I would share his goodbyes. And I would cry with him.

Yesterday, Miami Herald columnist Jim Defede – who has made it a career to either discredit the exile community or use Cuban issues as a stepping stone since his early days as a New Times “reporter” – published an article about Sgt. Lazo’s case. Surprisingly, Defede manages to get through almost the entire editorial without the usual snide remark on the carnivorous hard line exile Miami community. Almost.

What Mr. Defede sadly omits – as well as every other reporter, journalist and editor that has covered this story – is the obvious and underlying truth.

Yes, the new travel restrictions can be hard on some Cuban families. Yes, Sgt. Lazo’s case is heartbreaking. Yes, there are quite a few Cubans in exile complaining about the travel restrictions.

Mr. Defede forgets, however, that it was the hard line exiles that got that first purgante, that first bitter taste of the separation of the Cuban family. It was these hard line exiles that first left their families behind and that for decades had no communication with them save for those emergency phone calls when a family member in Cuba had died. It was these hard line exiles that were the first to shed tears when they realized they would never see their parents again, or their children, or their siblings or grandparents.

Not to mention, of course, that many of these hard line exiles also served their new country proudly and dutifully. Many having never returned after paying the ultimate price for their freedom.

Yet the difference, Mr. Defede, the difference is that these hardliners didntr use their service to this country as a means to badmouth it. They didnt lay blame on the separation of their families on those not responsible. They knew who was to blame. They still know.

It is not the US government who is responsible for the separation of the Cuban family. It is none other than fidel castro. The US government didnt force Mr. Lazo to flee Cuba. The US government didnt force Mr. Lazo to leave his children behind.

That is just the sad and simple truth.

Lifting the travel restrictions will allow some Cuban families to see each other again. This is true. However, how about those families who lost loved ones attempting to leave the island? How about those families who have relatives in prisons? The US government didnt force those poor souls to get in a raft and attempt to cross the Gulfstream. The US government didnt put those Cubans in castro’s prisons.

Lifting the travel ban and embargo and all other restrictions is like sticking a Bandaid on a cut so you dont get blood on your clothes, while your insides are still hemorraging.

I appreciate and thank Sgt. Lazo for his service to this country. His was indeed a noble and courageous deed and one worthy of reverence. And I am disheartened by his longing to see his sons, but that is not the fault of the US government. Sgt. Lazo knows very well who the culprit is.

I wonder, Mr. Defede, why you neglect to ask one thing in your article. A simple question, and one that you, as a columnist for a major metropolitan newspaper and a self-appointed crusader for what is right and just, using the power of your words and your pulpit, could help answer:

Why is it that Sgt. Lazo’s sons cant visit their father?

29 thoughts on “It Ain’t Easy, Mr. Defede”

  1. Excellent post Val. You managed to convey every Cuban-American’s sense of compassion and heartache over not being able to see relatives in Cuba, while underscoring the real reason for the separation.

    Perhaps DeFede should get a copy of your post?

  2. It wasn’t “hardline exiles” or my Uncle Sam who threatened to take parental rights away from my loving parents in 1960, thus precipitating our exile; it wasn’t “hardline exiles” or my Uncle Sam who cut years out of our relationships and bonds with family and friends who were stuck in kagasstropark; it wasn’t “hardline exiles” or my Uncle Sam who kept us from ever again seeing my maternal uncle, his wife, and their son, who never were able to leave and now are buried – only God knows where – in Havana, in untended graves…so forgive me if I take on a “hardline exile’s” attitude when useful fools, pollyannas, the naive and not-so-naive, mercantilist mercenaries and other such flotsam and jetsam in our political landscape fail to see the forest for the trees! What part of kagasstro don’t they understand??

  3. And THAT is my disappointment with the new restrictions Val. It hits Cubans (not KaSStro, I don?t think the daughter of EL SUMO HIJO DE PUTA is longing to go back see “daddy”) in the deepest crevices of our heart.
    I TOTALLY agree – NOONE should spend a god damn nickel in Cuba, but why aren’t these soldier’s daughters given a visit Visa to come and see him? Hell, why don?t they give them residency in the USA.
    Last night I had my monthly chat with my wife?s relatives in Holguin, towards the end of the conversation my little (16) sister in law asks my wife to put me on Then she says to me ?Cu?a , estoy cansada de la vida, no hay raz?n para estar vivo en Cuba? a SIXTEEN year old girl full of life, funny , pretty intelligent is TIRED to be alive in THAT hell hole.
    My heart broke into a zillion pieces and after we hung up my wife and I just sat down on the floor and cried for what seemed hours.

    An ALTERNATIVE would?ve been nice. An intelligent KaSStro busting alternative. The same alternative I have already posted a million times. Why not? Why can?t Sgt. Carlos Lazo, a father a veteran. Why can he not sign an affidavit for his daughters to come visit him for 2 weeks and the children get a visa on the spot?
    It is SO fucking TOUGH and it does put US on this side of ?La orilla? in a terrible position, because I just can not explain with logic and cold facts what in my sister in law?s head seems like just an unjust punishment.
    ? ?Que culpa tiene ella de haber nacido en Cuba??

  4. Defede does not ask why Cubans are imprisoned in Cuba because, for years now,his agenda has been to rail against Cuban Americans. While I have no idea why, I imagine he is either paid by fidel or sometime in his past a Cuban American kicked his ass !!

  5. KC,

    I understand your point of view completely. However, just having a US visa does not mean they will be allowed to leave. They still must contend with el SUMO and his minions.

    And Lazo’s sons, being of military age, will never be allowed to leave. Never.

  6. Isn’t Sgt Lazo an American citizen?
    Doesn’t it put their sons in the fast track to become American citizens or can an exception be made for his family?
    If that were the case, then can we charge cagastro for false imprisonment and kidnapping of two American citizens just because their father is a member of the military of this country and happened to be born in Cuba?
    That’d be a great way to discredit cagastro and to rescue those two youngsters. Nothing like raising a stink with the tools and laws that are at hand.

  7. Exactly Mojo, get the old gasbag with his own same old tricks. And watch how the liberal double standard works in this case. According to precedent, set by the Elian case and some other cases not that publicized they would have to side with the liberation of the Lazo brothers. Somehow, I foresee that they will side against them, because his father is Cuban American and a war hero. This is a great oportunity to galvanize the American public opinion and to show how morally bankrupt are both cagastro and his domestic (and foreign) henchmen.

  8. This is harier (or more hairy)for we who were born in and physically, yet not emotionally, left Cuba.
    The Embargo failed as no other country embargoes Cuba (Thank Kennedy’s failure in hanging the Cubans out to dry at the Bay of Pigs and the embargo nor communism would exist in Cuba today)
    1. The US still sells to Cuba (this is one big hypocrisy)
    2. Cuba still gets what they want (see point 1)
    3. Castro needs the embargo politically
    4. The US is stuck with the embargo as it is now only an issue of principal and not giving castro the political victory.(see point 3)
    5. Cubans are the only ones hurting because of Castro (the embargo does not hurt the Cuban people economically nor the Americans in any way other than hindering in sex tourism as the Europeans do)
    6. Politicians need the embargo in order to suck in Cubans into the annual (Republican and Demon-crats alike) “Cuba will someday be free” slogan
    7. Cubans travelling to see their family is a “necessary evil”. The only ones who lose are the Cubans who will have loved ones die and never see them again. The fact is that Castro will still be in power with or without the travel restrictions. Where are the travel restrictions for the hollywood elite? For the athletes? For the so-called musical entertainers? Where is the outcry?

    As a Cuban – American I am in favor of the embargo!!! I am against the situation in Cuba!!!
    But for us to “compound” the damage of separating the families which the US is partly responsible for (see the Bay of Pigs comment)is plain wrong. We need to swallow our pride and call a wrong wrong. As for my alias I need to use it as while in my own country Cuban officials who do read this blog would harm my situation in Cuba. I want to return to a free Cuba someday, but I don’t see anyone offering a way for us to get there. We need substance not rhetoric.

  9. YES, they “HAVE” to leave Cuba. And who would put the obstacles on THAT? KASSTRO! The Elian case all over again but this time..THE SUMO HIJO DE PUTA denying a father the right to see his kids.
    That is my point EXACTLY Val, we (The USA) have let ourselves open for this “family breakage thing , when we could’ve have made the whole thing about KaSStro’s tyranny and his crminal control of the Cuban people.
    I can guarantee you that right now the propaganda machine in Kuba is hard at work at presenting Sgt. Carlos Lazo case as an ANTI-USA effort.
    Watch this land on the cover of Granma!

  10. Catching my eye: morning A through Z

    I’ve been a little out-of-touch for the last few days so this post may include links to a few things that have been around for a couple of days. Here’s what’s caught my eye this morning: I didn’t know until…

  11. wow Val! That was very well said!

    Good job!

    Sadly, my mother never saw her beloved aunt again… Till this day she sheds tears…

  12. Two things:

    – A wrong doesn’t right another wrong. My aunt came here in 1961. For decades she didn’t have any contact with her family left behind. Some, like my father, didn’t want any. I have no doubts that the whole ordeal hurt her deeply and yet, you couldn’t find a person more opposed to the new travel restrictions. Long after her whole inmediate family has either passed away or came to the US, she still visited often and brought relief to distant relatives. Family should be above politics. Comparing wounds do nothing but divide.

    – The new travel restrictions are excessive and unjust. If the whole idea was to erradicate “leisure” travel, the mulas, etc; the old restrictions were just fine, they just had to be enforced. Ah, but it’s better to once again pander to the Cuban Americans by appearing to be tough on Castro. Afterall most of those who can vote right now don’t have any family left.

    To be fair, mention than deFede also published recently an interview with Ricardo Alarcon where he asked some really hard questions, and in his commentary he made clear that Alarcon avoided answering or bullshitted.

  13. oh, and I’m no fan of DeFede. He used to drive me crazy with his yellow journalism and his anti-Cuban rethoric back at the New Times. I actually met him (he happens to be my neighbor) and told him about some of the letters I sent and he remembered a couple he wasn’t too happy about.

  14. Gansibele, if you think DeFede asked Alarcon “hard” questions, I would urge you to reread it. They were nothing but softballs. Robert at 26th Parallel had this to say about the interview on June 20:

    Basically, DeFede asked some good questions, questions that I would expect an American journalist to ask someone from the castro regime. Alarcon was put on the defensive several times, and failed to directly answer some questions.

    However, DeFede failed to put him away once he had Alarcon on the ropes. Insisting that it’s Cuba who must start to make reforms to match the rest of the free world, not wait for the U.S. to change its policy towards Cuba, would have been a start.

    DeFede could’ve also asked about all the money and goods flowing into the island, yet still pay peanuts to its workers. He also could’ve asked why tourists get preferential treatment while ordinary Cubans aren’t allowed to access the best medical facilities.

    Let’s face it: DeFede is one fidel’s useful little whores in the Miami press — no, let me take that back; I am being unfair to whores. He is a willing accomplice in the crimes committed by fidel. (There, that’s better.) He, among others, have done everything in their power to maintain the fiction of the “fairness” of fidel’s government, the evil of the US response to his actions, and of course, how terrible we (the Miami Cuban exile community a/k/a la Mafia) are.

    I would have phrased my opinion of “journalist” Jim DeFede’s “interview” a little differently, but then Robert is a much nicer guy than I am…

  15. What dam?
    Is there anything hindering castro? I am sick and tired of the rhetoric. castro needs to be dealt with. Lets face it compadres the embargo, travel restrictions,emotions, etc., will not change Cuba. We have become addicted to rhetoric and emotions. If we really wanted a change we would have one. But the problem is it will cost us something and is anyone willing to pay? Forgive my ranting, but I am sick of dreaming of a free Cuba, I want the reality of a free Cuba and todays actions won’t get us there.

  16. While I most certainly do admire Sgt. Lazo for his service to this country, I have no sympathy for a man whose personal problems have sparked criticism against the travel restrictions which were necessary because this country had given too many Cubans the special privilege of automatic political asylum, only to see many of these same people who claimed to be fleeing an oppressive government, returning as tourists to visit family members and loaded with duffel bags full of bounty to hand out. Sorry Mr. Lazo all you have done is give Castro, the warden of the prison who is holding your sons as prisoners in almost every sense of the word, a new weapon to shoot at this great country who gave you a chance at a much better life, as well as for your family. If this is not accurate, then the second greatest thing this country affords you is the right to return and live in Cuba along with your sons.
    PS> Lazo should really understand that he does his sons no favor by just returning every so often and visit.Remember once your visit is over, they must remain in a country who is poor, where milk is available for them up to age seven, where their education is limited to what the government choses, dreams of a better tomorrow end up as nightmares, higher education is directly tied in to supporting the official party, military service is mandatory at a younger age then should be accepted and if they were to somehow develop a free mind and decided to show it, they can be imprisoned. If you really want to do something for your sons, become more active in insisting the end of that illegal government, do not give them a piece of fish because they are hungry, give them a fishing pole and teach them to fish.

  17. Moneo, I don’t think any impartial observer could qualify the questions to Alarcon as “softballs”. Compare them with other interviews such as Ted Koppel’s etc – he clearly put him on the defensive and touched very sensitive subjects like the sinking of the 13 de marzo tugboat. What he couldn’t do is antagonize him, because then he’s editorializing, the interview is in jeopardy and no serious journalist does that. He has to respect the answers of the interviewed and not interject his own beliefs, because then it becomes his opinion and not Alarcon’s. As far as “willing accomplice of Fidel’s crimes” etc, you are entitled to your opinion, but very few outside the hardline Cuban community will take those statements seriously.

    Robert, I read Conductor’s exchange with DeFede. All I can tell you is that it was a civilized exchange of ideas. Conductor is a personal friend despite our differences, and he knows that my own view is pretty much as DeFede’s, except that I do support, albeit reluctantly, the embargo. It’s far from a black and white issue. I agree with conductor that DeFede could do a follow up column about his views on Cuba. But he made those clear in his reply.

  18. Gansibele, how can anyone be an “impartial observer” to the raping of Cuba for 46 years by these monsters?! Statements like this are what drives me to distraction with you dialogo folks.

    (I applaud you for supporting the embargo; I would love to know why you “reluctantly” support it.)

    As to DeFede, let me clear up one thing: he is NOT a reporter, he is a pundit! He is paid for his opinion, not for reporting news: he writes an opinion column, not straight news. When he writes about Cuba in Cuba this is how it works: if he wants to go to Cuba again and “report” or write his opinion column, then he cannot ask the tough questions of these bastards. You know why? His press credentials will be revoked by the government and he will never set foot on the island again. That is why NONE of the questions he asked can be deemed hardball questions. In a republic you can do that; in a dictatorship you cannot. Do you know about CNN and Saddam Hussein?

    You can defend DeFede all you want, but he is still one of fidel’s (most) useful idiots here in Miami.

  19. I don’t know why you feel compelled to hang the “dialoguero” label on me – one reason I support the embargo is because I believe exchange or appeasement with Castro’s regime is a fool’s game.

    “Reluctantly” because obviously it hasn’t work, if the ultimate goal was to oust Castro. Because being born and raised in Cuba I can tell you that it all it does is serve his propaganda purposes, handing him a very effective excuse to justify not making changes (both internally because believe it or not, many Cubans buy the argument, and externally). Because I believe it also serves a purpose politically here in Miami to keep some charlatans in office and on the airwaves. And because if the US government were really interested in enforcing the embargo, it would have exerted pressure in other countries to join in a long time ago – and it would have gotten it, like South Africa. But it’s too good an issue to collect votes in Miami every four years, so all they do is pay lip service to it.

    DeFede may be a columnist, but he was still conducting an interview. I’m not sure what the value would have been in him getting into a fight with Alarcon – it is very possible he would not have been able to return to Cuba like you say, and then what you get? another journalist who can’t go and report. I’m more interested in his asking “softball” questions and showing how Alarcon obfuscates – maybe the non-Cubans who read his column learn a thing or two.

  20. Guys I heard on the radio today that Lazo went to Lincoln Diaz Balart’s office to complain about the travel restrictions and Diaz Balart’s aide asked him if he wanted to start the paperwork to have his kids come to visit him here and he said no. I smell a rat. Perhaps Diaz-Balart concocted the story but I doubt it. It would be easy to refute with visitor’s logs and such at the congressional offices. I think Lazo simply has a different opinion about the travel restrictions and injected his family situation into it. Kind of like Al Gore talking about his mother buying cheaper medicines for her dog than for herself.

  21. I have a posting about these developments at But I want to back up what I posted by saying the Lincoln Diaz Balart himself was the one who made the allegation on the radio. It wasn’t a host or commentator. It was a U.S. Representative. I have added the following to my post at CAP.

    Lincoln Diaz Balart told the story about Lazo rejecting the idea of petitioning for his sons to come to visit him to Ninoska Perez-Castellon on 710 AM (Radio Mambi) at approximately 3:15 this afternoon. Balart said that he was not in the office when Sgt. Lazo came to discuss his situation vis-a-vis the travel restrictions but that an aide offered the alternative of the boys coming to the US for a visit. The implication is of course that he’s more interested in making a political statement than seeing his boys. I leave that judgement to the reader. I can only confirm what Diaz-Balart said because I personally heard it.

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