Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Miami Herald, February 15, 1985, Editorial: "Arocena and Terror."

Often, looking back provides an indication of how much -- or how little -- progress has been made. The conviction of Omega 7 terrorist Eduardo Arocena in Federal court in Miami provides an excellent opportunity for Dade Countians to look back.

A decade ago, this community was fearful even to denounce terrorism. A few anonymous thugs wrapped themselves in the Cuban flag and threatened to bomb and kill anyone who dared question whether their actions benefited the cause that they purported to espouse.

Radio commentator Emilio Milian had his legs blown off by a bomb beneath his car. He had incurred the terrorists' wrath by criticizing their indiscriminate violence in South Florida. Months earlier, anti-Castro leader Jose Elias de la Torriente had been shot in the back. The list goes on and on.

Terrorism continued as a way of life in this community until the early 1980s. A Little Havana businessman offered a cigar to Cuba's Fidel Castro. His cigar factory was fire-bombed repeatedly. A local magazine publisher was bombed because of ideas allegedly contrary to the cause of a free Cuba. Terrorists even bombed Miami's Mexican and Venezuelan consulates in reprisal for those governments' policies.

In the last couple of years, ever since Arocena's arrest, local terrorism has abated. This is not to infer that either Arocena or Omega 7 were responsible for the terrorism of a decade ago or for all anti-Castro terrorist activities in the United States since. Arocena has been convicted twice -- recently in New York, and now in Miami -- but only of specific other terrorist acts.

Arocena's conviction is a watershed for this community. In spite of threats against the judge and jury, Arocena was tried and convicted locally. His jury included three Hispanics. Both of his trials elicited media interest but surprisingly little community sympathy for him. All are clear signs that progress indeed has been made.

Arocena's dual convictions signal clearly that terrorism, even when committed by those who assert a just cause, will not be tolerated in this nation. Much credit is due Federal law- enforcement officials who took on the arduous task of infiltrating a close-knit organization to obtain the necessary evidence to convict Arocena. Credit also goes to the Cuban- Americans and community leaders in general who took it upon themselves to convince Federal officials that terrorism in this community was unacceptable. This community will profit from their efforts.

Copyright (c) 1985 The Miami Herald