September 5, 2007

The Miami Herald

Cuban girl's mom: Dad knew she had problems

The mother of the Cuban girl in the midst of a custody dispute made another startling claim in court that may support the state's case against the girl's father.

By Carol Marbin Miller and Tere Figueras Negrete, September 5, 2007.

The mother of the little girl in the center of an international custody dispute repeated claims Tuesday that she lied in court last week to help her daughter's father return to Cuba with the child.

Among her lies, Elena Perez said: telling the court that the girl's father, Rafael Izquierdo, was unaware that Perez had mental health issues when he allowed her to leave Cuba with the girl two years ago.

''Rafael knew I had problems in Cuba,'' she said. "He was aware of the problems and even so, he authorized the exit.''

Perez, who wants the girl to return to Cuba with Izquierdo, had previously maintained he was unaware she was troubled before she left with the girl.

Perez's assertion is key to the case being made by state child-welfare attorneys, who want the girl to remain with her foster parents in Coral Gables. The state lawyers claim Izquierdo is unfit to raise the girl, in part, because he knew Perez was mentally unstable but didn't stop her from leaving Cuba with the child.

The testimony marked the latest reversal of Perez's testimony, which has whipsawed since the trial began in Miami-Dade Circuit Court last week.

Her accounts have veered from recriminations to absolutions when recounting her relationship with lawyers for Izquierdo. She maintains that one of his attorneys, Magda Montiel Davis, told her to lie about her correspondence with Izquierdo to show he kept up an interest in his child's new life in the United States.

''Now they are attacking me to make it look like I am the one who is confused,'' said Perez, pointing at the table where Davis sat with other attorneys, "when the root of the lie comes from over there.''


Davis vehemently denies fabricating evidence or urging Perez to lie. Izquierdo's legal team, including Davis' husband, Ira Kurzban, has called into question Perez's mental state and credibility.

''I think the problem with Elena is obvious,'' Kurzban said after the session ended. "From our point of view it's self-evident that she's a very troubled person.''

But Alan Mishael, a lawyer for the foster family, said Perez's revised testimony has credibility, because what she is saying goes against her own stated desire that the girl return to Cuba with her father -- the only thing on which Perez has never wavered.

''If she truly wants the child to go back to Cuba with the father, she has no motivation to lie,'' Mishael said after the court session was over.

Steve Weinger, another attorney for Izquierdo, spent several hours Tuesday peppering Perez with questions about the details of alleged meetings with Davis, her motivation for changing her story several times -- and about her sometimes tense relations with Cuban exiles in Miami because of the case.

Perez has said in court that she grew disillusioned after arriving in Miami from Cuba and wants her daughter to return to her birthplace, the central Cuban town of Cabaiguán, with the girl's father.

The girl has been in the care of a Coral Gables couple, former sports agent Joe Cubas and his wife, Maria, since shortly after Perez tried to commit suicide and was declared an unfit mother.

The state Department of Children & Families wants the girl, whose name is being withheld by The Miami Herald to protect her privacy, to stay with the Cubas family.

The department maintains Izquierdo is unfit to raise his daughter because, among other things, he took little interest in the girl's welfare.

Izquierdo's lawyers say he kept a keen interest in the girl's health and well-being, and had given Perez fish, milk and other supplies when Perez lived in Cuba. Izquierdo, they contend, was involved in the girl's life until the toddler left Cuba with her mother and older brother.

Among the evidence they point to are letters Izquierdo supposedly sent to Perez inquiring about the girl, and photos Perez sent to relatives in Cabaiguán showing the trio as thriving in the United States.

Last week, Perez said the letters were fabricated and that photos purportedly sent to Cuba were never mailed.

She said she lied in order to help her husband's case, but decided to come clean after conversations with her lawyer.

'My attorney asked me, 'Have they ever explained what you are doing, lying, in this country is called perjury?' '' Perez said.

Weinger challenged Perez on the details of her meeting with Izquierdo's legal team, noting she has changed her account several times since first lobbing accusations Thursday.

For example, Perez conceded that photos she first believed were stolen by Davis were actually left behind by Perez herself, atop a computer during a family dinner at the Kurzban-Davis house.


As it had many times during the past week, the specter of U.S.-Cuba relations loomed large over the hearing. Weinger questioned Perez about whether she felt swayed or pressured by the the politics of Cuban exiles.

She said she quit her job at La Carreta restaurant at Miami International Airport because of friction with co-workers who disliked her position that her daughter should return to Cuba.

Perez's Cuban-born landlord refused to allow Davis onto her property to pick up Perez, citing Davis' political ideology.

Davis has been reviled by many exiles since she was filmed in 1994 kissing Cuban leader Fidel Castro on the cheek and calling him maestro during a trip to the island.

Weinger asked Perez if her Cuban-born benefactors who helped her buy groceries and pay her rent while living in the United States despised Castro and were scornful of Cubans who remain on the island.

''I did not come to this trial to talk about Castro,'' Perez responded. "Do I have to answer?''

''Yes, you do need to answer his questions,'' Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jeri B. Cohen said.

''Every person's opinion is personal,'' Perez said. "The only ones I can talk about are mine.''

Mom says she sent pictures to Cuba after all

By Carol Marbin Miller and Tere Figueras Negrete, Posted on Wed, Sep. 05, 2007

Testimony in the international custody trial involving a 4-year-old Cuban girl shifted this morning from a discussion over when the girl's mother, Elena Perez, has lied to an examination of why.

On the witness stand for the fourth day, Perez again acknowledged that she had lied numerous times in her testimony over the fitness of her one-time lover, Rafael Izquierdo, to raise the little girl at the center of the dispute. State child welfare lawyers claim Izquierdo is an unfit parent, and should lose his right to raise his daughter.

The state Department of Children & Families wants the girl to remain with Joe and Maria Cubas, a Cuban American family in Coral Gables that has been raising the girl the past 18 months.

Lawyers for Izquierdo are trying to show Perez has a motive for saying Izquierdo and his legal team fabricated evidence and falsified testimony -- claims Perez made last week that sent the already tense trial into chaos. Perez's accusations have been leveled mostly at lawyer Magda Montiel Davis.

''You were jealous of Magda because, unlike you, she had a husband, children, grandchildren and a house to live in, correct?'' lawyer Steve Weinger asked during cross-examination, referring to a visit Perez made to the home Davis shares with her husband, Ira Kurzban, another lawyer for Izquierdo.

''Never. No, never,'' Perez replied.

''You resented Magda Davis because you felt she could have helped you before?'' asked Weinger, noting that Davis had given Perez help with rent and food.

''She could have done it last year,'' Perez answered. ''I fought tirelessly, struggled tirelessly to keep, not only my daughter, but both of them,'' she said, referring to both the 4-year-old and the girl's older half brother, who has since been adopted by the Coral Gables foster family seeking to raise both siblings.

''You blame Magda Montiel for losing your children, correct?'' Weinger asked.

''I blame everybody,'' Perez replied.

''You lied to be spiteful sometimes, correct?'' Weinger asked.

''I lie out of necessity,'' Perez said, a moment later. "I don't lie out of spite. I lie out of necessity. Just to help the father of my daughter. There is no spite. There is hurt.''

An attorney for the Guardian-ad-Litem Program began to quiz Perez on the provenance of a series of photos that Perez said she sent to Izquierdo -- and then said she didn't send. Tuesday, once again, Perez said she did send some of the photos to Izquierdo in Cuba.

Following a brief recess, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jeri B. Cohen announced that social workers had found an apartment at a supported-living community for Perez, who had been living for several days with Davis's secretary after finding herself nearly homeless.

During her lengthy testimony Tuesday, Perez mentioned that she was living with one of Davis' secretaries.

Perez's living arrangement prompted concern from attorneys for DCF and the Guardian-ad-Litem program, who said they were unaware Perez was staying with an employee of the opposing counsel.

Perez had been staying with Davis' secretary since Friday, the same day Cohen said she was concerned about Perez's apparently shaky mental state, and asked if she felt she could make it through the long holiday weekend without harming herself.

The judge was not aware that Perez, who has been living in a rented efficiency, had been staying with Davis' secretary.

Perez's attorney told Cohen that she was out of town over the long weekend and did not know where her client was staying -- prompting accusations by one of Izquierdo's attorneys that she was lying.

''She's not being honest,'' said Steven Weinger.

Cohen said the arrangement was ill-advised.

"It's bad judgment. There's an appearance of impropriety.''

Kurzban, another of Izquierdo's attorneys and Davis' husband, said they helped out Perez "for humanitarian reasons.''

He also said the couple have helped pay for Perez's rent in the past, but that arrangement ended before the trial began last week.

Fidel warns of coming global recession

Posted on Tue, Sep. 04, 2007.

HAVANA -- (AP) -- Fidel Castro warned on Tuesday that the world could be headed for a crisis reminiscent of the Great Depression and accused the United States of exploiting natural resources and countries around the globe.

''The picture is increasingly uncertain as we face the fear of a prolonged recession like that of the 1930s,'' the 81-year-old leader wrote in an essay published in state newspapers.

Castro said Washington's coffers were depleted during the Vietnam War and that "since then the United States economy is sustained by natural resources and the savings of the rest of the world.''

He also lashed out at people he called ''super-revolutionaries,'' apparently referring to foreign Marxists who have recently suggested Cuba needs some political and economic reforms and criticized its increasing reliance on tourism revenue.

He accused them of being swayed by ''neo-liberal'' free-market ideology and suggested that communist Cuba buy into "pure poison.''

Castro has not been seen in public for more than 13 months after undergoing emergency intestinal surgeries and ceding power to his younger brother Raul. During the last six months of his prolonged convalescence he has written a series of essays on international issues.

Ché Guevara's relics go up for auction

By Luisa Yanez. Posted on Mon, Sep. 03, 2007

The Miami exile who led the mission to capture Ernesto Ché Guevara in the jungles of Bolivia is auctioning a treasure trove of memorabilia from the iconic figure's last days.

Among the items for sale: A lock of Ché's long, wavy hair snipped minutes before the rebel leader was buried in a common grave 40 years ago.

''It's time for me to put the past behind and pass these on to someone else,'' said Gustavo Villoldo, 71, a now-retired grandfather, who led the joint CIA-Bolivian army mission to stop Ché's aspirations to duplicate a Cuban-style revolution.

Villoldo has preserved a large scrapbook of his controversial assignment, but one he is proud of.

Villoldo, a Bay of Pigs veteran whose role in Ché's demise is confirmed in unclassified secret documents, considers Ché a cold-blooded killer partly responsible for his father's shattered life and suicide in the wake of the Cuban Revolution which brought Fidel Castro and Ché, his right-hand man, to power.

Villoldo has joined forces with Heritage Auctions of Dallas, the world's largest collectibles auctioner, to stage a first of its kind, international sale of his Ché scrapbook on Oct. 25 and 26. The items can be viewed at

They hope to attract bids in excess of six figures.

Besides the thick strand of Ché's sunburned hair, the auction winner inherits:

o The original map used by Villoldo and the Bolivian army to hunt down Ché and his band of rebels, including the famed Tania. All had come to Bolivia to spark another Cuban-style revolution.

o Telegrams Villoldo received from then-Bolivian President Rene Barrientos about the progress of the mission.

o Photographs of a dead, shirtless Ché on display in a laundry room sink in Bolivia. Prints and copyrights are included.

o Intercepted messages between Ché and his rebels, which eventually led to their deaths after gun battles with the Bolivian army.

o And one of two sets of Ché's fingerprints taken before burial. Villoldo kept one; Cuba has the other. Ché's hands were eventually severed to prevent Cuba from identifying him easily.

Tom Slater, director of the Americana Department for Heritage, expects the bidding -- which can be done online through and also in person, by phone, fax or by mail -- to be lively for the one-of-a-kind scrapbook.


Slater says it's hard to predict how much the scrapbook will net -- there's nothing comparable on the market. But Slater said the items have great historic value and Ché's bearded and bereted mug is among the most recognizable on the planet.

''We cannot recall ever having seen artifacts relating to Ché's dramatic career and death appearing on the auction market, and we expect this offering to excite broad bidder interest,'' he said.

Recent auctions at Heritage, for example, a sword once presented to Ulysses S. Grant, fetched $1.6 million.

But Grant is no iconic sweetheart -- and that is encouraging to Slater.

''On any given day in the world, I estimate 20 million people are wearing a Ché Guevara T-shirt,'' Slater said. "He is one of the most iconic personalities of the 20th century, whose swashbuckling revolutionary persona has remained an enduring presence in popular culture.''

Whatever the winning bid is, the auction house will keep between 15 to 19 percent of the proceeds. Villoldo gets the rest for his slice of history .

The old-fashioned scrapbook is being sold in its entirety, not piecemeal. Slater thinks the bidders attracted will be multifaceted.

''Some will come for the historical value of the items; others may simply collect the hair of famous people,'' he said.

Paula Belanger, who appraises collectibles at Showcase Antique Center in Sturbridge, Mass., said the Ché sale sounds "very interesting.''

''Without looking at it, I would say some people may be gaga over the lock of hair, but the more historical items, like the map and the fingerprints, may generate some interest, too,'' she said.

International interest may have already been sparked. Back in March, Villoldo caused a stir when he revealed to The Miami Herald that he had secretly kept the lock of hair -- and thus Ché's DNA -- all these years.

He had hoped the hair would help debunk Cuba's claim that the remains of the island's 1959 revolution hero had been unearthed and flown back to Cuba in 1997, where they now rest in Ché's popular museum in Santa Clara.

Last month, Cuban officials said they have again certified that the right man rests inside the right tomb.

Granma, the island's official government newspaper, said several features of the remains of Guevara ''left no room for doubt'' they were authentic, including the pronounced bridge over the eyes and brow and prominent frontal lobe of the skull that ''characterized'' Guevara, the article said.

The article did not say whether any new DNA tests had been performed. Villoldo had offered to give a strand from his clump of hair to compare with the DNA from the remains in Cuba. He wanted Ché's children to know where their father was buried. Neither Cuban nor Bolivian government authorities have contacted him.

In the meantime, Villoldo has received offers for the scrapbook and decided to sell it.

He also attracted the attention of the BBC, the British news service, which is currently filming a documentary about Villoldo's role in the capture of Ché.


The end for Ché -- and the birth of his mythology -- came days after his capture by Bolivian soldiers and execution the following day, on Oct. 9, 1967, in a schoolhouse in La Higuera, a small village.

Ché's body was then flown to headquarters in Vallegrande, where Villoldo, the only U.S. advisor on site, along with other high-ranking Bolivian military personnel, had to decide what to do next.

By then, news of Ché's death had spread across the globe.

Scores of international photographers flew to Bolivia to snap proof that Ché was dead. His body was put on display in a laundry room in a hospital in Vallegrande.

Disposing of Ché's body, and keeping Cuba from recovering it and turning Ché into a martyr, became Villoldo's problem.

Quickly, a plan was hatched with Bolivian officials to secretly bury Ché and two of his men in an nearby airstrip under construction. It would be done in the middle of the night, while reporters slept. In the wee hours of Oct. 11, 1967, Villoldo and three Bolivians carried out the burial with the help of a pickup truck and a front-end loader.

It took Cuba another 30 years to find and claim it had found Ché's body. But there was a problem. Cuba said it had found six men buried in the same grave along with Ché, which made Villoldo suspicious.

''We buried three men that night and four more ended up in the same grave? That's hard to believe,'' said Villoldo, who continues to have his doubts.

No matter, Villoldo is moving on with his life.

He's just keeping one thing about Ché's death to himself: the coordinates of where Ché and his comrades were buried.

Rumors of Castro's death persist, except in Cuba

While rumors about Fidel Castro's death have flooded South Florida, Havana remains quiet.

Miami Herald Staff Report. Posted on Sat, Sep. 01, 2007.

HAVANA -- While South Florida has been flooded by rumors of Fidel Castro's death in recent weeks, Havana appears much calmer, with Cubans saying they've only heard word of the speculation in Miami.

''I heard rumors about the rumors,'' said Rita, a financial analyst at a government meatpacking plant.

Cubans say there's not even enough information on Castro's health to fuel interesting speculation on this island, where his condition has been declared a ''state secret'' and the government-controlled mass media seldom makes mention of the issue.

Everyone is in the dark about Castro's real condition, said Juan, an 80-year-old retiree, before adding his own bit of speculation.

''Some people say he's already been cremated, and others say they have him preserved in wax somewhere, but nobody really knows anything,'' he said.

In the colonial-era Old Havana neighborhood, 32-year-old Jorge said there's been some speculation since Castro underwent emergency surgery for intestinal bleeding 13 months ago, but added that such talk is useless.

"He could be alive or he could be dead, but nobody knows and I really don't know how much difference it would make, because Fidel has raised us with one system. It's all we know, and even if he's gone the system remains.''

A taxi driver named Jaime said rumors about Castro's death have not been sweeping the island as they have South Florida for the past three weeks. When the rumors were sweeping Miami last Friday, he added, Havana was normal.

He complained that most of the public reports on Castro's health seem to come from Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, a close Castro ally who often visits Havana.

The name of the Miami Herald correspondent who wrote this dispatch was withheld because the reporter lacked Cuban government permission to work on the island.

Doubts cast on report of Raul Castro Italy trip

A newspaper claimed that Cuban leader Raúl Castro landed in a helicopter on a golf course in Italy.

By Frances Robles, Posted on Sat, Sep. 01, 2007

An Italian golf resort executive has reportedly confirmed that interim Cuban leader Raúl Castro visited his links last month. But a Cuban official said he highly doubted the report.

Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper started the story when it reported Thursday morning that Castro landed at the Argentario Golf Resort on Italy's central coast in the first week of August by helicopter, accompanied by four bodyguards.

He flew over the course, lingering over at least 10 holes.

''Later, the copter landed at the 11th hole, on a hill overlooking Lake Orbetello,'' the paper said, citing no sources for its report.

"The lightning visit lasted only one hour.''

The newspaper said the visit came during a trip to Italy to visit some of his grandchildren. Castro's daughter, Mariela, is married to an Italian photographer.

Corriere della Sera reported that Castro makes annual secret visits to Italy.

The golf resort is the property of entrepreneur Giuseppe Orsini, a European seniors golf champion.

Italy's ANSA news agency reported later Thursday that his son, Augusto, had confirmed the newspaper report.

A receptionist at the resort told The Miami Herald on Friday that she had no knowledge of a Castro visit, and a news report out of Havana quoted one Cuban official as saying he ''highly doubted'' the reported visit.

The Corriere della Sera report included quotes from Castro, but it was unclear how they were obtained.

' 'This is a charming place,' Raúl Castro exclaimed. And turning to the owners, he spoke in praise: 'You have done wonders. This is astounding. The greens have been designed in an extraordinary manner.' ''

Castro's visit, if true, would be highly unusual, in part because his brother Fidel Castro has been convalescing since he underwent emergency surgery for intestinal bleeding last year.

Fidel Castro ceded power to his younger brother on July 31, 2006, and has not been seen in public since, and the most-recent images of him were released in June.

For the past three Fridays, gossip swept South Florida claiming that Fidel Castro was finally dead. But he has continued to write columns for Cuban newspapers.

There were many doubters of the report about Raúl Castro.

''This story is absurd,'' said Max Lesnik, a Miami anti-embargo activist with close ties to Havana. "It seems to me to be a fantasy.''

Raúl Castro, he added, "can travel, but does it seem logical that a person . . . who is in charge of a nation would go on vacation to play golf -- never mind that his brother is sick in the hospital. Raúl Castro has never played golf in his life.''

Lesnik stressed that Mariela and her husband live in Havana, so there would be no reason for the grandchildren to be living in Italy.

Miami Herald staff writer Patricia Mazzei and translator Renato Pérez contributed to this report.

Fidel not in danger as he convalesces: minister

HAVANA, 1 (AFP) - There is no reason to believe that Cuban President Fidel Castro's life is in danger as he convalesces, Culture Minister Abel Prieto said late Friday.

The statement came amid a wave of rumors, especially among the Cuban-American community in Florida, that Cuba's long-time communist leader, who has not been seen in public since undergoing surgery over a year ago, is either dead or on his deathbed.

"I have no element that leads me to believe that the life of Fidel is in danger," Prieto told reporters during the presentation of a book on Castro's speeches on the environment.

Prieto said that he did not have direct news about Castro's health, but pointed to a series of newspaper opinion articles signed by the Cuban leader to say that he is is "very active intellectually."

Castro, who turned 81 on August 13 with little fanfare in Cuba, underwent intestinal surgery in July 2006 and handed power over temporarily to his younger brother Raul, 76.

He has not been seen in public since before the operation, though he has appeared in photographs and eight videos, the last of which aired on June 5.

Forty-one opinion articles attributed to Castro have also appeared in the government-run newspapers, the most recent on August 26.

"As far as I know Fidel is working, is writing, is publishing articles that I believe are not from a person that is in a state of delicate health," Prieto said.

"Evidently Fidel is very active intellectually and I, although I do not have direct news about how he feels, believe that undoubtedly he is a person that is engaged in intellectual activity and leaving material of great value," Prieto said.

Speculation on Castro's health has gone through cycles since he handed power over to Raul, the commander of the Cuban armed forces.

Rumors intensified when Castro's birthday went by with no photographs or even a visit by his friend the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, as happened in 2006.

Cuban officials say that they treat news on Castro's health as a state secret.

Girl's custody battle continues in Miami

By Laura Wides-Munoz, Associated Press Writer.

MIAMI - A custody hearing over a 4-year-old Cuban girl in the U.S. focused Friday on whether letters purportedly written to her by her father from the communist country had been faked.

A relative of the girl took the stand and denied claims made Thursday by the child's mother, Elena Perez, that Perez had agreed on one occasion with the father's attorneys to fake loving letters to the child in Texas.

The girl, her half brother and their mother legally entered the U.S. in 2005, but Perez gave up custody after she attempted suicide. The girl's father, Cuban farmer Rafael Izquierdo, wants her back, but state officials favor adoption by her foster parents, a Miami former sports agent and his wife.

The letters are important because state officials claim that Izquierdo abandoned the girl after she immigrated to the U.S. in 2005. Perez testified Wednesday that Izquierdo had sent her the letters, but on Thursday she reversed herself, saying that she hadn't seen the letters until last month and that Izquierdo's legal team had come up with the idea of fabricating them.

Perez's cousin, Noelia Leal, testified Friday that she sat in on Perez's entire meeting with attorneys and never heard of such a plot.

"Did (Perez) ever tell you that she and the father's attorneys would try and use letters not sent to Texas to try and get the children back?" Judge Jerri B. Cohen asked.

"No, never," Leal said.

"She said she always communicated with her family and sent letters and that her daughter's father would always stay in touch with her and she would send him birthday photos," Leal told the judge.

On Friday, under further cross-examination, Perez accused attorneys for Izquierdo of taking some of her photos of the girl and telling her they would make it seem that she had sent them to the father. Izquierdo is being represented by prominent Miami immigration attorney Ira Kurzban, who has angrily denied that his office was involved in any fabrication.

Perez, who says she wants Izquierdo to get custody of her daughter, told the judge she wanted to clear the air in part because she was afraid of being charged with perjury and in part because she wanted the judge to believe her about other aspects of the case.

Kurzban says Izquierdo agreed to let his daughter seek a better life in the U.S. but had no way of knowing she would have to give her up.

Although the facts are different, the case is drawing comparisons to the custody dispute eight years ago over Elian Gonzalez, who was eventually reunited with his father in Cuba.

Perez and the girl, whose name both sides have agreed to keep confidential, have clearly had troubled lives. The half brother said the mother beat him and the girl. Perez testified that her father and an ex-husband beat her and that she was abandoned by another husband after arriving in the U.S. She has changed her testimony on several occasions.

Earlier, Perez testified that the girl always appeared happy when her father's name was mentioned and that she sent photos to Cuba so he could see her.

Throughout her testimony, Cohen asked Perez whether she was helping Izquierdo so she could in fact regain custody of her daughter. Perez repeatedly denied that was her motivation.

"As the whole world knows," she said, tearfully, "I want her to be with her father. Her mother is dead in life."

The girl's foster parents, Jose and Maria Cubas, have already adopted her half brother.

Lawyer who kissed Castro back in the spotlight again

Magda Montiel Davis, criticized for kissing Fidel Castro at a 1994 conference in Havana, is once again plunged into controversy with accusations she fabricated evidence in a child custody battle.

By Casey Woods, Posted on Sat, Sep. 01, 2007

Magda Montiel Davis' current controversy comes as she is finishing a lengthy examination of her last.

The mother of five is now editing a 1,500-page manuscript for a book she calls The Kiss -- about her affectionate encounter with Fidel Castro, then communist Cuba's leader, a smooch that made her an outcast among many Cuban exiles.

''In the book I call it the "The Kiss'' with a capital ''T'' and a capital ''K,'' said Davis, 54, of the book to be titled The Kiss.

"It's about the events, the effects on my family, on my work and how I grew from it.''

The only thing stopping her from finishing the book, Davis said, is the bitter custody case that put her back into the headlines. Friday's chaotic hearing brought new accusations that Davis concocted evidence to help a Cuban father obtain custody of his 4-year-old daughter, who is currently living with foster parents in Coral Gables. The birth father wants to get the child back and then to return to Cuba.

Davis, a veteran immigration lawyer, denies fabricating evidence, saying she would not risk her Florida Bar card for anyone.

During court breaks, she has faced cameras -- and accusations -- with the same headstrong stance that carried her through the threats and taunts that followed her meeting with Castro.

In 1994, she attended an emigration conference in Havana, where government cameras recorded Davis kissing Castro on the cheek and calling him -- in Spanish -- her "great teacher.''

The tape went all over television, stunning scores of people who wondered how she could call Castro -- who has been accused by human rights groups of jailing journalists, beating up dissidents and denying democratic elections -- a great teacher.

''My reading materials became bomb manuals, my visitors were agents from the FBI,'' Davis said of the two years after the encounter.

The family even had a bodyguard with a Rottweiler named Ringo.

Alfredo Duran, a lawyer and Bay of Pigs veteran who supports dialogue with the Cuban government, called Davis a top immigration attorney who was sometimes too outspoken for her own good: ''I have a great deal of respect for her. Unfortunately she paid a very high price for doing what she believed.'' On Radio Mambi-710 AM radio Friday afternoon, Davis was not the main event. The focus was mostly on a women's health fair and on the South Florida congressional delegation's visit to Eastern European countries to lobby for a hard line against Cuba.

Radio host Ninoska Pérez Castellón told listeners that the community already knows Davis' feelings toward exiles and her disdain for their struggles and suffering.

Still, on her popular Spanish-language radio show, some callers blasted Davis, calling her a liar. One man gave out her office phone number on air. Castellón urged listeners to call the Florida Bar Association and demand an investigation.

Nonetheless, the current case's reaction does not approach the fury of the past, highlighting to many the differences between this custody battle and the one for Elián Gonzalez, as well as a maturing of attitudes in South Florida.

Davis said she has subsequently attended other conferences in Cuba, but generally focused on building her law practice and writing her book. This case put her and her husband, attorney Ira Kurzban, before the cameras again.

''I think its terrific that after the Elián saga that she would take on a case like this,'' said DePaul University professor Felix Masud-Piloto, who attended the conference where Davis kissed Castro. "It again shows the kind of political backbone she has.''

Davis says she's happy with the way things turned out, despite the current accusations.

''I think I've had enough controversy for a lifetime,'' she said.


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