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
By Carol Marbin Miller and
Tere Figueras Negrete, cmarbin@MiamiHerald.com.
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
''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
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
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
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
By Carol Marbin Miller and
Tere Figueras Negrete, cmarbin@MiamiHerald.com.
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?''
''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
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
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
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
Cohen said the arrangement was ill-advised.
"It's bad judgment. There's an appearance
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,
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
''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
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
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
Ché Guevara's relics go up for
By Luisa Yanez. lyanez@MiamiHerald.com.
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
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 www.ha.com.
They hope to attract bids in excess of
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
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 www.ha.com 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
''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
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
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.
LAST DAY OF LIFE
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
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
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
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
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,''
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
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
A newspaper claimed that
Cuban leader Raúl Castro landed in
a helicopter on a golf course in Italy.
By Frances Robles, frobles@MiamiHerald.com.
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
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
"The lightning visit lasted only one
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
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
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:
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,
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
"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,"
Speculation on Castro's health has gone
through cycles since he handed power over
to Raul, the commander of the Cuban armed
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
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
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
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, cwoods@MiamiHerald.com. 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.