News

UM dean pens controversial novel

Bernardo Benes had one prime motive when he convinced Robert M. Levine, UM’s dean of Latin American Studies to pen his story.

“I wanted my grandchildren to know who their grandfather was, what he did and why he did it,” said Benes.

Several hundred hours of rigorous interviewing, along with research that exhausted sources and resources in both South Florida and Washington D.C. gave birth to Secret Missions to Cuba.

Levine’s latest novel depicts the tale of a prominent Cuban-born attorney-based on Benes-turned pariah by fellow exiles who condemned his efforts to iron out differences between Havana and the United States.

There have been some suspicious events surrounding the Miami release of Secret Missions to Cuba.

A few days before the novel hit the stands, Benes left a meeting in downtown Miami to find an empty spot where he had parked his automobile a few hours earlier.

Police told him the car was probably on a container, via Haiti, a seemingly popular modality in car theft.

Much to his surprise, Benes received a phone call from the same officer that had speculated on his car’s fate, reporting that the vehicle had been found untouched.

The papers he carried in the truck -some of the vital documents published in the book- were still there.

One week later, Dr. Levine’s briefcase, which also contained material relevant to the research for the novel, was stolen from a building a building on campus while he attended a meeting.

Boarders bookstore in Coconut Grove decided against sponsoring a meet-the-author event, claiming the subject was “too controversial for this community,” according to Benes, quoting the manager he spoke to.

Staffers at Barnes and Nobles in Miracle Mile, Coral Gables, told Levine someone had sliced the same page containing a photograph of a Cuban official from several copies on display from the books in stock.

Levine’s feeling on the reaction the book has received ?

“Silent, might be the best way to put it,” he said.

In Secret Missions to Cuba, Levine unveils startling revelations such as a series of meetings Cuban officials held with unofficial, yet US-sponsored diplomats that sought to ease the embargo during the Reagan and Carter administration.

The price Havana was asked to pay was a commitment to halt exporting the revolution to fellow Latin American nations during the years when the word communism seemed to pose a threat to national security in itself.

Starting in 1977, Benes made some 75 trips to the island and spent approximately 150 hours with Castro, according to Levin’s accounts.

Although the embargo stayed put, and the revolution did indeed spill over to other countries, Benes struck an agreement in 1978 that freed 3,600 political prisoners and swayed policy to allow exiled relatives to visit family members in Cuba.

Although these achievements were arguably the only two pieces of good news for Cuban Americans in the realm of U.S.-Cuban foreign relations, Benes received little credit for his deeds.

He was not only the target of slurs and threats by individuals that accused him of being a traitor and a communist who got too friendly with Castro, but his bank got picketed and bombed.

More than an appraisal of Benes’ life, Secret Missions to Cuba tells the story of the mishaps Cuban Americans incurred while sprouting roots in South Florida.

In the words of Levine: “His (Benes) story provides a cautionary tale: people who take risks in a charged atmosphere run the risk of falling victim to the emotional climate, especially when that climate encompasses rage and hate.”

This story is by no means over.

The day Al Gore announced his pick running mate, vice presidential candidate Joe Leiberman, the director of Radio MambI, Armando PErez-Roura urged his listeners not to vote for Liberman since “he is a Jew, just like Bernardo Benes, who seeks to dialogue with Castro,” according to Levine.

“Many people still speak or act out of fear,” he said. “That said, the response I have received from those who actually read the book has been overwhelmingly positive,” he added.

November 13, 2001

Reporters

The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

When Edgar Michelangeli stepped up to bat on Saturday, there was pressure. So much pressure. There w ...

On a day when the newest University of Miami football players – including heralded prep quarterback ...

How much does 44 years of history weigh? That is what these Miami Hurricanes baseball players carry ...

That nation-leading, 44-year NCAA tournament streak is not over yet. One swing of the bat on Saturda ...

View photos from the Virginia Tech at Miami Saturday, May 20, 20017, in Coral Galbes, Fla. … Click t ...

Victor Oquendo, BSC ’09, is following in his parents’ footsteps. ...

The Rosenstiel School’s final lecture of the 2017 Sea Secrets series focused on using science diplom ...

Researchers believe they have found a new way to monitor the intensity and location of hurricanes fr ...

The University of Miami welcomed nearly 3,800 new graduates into the UM alumni family during six cer ...

Speakers urge UM’s graduating students to use their skills and talents to make a difference. ...

Miami junior Jeb Bargfeldt was among those recognized by the Atlantic Coast Conference with All-ACC ...

Check out photos from the Hurricanes during Day 2 competition at the NCAA Championship. ...

The University of Miami women's track and field team enters the NCAA East Preliminary ranked No ...

After sweeping its final regular season series with Virginia Tech, No. 6 seeded Miami will open its ...

The No. 13-ranked University of Miami women's golf team had a 13-stroke improvement on Day 2 at ...

TMH Twitter Feed
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly on Thursdays during the regular academic year.