A former Democratic candidate for Congress, who received death threats after the telecast of a videotape showing her kissing Cuban President Fidel Castro at a Havana reception, was under police protection Friday.
Magda Montiel Davis, a Cuban-born immigration lawyer, was one of about 200 Cuban Americans who attended a three-day conference called Emigration and the Nation, which in itself was controversial. Many Cuban Americans oppose any dialogue with the Castro government.
But a furor erupted after the videotape, which was shot by a Cuban government photographer Sunday at the closed-door reception in the Palace of the Revolution and then sold to Miami television stations, was widely broadcast here, touching off outrage in some parts of the Cuban community.
On the tape, Montiel Davis is seen greeting Castro with a kiss on the cheek and then is heard saying: “Fidel, I want to tell you something. Thank you for all you have done for my people. You have been a great teacher for me.”
Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) sent a copy of the videotape to Atty. Gen. Janet Reno and asked her to list those who attended the conference as “foreign agents of the Cuban government.”
“I’m numb,” Montiel Davis said in a telephone interview. “I’m frightened, but not to the extent that I’m willing to give up my principles. What I say there I say here.”
Montiel Davis said that her comments to Castro were meant only to laud the accomplishments of the revolution. She denied being either a Fidelista or a Communist and added that she called Castro a great teacher because of the way he has stood up to U.S. pressure.
She said that she understands the reaction in Miami. “If I could change my body language, I would, because the perception conveyed was the wrong perception. But nothing excuses what I am going through.”
Montiel Davis said she is unable to go to her office and is working at home with round-the-clock protection. Dozens of Cuban exiles gathered at her home in Key Biscayne for a silent protest Friday evening.
“We’re not leaving. Miami is our home,” said Montiel Davis’ husband, immigration attorney Ira Kurzban. “We have no intention of being intimidated. We don’t think these extremists (responsible for the threats) represent the majority of Cuban Americans in this community.”
An organization of Cuban jurists on Friday denounced the threats against Montiel Davis as coming from “hystericals and fascists,” while a Cuban official called the threats “incredible--actions that only people on the most extreme right are capable of carrying out.”
Although the subject of the conference, and especially Montiel Davis’ actions, have been a major topic of conversation over often-strident Spanish-language radio here, some broadcasters urged calm.
“I am telling people to respect those who went to Cuba,” said veteran talk show host Tomas Garcia Fuste. “We cannot tolerate bombings in Miami. This is what Castro wants.”
Many of the Cuban Americans who attended the conference are seen on the videotape amiably exchanging words with Castro as they move through a reception line. But only Montiel Davis is heard effusively praising the Cuban leader, reviled as a dictator by the majority of Cuban exiles here.
Fueled by repeated showings of the tape on Miami television stations, the outrage has grown through the week. On Wednesday, about 25 demonstrators showed up at Montiel Davis’ office and screamed threats and insults at her as she got into her car.
That same day, six employees of Montiel Davis’ law firm--all Latinas--quit their jobs to protest her actions in Cuba. Since then, five of the six have appeared on local radio stations, been featured in newspaper stories and become celebrities. All have been offered others jobs as well as cash.
Montiel Davis was defeated in her bid for Congress last year by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami, a Republican who also is Cuban-born.