Miami police Chief Art Acevedo apologizes on Twitter for referring to Miami’s ‘Cuban Mafia’

By Charles Rabin

MIAMI — Miami police Chief Art Acevedo on Thursday apologized on social media for a statement made to about 100 sworn staffers in which he claimed the city’s 1,300-member police force was run by the “Cuban Mafia.”

The chief scripted his apology on his large Twitter platform — he has nearly 100,000 followers — after being blasted by the city’s police union and several commissioners. The “Mafia” comment — offensive to many Miami Cubans — was made over a month ago during a morning roll call.

In his post, the chief apologized for using a phrase he intended to be humorous without understanding its origins. “I want to thank city of Miami commissioners for kindly informing me this morning that historically, the Castro regime referred to the exile community in Miami as the Cuban Mafia.”

Even before Acevedo penned his apology — an unusual move for the nationally recognized outspoken chief who came to town claiming to be a change agent — the president of the city’s Fraternal Order of Police wrote a letter to members explaining his disgust with the chief’s statement.

“We believe this is a derogatory way to speak about any group of people,” FOP President Tommy Reyes wrote to members late last month. “Several of the members who brought this to my attention are not even Cuban. There were members of all races and ethnicities that reached out to me. One member even asked me, ‘Imagine if he said Black Mafia instead of Cuban Mafia?’ ”

Acevedo, a Cuban American from California who took over the department in April, said his comment was “meant to be humorous and lighten our discussion.”

Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo called the chief’s statement “unbelievable” and came up just short of calling for the chief’s firing.

“He must be the only individual with a Cuban background in the world that didn’t know the Cuban dictatorship called us the Cuban Mafia,” said the commissioner. “They named him to be a professional police chief, not a comedian.”

Carollo flew to Miami alone as a child in late 1961. He was part of a mass exodus of children after Fidel Castro’s takeover that was referred to as Operation Pedro Pan. Later, members of his family made their way to join him in Miami.

The chief’s apology highlights the learning curve needed even for a Cuban American not born in South Florida and unaware of the region’s unique political divides.

The chief came to Miami promising change and quickly terminated a married couple who were two of the department’s highest-ranking officers. He later demoted several majors, including one of the highest-ranking Black females in the department.

Now, he’s getting a taste of the difficulty of navigating Miami politics, where generations of residents remain scarred by Castro’s takeover of the island more than a half-century ago.

In some quarters of Miami with its deep personal historical ties to Cuba, Acevedo is still considered an outsider. Some even frowned when he took to a stage in July during the solidarity marches with Cuban protesters and animatedly blasted apartheid.

The chief said he didn’t realize Castro often referred to Miami’s exile community as the “Cuban Mafia,” painting political exiles who opposed communism as criminals. Several of Miami’s five commissioners were either born in Cuba and fled the island or had relatives who suffered hardship under the regime.

“Suffice it to say,” said the chief, “I would never have made the statement and I extend my apologies to our community. Despite 62 years of brutal rule, the Cuban spirit and sense of humor remains strongly intact and for that I remain thankful.”

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