Varela Goes Free

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Varela at work

Jose Varela, the disgruntled and former El Nuevo Herald cartoonist, won't serve any jail time for his brazen takeover of One Herald Plaza this past November 24. During his three-and-half hour standoff with Miami Police, Varela demanded the resignations of El Nuevo editor Humberto Castello and Miami Herald executive editor Tom Fiedler.

The 51-year-old illustrator was charged with three felony counts of aggravated assault. Today, Varela pleaded no contest and was sentenced to two years probation. He has to serve 200 hours of community service, donate $500 to the United Way and stay away from the Herald's headquarters. He must also refrain from contacting eight of the newspaper's employees, including Castello.

At the Miami criminal court Wednesday morning Varela humbly accepted the deal through an interpreter.

Then Judge David Young admonished him. "If every time someone was upset with what the Miami Herald or El Nuevo Herald wrote [and they] did what you did, we would be living in a community of chaos," Young said. "That is not what the United States of America is about."

Despite his actions, Varela has strong support in the Cuban exile community, which certainly has no love for the Herald. Spanish language morning radio show hosts Enrique Santos and Joe Ferrero raised more than $15,000 from their listeners to bail Varela out of jail and help pay for his defense. "I don't condone what Varela did, but he was trying get his message out about the Herald's censorship," Santos said.

The radio duo also started a monthly newsletter featuring Varela's illustrations to help the unemployed cartoonist earn some money. The four page tabloid is sold for one dollar at Navarro Pharmacy locations and Versailles Restaurant in Calle Ocho. Varela even offered to sell New Times some of his unpublished artwork the week before Christmas. "The holidays are here and I don't have a job," Varela said. "I'd like to buy my children gifts."

Shortly after his hearing, Varela shed some light on his beef with Castello. "He would embarrass me by tearing up my cartoons in front of other employees," Varela claimed. "I gave the Herald thirteen years of my best work, yet Castello dogged me. He wouldn't even give me a job sweeping the floors."

So what's next? Well, Varela revealed, he has written a manuscript and plans to publish a book.

As for Fiedler, he retired and will be leaving the Herald later this month. Castello will be staying

Francisco Alvarado

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