Banana protest over removal of Elian

Fed up with the shenanigans at the City Hall in the wake of the Elian Gonzalez saga, Miami ratepayers have been leaving bananas on the steps to denote their contempt. Singly, in bunches, or even by the crate, the fruit allude to the city's derisive nickname of "Banana Republic". Some of the bananas carry scornful messages etched into the skin.

The nickname gained currency in recent years as scandals multiplied involving corruption and cronyism in the city's administration. To the distress of the 800,000 Cuban émigré community, however, it really took off during the long months of Elian's stay in Little Havana, when the mayor put his weight behind what many non-Cubans saw as a virtual secession in that part of town.

The mayor, Joe Carollo, blames the city manager, Donald Warshaw, for instigating the deluge of bananas, which he called "racist". Mr Warshaw declined comment on his alleged role. He has found himself playing the lead villain in the soap opera that has played out at City Hall since Elian, six, was taken from his Miami relatives. Mr Warshaw was sacked by the mayor, officially for not documenting certain expenditures, but it is widely believed the real reason was his refusal to fire the police chief.

The crime of the police chief, William O'Brien, in the mayor's eyes, was not to have tipped him off in advance about the raid to take Elian - an omission about which Mr O'Brien was unrepentant. So unrepentant that he announced his early retirement the day after Mr Warshaw was sacked, stating that he was not prepared to serve so "destructive and divisive" a mayor as Joe Carollo.

Mr Warshaw appealed, and was reinstated on a technicality for 18 days, but late on Thursday he was fired again when the city council voted not to let him serve out the extra time. City Hall staff, meanwhile, were exchanging banana recipes in an effort to cope with the sudden fruit glut, which showed no sign of ending.

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