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Paul Guzzo, Times Staff Writer

Paul Guzzo

Paul Guzzo primarily covers Cuban policy, Cuban culture in the Tampa Bay area and local history for the Tampa Bay Times. A native of Trenton, N.J., he's been a journalist in this area since 1999, writing for La Gaceta Newspaper and the Tampa Tribune before joining the Times. Along with his brother Pete Guzzo, Paul is an award-winning independent filmmaker best known locally for his documentary on gangster Charlie Wall. At home, he is an overwhelmed father of four and husband to a wife who is way out of his league.

Phone: (813) 226-3394


Twitter: @PGuzzoTimes

  1. Anti-Trump and anti-Castro, local Cuban hard-liner leader Ralph Fernandez is isolated


    TAMPA — A framed black-on-white sign in the reception area of Ralph E. Fernandez and Associates in Hyde Park makes a powerful political statement: "If you voted for Donald Trump this firm does not want your business."

    In these polarized times, such a business decision may seem absurd, acknowledges Fernandez, a longtime Tampa attorney. But he stands by it.

    "Someone said recently they're a lifelong proud Republican and voted for Trump," Fernandez said. "I told them to turn around and leave."...

    A sign greeting visitors to his Hyde Park law office’s reception area makes Fernandez’s views clear.
  2. Police: Man fatally shoots 50-year-old woman at Tampa gas station


    TAMPA — Metosha D. Godwin had an extra pep in her step in recent weeks, her family said.

    Godwin had plans for her future. Her own hair salon, perhaps, and maybe a clothing store that had affordable yet fashionable items.

    "She was in a good place," said Godwin's niece Shawntavia Dunbar. "This isn't fair. She didn't deserve what she got."

    Godwin, 50, was shot and killed early Sunday by Sol William Hoke, 39, at the Tampa Super Shop at 3401 E Lake Ave., according to Tampa police....

    Sol William Hoke, 39, and the victim, Metosha D. Godwin, had been dating, Godwin’s niece said.
  3. Sculptor Donald Gialanella, creator of Dalí mustache, steels himself to life with Parkinson's

    Human Interest

    Steel. It's steady. It's firm.

    Not like the body that sculptor Donald Gialanella is left with, wracked on the right side by tremors from Parkinson's disease.

    Steel is the medium of choice for the St. Petersburg artist. He can often be found strolling the Ybor City yard of Tampa Steel & Supply, looking for scraps or whole pieces that might inspire his next sculpture.

    "Take pieces like this," Gialanella said, holding up small rods from a bin. "Weld them together and they'll survive the harshest conditions."...

    Sculptor Don Gialanella poses for a photograph at his studio in Pinellas Park. The well-known artist has created many sculptures including the Dali Mustache at the museum in St. Petersburg, along with numerous others.
  4. Trump recasts Cuba policy, takes harder line than Obama on military, travel


    TAMPA — Travel to Cuba by commercial airlines and sea cruises will still be allowed under a new policy directive from President Donald Trump, but it will carry more restrictions than the more open engagement established under his predecessor.

    When Trump visits Miami today to announce the new rules, he will decry how a new influx of U.S. visitors to the island under President Barack Obama has been filling the coffers of the Cuban military....

    Thirty people departed from Caibarien, a town of 41,000 on Cuba's north coast, with hopes of reaching U.S. soil on New Year's Day. Advisors to President Trump have encouraged him not to break ties with the island nation. 

  5. Tree limb hanging over Tampa utility line snaps, killing Hudson driver


    TAMPA — The Montgomery family says they complained a year ago about the heavy oak branches hanging over utility lines outside their home on Orient Road.

    In a freak accident early Thursday morning, one branch finally snapped just as 36-year-old William Vantassel of Hudson was driving by in the dark, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said.

    Vantassel died when his 2015 Nissan Altima collided with the limb as it dangled above the road from utility lines....

    William Vantassel of Hudson was killed Thursday morning when he drove his car into a fallen branch, deputies said. [Courtesy of Carmen Lopez]
  6. Military's control of tourism may influence Trump policy on Cuba travel


    TAMPA — If President Donald Trump takes his cue from opponents of new and open relations with Cuba, he will decry how an influx of U.S. visitors there is filling the coffers of the Communist nation's military.

    Trump is expected to address tourism when he visits Miami on Friday for a long-awaited announcement of his administration's Cuba policy.

    Trump the candidate criticized normalization of relations with Cuba under President Barack Obama as a bad deal for the United States. And the Cuban military does indeed manage the bulk of the island's growing tourism industry — 60 to 70 percent of it, by most accounts....

    Guests board the Empress of the Seas in April for the first voyage stopping in Cuba for Royal Caribbean out of Port Tampa Bay. Those who favor engagement with the Communist nation say it is helping grow private industry there. [LUIS SANTANA   |   Times]

  7. Constance Rynder, retired UT history professor, dies in Tampa house fire


    TAMPA — It seemed laughable back in the 1980s, the idea that the University of Tampa with its small enrollment and still-developing academic reputation could support an honors program.

    But a small band of professors proved the skeptics wrong. Constance Rynder was one of the champions.

    "She argued we deserved it," said Frank Gillen, first director of the UT honors programs. "She created new history courses for it. Determination defined her."...

    Neighbors said professor emeritus Constance Rynder, 72, lived alone. Investigators determined the fire was accidental and likely caused by smoking near bottled oxygen.
  8. Musician and DJ RayZilla, 'Tampa's Frank Zappa,' performed until the end


    TAMPA — Musician Ray Villadonga promised he would live each day to the fullest, as many people say once they're diagnosed with cancer.

    But friends say he did just that, as they would expect from a man as genuine as Mr. Villadonga

    Just a month ago, frail from the effects of pancreatic cancer, the performer also known as radio host RayZilla took the stage at Tampa's Riverfest, alongside restaurateur and friend Richard Gonzmart and local band the Lint Rollers....

    Ray Villadonga, musician and WMNF host, enjoyed turning his audiences on to new kinds of music, friends said. He died Saturday at 62. [Courtesy of Jeff Fay]
  9. Tiny park presents political challenge in bid to honor Cuba's José Martí

    Human Interest

    It's a simple project, really, especially for a developer who is helping transform an entire historic district:

    Spruce up tiny José Martí Park in Ybor City so it stands as a more fitting memorial to the man considered the George Washington of Cuba — the poet, journalist and soldier killed in battle while helping free the island from colonial rule in the late 1800s.

    But first, developer Ariel Quintela has to navigate a web of sometimes competing interests who exercise some measure of control over a plot of land not much bigger than a basketball court....

    Developer Ariel Quintela has commissioned plans for the restoration of Jose Marti Park in  Ybor City. Quintela proposes a new pathway, additional monuments and new bronze statue of the Cuban freedom fighter. [ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times]
  10. Tampa team chosen to send data satellite into deep space


    Tampa will have a spot on the inaugural voyage of NASA's most powerful rocket ever as it paves the way for the future exploration of Mars.

    A 17-member Tampa-based group called Team Miles designed a miniature satellite that will be on the unmanned rocket Space Launch System that NASA hopes to launch into deep space in 2019.

    "Shock and joy," team leader Wes Faler told the Tampa Bay Times by phone just moments after hearing the news at NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley. "This is unbelievable."...

    A data satellite built by Tampa-based Team Miles was chosen to ride aboard NASA’S Space Launch System to travel to deep space in 2019.
  11. Racism in Tampa boiled over 50 years ago into Central Avenue riots

    Human Interest

    Blood trickling from his mouth, a bullet hole in his chest, the teenager leaned against a telephone pole, crying and begging for help.

    The cop broke down in tears, swearing he only fired to wound the man — a suspect who was running from the scene of a store burglary.

    Martin Chambers, 19, didn't live long afterward. But the days of rioting that followed his death seemed like they'd never end....

    A home burns in June 1967 during rioting along Central Avenue that followed the fatal shooting of a black youth by a white Tampa police officer. [Times file]
  12. Joseph House, decorated veteran and civic leader, dies at 85


    TAMPA — Joseph W. House was a decorated veteran, past chairman of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce and former member of the University of Tampa board of trustees.

    And for one year, he was Batman.

    It was the early 1990s, remembers his wife, Susan House, and the two of them were the first married couple to jointly chair the annual fundraising drive for the local chapter of the United Way....

  13. Meet the HCC grad whose Tampa contacts aid him as mayor in Haiti

    Human Interest

    Nicolas Victorin came away with more than a degree from his years of study at Hillsborough Community College.

    A scholarship student from Haiti with a can-do attitude, Victorin made key connections during his time in Tampa that are helping him rebuild his home town.

    Last year, Victorin was elected mayor of Pignon, an agricultural city in northern Haiti with a population of 42,000. At 31, he is the youngest mayor serving in the impoverished island nation....

    Ex-Mayor Dick Greco greets Pignon Mayor Nicolas Victorin along with pastors Aaron Burke and Doug Ley.
  14. Dick Greco contemplating a return to Tampa

    Human Interest

    Dick Greco, the four-time mayor and Tampa native who shocked the area two years ago when he moved across the bridge to St. Petersburg, may be returning to his home city.

    Well, possibly, in two years.

    Greco and his wife, Linda McClintock, have purchased a seventh-floor, 2,800-square-foot condo at the 24-story, 71-unit Virage on Bayshore Boulevard due to start construction this fall.

    "When we look out our window we'll be able to see downtown Tampa clearly," said Greco, 83. "It's going to be gorgeous."...

  15. The Macho Mom: Judy Poffo, mother of wrestlers Randy Savage and Lanny Poffo, dead at 90


    Judy Poffo spent much of her life surrounded by muscle-bound tough guys with over-the-top personalities.

    Her husband, Angelo Poffo, was a professional wrestler for decades as was younger son "Leaping" Lanny Poffo.

    And her older son Randy Poffo, better known by his in-ring name "Macho Man" Randy Savage, is considered one of that profession's all-time greats.

    Yet there was never any question that Judy ran the family....

    Randy Poffo, better known as Randy Savage, left, and “Leaping” Lanny Poffo kiss their mom Judy.