Tuesday, September 30, 2008

FL-21, FL-25: Good news for Martinez and Garcia campaigns

Here we are at five weeks to election day – meaning three weeks to start of early voting – and the momentum looks positive for the Raul Martinez and Joe Garcia challenges to the Diaz-Balart rubber-stamps.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bob Graham Endorses Raul Martinez

WPLG-Ch.10 Calls Diaz-Balart a Liar

That's because Lincoln is a liar.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Diaz-Balart Family Hates Ethics

Progreso Weekly:

I am pretty sure it was 1990 or 1991. Our second meeting was the only time I have broken bread with Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart. The place was the old Centrust Tower in downtown Miami. There was a little restaurant on one of the floors, halfway up the building. That's where we met.

The Centrust no longer exists. The building now carries a Bank of America sign. Lincoln and Mario no longer serve in the Florida legislature. They are now both members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Let me back up a bit. At the time I was a real estate broker. I was working with two Colombian investors here in Miami. They were father and son. Their last name was Pinsky. They were looking at properties to buy in Miami. They also represented a Colombian group who wanted to build a hotel in Costa Rica.

It's funny, but you never know where life, or in this case the possibility of a business, will lead you. I had mentioned the Pinskys to my father, who was then trying to enjoy his first retirement from Consolidated Bank. He put me in touch with wealthy investors from Miami who said they had connections to some people with strong ties to Costa Rica. They set up a first meeting with whom they termed as friends. We would be having coffee. Invited to the meeting were the Pinskys and my father, who were there with me, and the persons with the connection to Costa Rica, whose identity remained a mystery until the meeting. We had been told they had "incredible" sources. One of them, I was informed, was a Florida state senator.

Sitting down at our table when we arrived were Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart. Not good, I thought. We proceeded. Lincoln was then a Florida state senator and Mario a young and recently elected state House member. I must be fair and tell you that although my insides kept sending warning signals, the informal and quick meeting went well -- it was actually pleasant. The conversation centered on the Pinkys’ plans.

A lunch meeting was then arranged for a couple of days later. It was like night and day. The two brothers were there again. But this time, I saw the real Lincoln show up -- aggressive, as if almost mad. And Mario, as would become so usual, simply stared and nodded his head as his older brother spoke.

Anything was possible in Costa Rica, we were told by Lincoln. Their father, Rafael Diaz-Balart, would be able to handle any and all requests. He had, we were told, a very close friendship with the Costa Rican president. We were led to believe they were almost business partners.

Lincoln then threw down the gauntlet. He may have even hit the table as he addressed the Pinskys. Toward the end of the lunch, with neck-veins popping, red-faced and squeezed-together eyes, he demanded, "For this thing to happen you have to show good faith. You must deposit $100,000 in an escrow account under our control," he told my clients.

No deal ever went through. It was the last time any of us sat at a table with the Diaz-Balart brothers. Later on I was to find out that Rafael Diaz-Balart was under investigation in Spain for money lost by European investors in some kind of scheme.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Cry foul: Lincoln Diaz-Balart won't debate Raul Martinez

Sorry, little mistake in the headline. Replace the word foul with fowl, for chicken. That should be the modifier for Lincoln Diaz-Balart, who's not up to the challenge of meeting his challenger in the debate arena.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

2 Debates on between Raul Martinez and Lincoln Diaz-Balart

Mark your calendars: Oct. 8 and Oct. 31, the dates for debates between Democratic challenger Raul Martinez and Republican rubber-stamp Lincoln Diaz-Balart, FL-21.

I’m a little surprised. Didn’t figure Diaz-Balart would ever agree to it. What does this mean for the two other congressional races in South Florida, Annette Taddeo vs. rubber-stamp Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in FL-18 and Joe Garcia vs. rubber-stamp Mario Diaz-Balart in FL-25? Will the Democratic challengers finally have something to debate other than the empty chair at the many forums where they appear?

Michael Putney’s column in the Miami Herald gives a thorough rundown of the issues between Raul Martinez and Lincoln Diaz-Balart. Highly recommended reading. Putney is to moderate the first debate, sponsored by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, and co-moderate the second, sponsored by the Latin Builders Association, with Myriam Marquez of the Miami Herald. Putney also hopes to host a debate on his ABC Channel 10 at a date to be determined.

Meanwhile, the Martinez campaign calls attention to a Herald column by the afore-mentioned Myrian Marquez urging that the United States ease restrictions on Castro’s Cuba to let more hurricane aid through.

Raul Martinez made that suggestion himself as Cuba reeled from the impact of Gustav, and now that Ike has caused even more damage in Cuba – as well as Haiti and elsewhere in the Carribean – the needs are even greater.

Marquez writes:

No one with any sense is saying dump the Cuba embargo and kiss up to the Castros. But what's so wrong with a 90-day window for Cuban exiles to rush to their families left behind and offer help, as Democratic congressional candidate Raúl Martinez has suggested?

Indeed, what’s wrong with helping people in deep affliction?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Commentary in El Nuevo Herald hints at win for Joe Garcia

Thanks to the Joe Garcia campaign for finding and translating this opinion piece from El Nuevo Herald this past weekend. It concentrates on Joe Garcia's strong chances in the FL-25 race against Mario Diaz-Balart but is just as relevant to Annette Taddeo in FL-18 and Raul Martinez in FL-21: Florida "will not be an island" in the ocean of change coming on election day.

The entire piece is quoted hereunder, and this link goes back to the original Spanish.

It's not hard to guess why Mario Diaz-Balart prefers to avoid Joe Garcia these
days. He doesn't want to bump into him at social gatherings at the Versailles
Restaurant in Little Havana, much less on the radio, television or here in the
Herald. Things happen when, after so many years of a family holding political
power, all of a sudden, there is fatigue of the repeated speeches, the passing
of days, generational shifts or the moment of political realignment in the
country sounds several alarms that warn that the trendy word, change, is not
only coming to the White House, but to the Congress as well. And this is going
to happen to good ol' Joe.

Let's go piece by piece. Nepotism,
regardless how nice the brothers of a dynasty may be, creates antipathy, whether
it be in Florida, California, Texas, China or Vietnam. You also have to add that
the same anti-Castro focus of the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, no longer resonates
in 2008. On the contrary, there is a boomerang effect, and you can no longer
duck your head or use the same old story that generated votes in the past.
Cuban-American voters clearly want change in their homeland, along with liberty
and democracy, so they can once again breathe the breeze that stayed behind in
Havana's piers. There is no disagreement on this issue, but alongside this
exiled voting bloc, there is now a new voter. There is the young Cuban American
that was born in the United States, and despite the love he may have for the
grandparents and uncles he may or may not have met, he has a different vision of
the problem. His origins may be in Cuba, but his school, university, wife, kids
and future are in the United States. His first language is English, and he
almost doesn't understand the rhetoric that dates back four decades of exiles
talking about the death of the tyrant or the fall of the regime.

young Cuban Americans are affected by the drama of their peers, and the
nostalgia less than 90 miles from Florida, but what they're more interested
in is that a young politician, that speaks their language, is ready to solve
their daily problems here in the United States. This has been the focus of Mr.
Garcia's campaign. Aside from this generational dilemma, the Diaz-Balarts' and
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen's problem, is that their Democratic opponents for Congress have
surfaced while the country has been inspired by the optimistic change that
Barack Obama signifies. During such a political climate, the standard-bearers of
exile politics represent the exact opposite.

Some things happen
when a candidate arrives that was born on Miami Beach; has longer hair; is known
for being a good guy; is linked to the University of Miami; is well prepared;
and close to various groups of Cuban Americans, prefers to speak less about the
'Cuba libre' we all want, and focuses more on speaking to voters, whose lives
are committed to the country we live in, about pocket-book issues and their
daily lives.

I'm not sure if there will be a electoral dethroning
of the congressional Republicans, but what is felt in forums, letters to the
media and in polls is that change is not only a perception, but rather a real
possibility, with a candidate that shows personal respect toward his opponents
and thinks they are not efficient and that the time for another option is now.
Certain things happen when a veteran politician that follows the line of
Diaz-Balart begins to understand that we find ourselves in a year where China
changes, and that Florida will not be an island in this cry for change, and
that's why he'll find every possible excuse not to be in the same place where he
may have to debate, confront or analyze his rival. Joe Garcia is here to win.