Outing non-Cubans in Miami politics

Outing non-Cubans in Miami politics
  • Sumo

First, it was State Rep. Michael Bileca, who some people assume is Cuban like his wife, that was outed as a non-Spanish speaker in a robocall. Now, State Rep. Ana Rivas-Logan is outed as Nicaraguan-American in a mailer.

This attack ad, which landed in mailboxes Friday, questions the Cuban heritage of State Rep. Ana Rivas-Logan.

In Miami politics, where being a Cuban Republican has been all you need to get elected for decades, candidates who are facing tougher races in redrawn districts are now using that valuable asset in reverse — outing their opponents as non Cubans.

The latest was a mailer reminding folks that Rivas-Logan was born in Nicaragua and attacking her first vote on the controversial Vamos a Cuba book that was eventually taken out of Miami-Dade school libraries in 2006.

It made her cry.

“I’m as Cuban as he is. I was born in exile, too,” said Rivas-Logan, whose parents left the island in 1960, like many exiles, but went to Managua instead of Miami. They arrived with the legislator’s big sister, a baby at the time, and her grandparents. Oh, and her — inside her mami’s belly. So, in a way, Rivas-Logan was made in Cuba, which might make her more Cuban than her opponent, State Rep. Jose Felix “One More Pepe” Diaz, who benefits from the mailer, which was paid for by the Tell The Public The Facts PAC connected to David Custin. The negative campaign mail guru, who has billed that Facts PAC at least $84,000 since 2009. Custin also happens to work for State Rep. Jose Oliva, who is hinging his ambition to be House Speaker in 2018 to this a couple of state races, one in particular (more on that later).

Ironically, Cigar Czar Oliva happens to have many of his puros hand made in Sandinista Nicaragua. He wouldn’t return three calls from Ladra to talk about his involvement in this.

Rivas-Logan did catch flack back in April 2006 when, as a Miami-Dade School Board member, she voted against an immediate ban of the Vamos book, which offended many Cuban-Americans because it painted life in Cuba as quaint and free, when it is neither. Rivas-Logan, who has always been an independent voice and you gotta respect her for that, voted instead for a review process — and found herself targeted by Radio Mambí, where commentators called her a communist, of course, and basically told Cubans to remember at election time that Ms. Rivas-Logan was not one of us, but Nicaraguan.

Well, the truth is she is as Cuban as Ladra, who was born at Baptist Hospital in Kendall because her parents, too, fled the communist dictatorship and lack of freedoms in Cuba. In fact, most of my generation might be taken a little aback by this mailer’s assertation that, if extrapolated, says none of us are Cuban.

But that kind of argument can backfire today, when many Cuban American voters in South Florida spent their first years in Venezuela, Puerto Rico or other places that had also been early exile magnets. In Managua, her grandfather was involved in the Nicaragua side of the Bay of Pigs invasion planning. In April of 1961, her pregnant mother would caress her belly as she watched the planes fly out of Puerto Cabezas with freedom fighters on board training for the invasion, which turned out to be a fiasco or a betrayal, depending on who you ask. A month later, Rivas Logan was born in May. Yes, in Nicaragua. But to Cuban exile parents.

Her grandfather is buried in Nicaragua, a country Rivas-Logan said she was grateful to for offering her family shelter, food and an opportunity to remake their lives after Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro took everything from them.

Diaz said he knew nothing about the mailer, which apparently hit mailboxes today. “This is the first I heard of it,” he told Ladra after I called him about it. “Third party groups are almost impossible to trace,” he said, like I haven’t been to a ballgame before. Okay, so maybe you didn’t know about it before hand. You can stop it and denounce it now. “I’m going to get to the bottom of it,” he told me.

Bottom feeders, is probably what he meant.

But Diaz also was ready to defend the piece — or half of it, anyway. “Where she was born, I don’t think that’s relevant. But the Vamos a Cuba thing, that’s relevant.”

He also said that the attacks are going both ways. “It sucks. This is the worst part of the campaign. They’ve been robocalling, attacking me with phone banks and knocking on doors.”

Besides hitting him on his homeowners insurance vote — which critics say raises rates and leaves some people with no insurance at all (more on that later) — they’re also hitting him where it hurts personally. “They say I’ve been bought and paid for by the insurance companies. That I’m pro-abortion, which I’m not, that I am gay,” Diaz said.

But there are no mailers with this negative stuff going out. Not yet, anyway. Wait for it. Because it’s coming.

Not from the Tell The Public The Facts PAC, naturally (I know it’s actually a ECO, but that’s a PAC in sheep’s clothing). But Ladra senses that PAC is going to attack other candidates that might not be willing to sign pledge cards for Oliva’s speaker drive. Dicen las malas lenguas that there is other funding coming from a former legislator who has an interest in Oliva becoming speaker so he can lobby the Tobacco Titan. But I’m still working on that angle.

Meanwhile, the Facts Schmacts PAC already put out a mailer against public [office-seeking] enemy #1: School Board Member Renier Diaz de la Portilla, a former state rep running for a house seat again in the newly-drawn District 103. And dicen las malas lenguas — they talk a lot — that that mailer was also an Oliva bomb to help his hand-picked candidate, Manny Diaz, Jr., assistant principal at Redland Middle School in South Dade.

“People who don’t have a record can only attack, attack, attack,” Baby DLP told me about the mailer, which calls him “Tricky Reni” and brings up the 2009 Inspector General investigation into his alleged funneling of money to pay for a political mailer for his oldest brother, Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla. It says that the investigation was closed after insufficient evidence was found — but it doesn’t say that the complaint may have been politically motivated since it was made by the senator’s then-opponent, former State Rep. and South Miami Mayor Julio “Three Strikes, You’re Out” Robaina.

“I just received it at my house,” Manny Diaz, Jr., told me over the telephone. “I don’t know where it came from,” he said. Really? Really? Dude, you should get a little more control of your campaign, then (read: “I don’t believe it.”).

Ladra is sure he wasn’t surprised, however, that the mailer does not mention a new Inspector General investigation into Diaz’s requested sick leave in February, when he was allegedly paid by taxpayers to go on a fundraising trip to Tallahassee (more on that later) and was not, as he was supposed to be, in bed with the flu.

Isn’t that kinda tricky?

2 Responses to "Outing non-Cubans in Miami politics"

  1. Jose   July 31, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    I find the VAST MAJORITY of these Miami Cuban officials and politicos such self serving, if not corrupt disasters that I look for any candidate who is NOT Cuban and I am a Cuban American , born in Cuba.

    We were/are a political disaster there and one here.

    How any Cuban who wants what is best for his family and Miami could continue being such an ethnic voter just blows my mind.

    Reply
  2. Alex Diaz-Granados   July 19, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    A point to ponder. When does one stop being a Cuban (or Colombian, or Irish, or German, French) national and starts being an American?

    This was one of those “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” existential arguments that I used to have with my (now estranged) older half-sister.

    My position was, and still is, that it’s a matter of personal choice and not what others say. For instance, I consider myself to be an American of Colombian descent. None of that Colombian-American labeling for me, thank you very much. I feel more comfortable thinking of myself as a “gringo” instead of being an assimilated “colombiano.”

    My half-sister, who has lived here longer than she ever lived in Colombia, not only says that she considers herself to be Colombian through and through (even though she was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina), and that I should also think of myself as Colombian.

    Well, if she wants to call herself Colombian – even though she could also claim Argentinian citizenship – that’s her lookout. Hell, I’ll even call her “colombiana” if it floats her boat.

    But as far as I’m concerned, I am a Yankee Doodle dandy.

    As for Jose’s comment: Amen to that, bro. To me, there’s something horribly wrong to vote along ethnic lines. I still resent Miriam Alonso’s pre-election slogan “Cubano vota cubano” when she was running against the late Steve Clark for County Mayor.

    Reply

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