BY RUI FERREIRA AND HELENA POLEO | El Nuevo Herald
U.S. Rep. Lincoln Díaz-Balart points to a trade publication article as evidence of a Democratic plan to unseat him and two other Republican Cuban-American members of Congress in an effort to lift the embargo.
U.S. Rep. Lincoln Díaz-Balart says the likelihood of a contender for his seat is a Democratic Party strategy to soften U.S. policy toward Cuba after he and other Cuban-American members in Congress have successfully maintained a hard line toward the communist island.
‘‘What you have now is a [Democratic] decision that if they don’t defeat Mario, Ileana or Lincoln, they won’t be able to do anything’’ to improve relations with Cuba, he said at a meeting Tuesday with El Nuevo Herald editors and reporters.
Díaz-Balart was referring to his brother Mario Díaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. All three Republicans represent South Florida in Congress.
NO RIVAL YET
The Democrats have yet to announce a candidate to oppose Díaz-Balart, but former Hialeah Mayor Raúl Martínez has said he is considering returning to politics.
Díaz-Balart’s district covers parts of south Broward, Hialeah, Miami Lakes, Doral and reaches as far south as Kendall and Pinecrest.
Although Díaz-Balart didn’t want to analyze the implications of a Martínez candidacy, because the former mayor has not announced, the GOP congressman guaranteed that any opponent will hit a brick wall.
‘‘I will talk about my record, my achievements, about all that I’ve done all these years in Washington for this community. My record speaks for itself,’’ he said.
This week, the liberal CubaNews bulletin [www.cubanews.com] published an article citing prominent Democratic activists familiar with the the Cuba issue in Washington and Miami, noting that this year’s strategy is to dethrone the three Cuban-American members of Congress because they fiercely oppose lifting the U.S. embargo on Cuba or easing the travel restrictions.
Under the headline ‘Embargo foes’ 2008 strategy to focus on unseating Florida’s Díaz-Balart brothers,’’ the publication quotes Alvaro Fernández, president of the Cuban-American Commission for Family Rights, which opposes the embargo.
‘‘For the first time, we’re going to have two very viable candidates running against Lincoln and Mario,’’ Fernández told Cuba News.
``As important as Washington, D.C., is, if we want real change, it has to come from South Florida. Once we knock off one or both of these guys, things will start changing.’‘
Mario Díaz-Balart’s potential opponent, according to Democratic sources, would be Joe García, Miami-Dade County’s Democratic Party chief.
Ros-Lehtinen remains unopposed but Fernández is quoted in CubaNews as saying, ``Trust me, all three will be challenged.’’