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Posted January 22, 2008 by publisher in Cuban American Politics

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Raul Martinez, the charismatic but controversial former Hialeah mayor, is returning to politics to challenge one of the most powerful Republicans in the Cuban-American community: U.S. Rep. Lincoln Díaz-Balart.

Martinez’s expected announcement Tuesday in front of Hialeah City Hall pits two South Florida political titans—both admired by large numbers of Cuban Americans.

The campaign almost certainly will be deeply acrimonious with charges of corruption, and challenges of who’s tougher on Cuba. Martinez, 58, a Democrat, is the most serious challenger Republican Díaz-Balart, 53, has faced in his 15 years as U.S. congressman.

For Martinez, the campaign will also be a chance to redeem himself—running a race he has groomed himself for since the late 1980s when his hopes of replacing the legendary Claude Pepper were dashed after federal prosecutors opened a corruption investigation of the then-Hialeah mayor’s dealings with developers.

The probe led to a conviction, appeal, reversal by an appellate court and two subsequent mistrials.

Martinez never spent a day in prison and the case was ultimately dropped. He remained mayor until 2005 when he stepped down ostensibly to devote more time to family and business.

The political bug never stopped eating away at him, though.

‘Once you’re in politics there’s always that little `bichito’ [little bug] inside,’’ he told The Miami Herald in a recent interview.

Martinez said he’s a Cuban-American Democrat—a minority in Miami-Dade—because he’s part of the centrist wing of the party. ``I was a Democrat because I believed in housing. ... I believed in helping the disadvantaged. ... Yes, you have to have a strong defense. Yes, you have to have a strong immigration policy, all of that. But you gotta be more humanistic.’‘

Up for grabs in the sprawling district are a growing number of independent-minded voters unaffiliated with either the Republican or Democratic parties.

The 21st congressional district runs from western Miramar and Pembroke Pines in Broward through Miami Lakes and Hialeah south to Kendall in Miami-Dade and is overwhelmingly Hispanic. It has a majority of registered Republicans: 124,744 versus 101,267 Democrats. But those numbers reflect a drop of 4,558 registered Republicans and a slight gain of 111 Democrats since 2006. The number of unaffiliated voters has grown to 71,208.

Jeffrey Garcia, a Democratic Party political consultant said the numbers suggest that Díaz-Balart’s district is becoming less Republican.

Díaz-Balart has told The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald that Martinez’s return is part of a ploy by Fidel Castro sympathizers to lift or weaken the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba. Martinez insists he is not interested in changing the four-decades’ old embargo against Cuba, though he wants to ease the restrictions the Bush administration set on family travel to Cuba and on remittances.

‘‘He’s muddying the waters,’’ Martinez said. ``What is he afraid of?’‘


  1. Follow up post #1 added on January 22, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    This Republican from Massachusetts supports Mr. Martinez’s run against Diaz-Balart. Mr. Diaz-Balart has restricted Americans’ freedoms to travel to and trade with Cuba for long enough.

    The 46+ year old failed Plan A embargo has gone on long enough. Even though Mr. Martinez has not expressed a willingness to discuss a Plan B, we believe that he will be more open minded and less restrictive of American rights than Mr. Diaz-Balart.

    So, Mr. Martinez may not be too excited that one of his first endorsements come from some Massachusetts based media site but we are happy to support him in his campaign against Mr. Diaz-Balart.

    Currently our domain names http://LincolnDiazBalart.com and http://LincolnDiaz-Balart.com are being used as an exercise of our freedom of speech and are pointing to a page inside the Havana Journal that sheds some light on the idiotic beliefs and actions of Mr. Diaz-Balart.

    We are happy to continue to use these domains as a political statement against Mr. Diaz-Balart and would be willing to direct them to a website that works against Mr. Diaz-Balart’s campaign as is our right as an American (unless Mr. Diaz-Balart would like to restrict this freedom too).

    Best of luck Mr. Martinez.

    Rob Sequin


    Havana Journal Inc. (a Massachusetts corporation - located in Congressman Bill Delahunt’s district)

    Cuba consulting services

  2. Follow up post #2 added on January 23, 2008 by Cubana with 282 total posts

    Dear Rob

    Here is another example of the ludicrous, extra-territorial and illegal US embargo supported by Mr Diaz-Balart (who is also a nephew of Fidel). I have just come back from Cuba, having travelled from London to Havana on the national airline Cubana. That airline leases long-distance aircraft from (it seems) any airline it can. The latest is (or was) Air Europa, a Spanish airline. The plane leased was a Boeing which I went out on. However, the plane coming back was one of Cubana’s own Ilushin 62s, now over 40 years old! The reason is that Air Europa had suddenly cancelled its lease arrangements with Cubana because of the pressure it had come under from Boeing, acting under orders of the Bush regime.

    Good luck with your campaign!

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