HAVANA TIMES, May 1 — It’s not only the basketball team and the sun that is causing temperatures to rise in Miami lately. Rather it is fire bombs, campaign investigations, new state laws and new candidates that are keeping Miami, and consequently Cuba, on everybody’s radar.
Gov. Rick Scott
Today, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed state law that prohibits local governments to contract companies that do business with Cuba, ignoring the Tampa Chamber of Commerce, the Port of Tampa and Tampa International Airport, among others, who counseled the Governor against it.
The law would affect 238 companies. One in particular is the Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht, which has an $800 million contract with Cuba to revamp the container port at Mariel, near Havana.
However Canadian diplomats, who warned that Canadian companies might reconsider investments in Florida; and the Brazilian government representatives, have asked the US federal government to intervene. A federal challenge is likely because in 2000 the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in a similar case Crosby v. National Foreign Trade Council that states do not have autonomous authority over foreign trade.
Yesterday, Joe Garcia, once director of the Cuban American National Foundation has thrown his hat in the race for Representative of Florida’s 26th District, which was just redrawn and is now slightly less republican. Garcia will face David Rivera for the second time.
Rivera beat Garcia by 10 points two years ago, but this time Rivera’s campaign is suffering from investigations into financial wrong-doings. In fact, Garcia stated that he finally decided to run because “Rivera cannot adequately serve his constituents while his finances are under investigation by the FBI and IRS.”
A state probe into Rivera’s use of campaign contributions concluded that, “he essentially lived off” campaign contributions for several years”. According to the Miami Herald, the state’s report revealed that $65,000 was charged to a campaign credit card for personal expenses including “pet services, dry cleaning, dental care, medical services, and entertainment and travel expenses for his girlfriend.”
Because the statute of limitations had run out by the end of the over one year investigation, no charges could be filed. But he is still under investigation by the IRS and the FBI.
While in office, Rivera has introduced a bill that would make Cuban immigrants wait five years to get residency. This is seen by many to be a ploy to block the newer generations of Cubans, who are typically anti-embargo, from being eligible to vote.
Rubio is now being tainted by the Rivera investigation in regards to a house they purchased together years ago. But Rubio is navigating his own legal problems. Today he publically apologized for improper use of campaign credit card. Last Friday it was announced that the Federal Elections Commission had fined him $8,000 for over $200,000 of inappropriate campaign contributions.
Orlando Bosch & Vivian Mannerud
Last Wednesday the Nuevo Herald announced an event, hosted by Junta Patriotica Cubana, to commemorate the life of Orlando Bosch to be held on Saturday the 29th, exactly one year and one day after his death. That is to say that the actual anniversary of the death of this terrorist, responsible for the murder of 73 airline passengers in 1976, fell on the exact day as the fire-bombing of Airline Brokers travel agency.
Vivian Mannerud, owner of the agency that had recently arranged for more than 300 people to attend the Pope’s visit in Havana last month, feels it is no coincidence, “There’s people that do not agree with the charter flights to Cuba and will go to any lengths to stop them….In my 32 years of business, I’ve seen this happen to many other people.”
The attacks and intimidation throughout the 70s and 80s are remembered in Miami and are well documented by Estela Bravo’s film “Free to Fly”. In more recent memory are the fire bombings of three companies doing business with Cuba in 1996.
The incident that “pulverized” the agency office is being investigated by the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. South-Florida counter terrorism officers were also on the scene.
Although the FBI in notorious for looking the other way on Cuba related violence in Florida, there is expectations that things have changed and the perpetrators will be identified and prosecuted.
If so, this may be the end of it. If not, Miami might be in for another wave of anti-Castro terror.
A recent study named Miami the third “terrorism hot spot” in the nation. Let’s hope the FBI is capable of putting out this fire.