Last night in Miami Spanish language television U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart slandered former Hialeah Mayor Raul L. Martinez by calling him corrupt. Diaz-Balart made reference to the legal troubles Mayor Martinez faced in the late 1980s and early 1990s when he was indicted for corruption. The U.S. attorney in charge at the time was Dexter Lehtinen, husband of then State Senator Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. After years of fighting the charges and appealing court decisions, Martinez ultimately prevailed in court. While he was busy defending himself, though, Ros-Lehtinen became the first Cuban American elected to Congress.Word on the street has it that the popular Martinez will challenge Diaz-Balart in 2008 for a congressional seat he has held since 1992. Reacting to a story that appeared in yesterday’s Miami Herald where I was quoted as saying that both Lincoln and his brother Mario would be facing viable opposition in 2008, Diaz-Balart went off like a dropped fire-hose spewing vile at Martinez.
Diaz-Balart is a lawyer. When interviewed after the Diaz-Balart attacks, Martinez said that Diaz-Balart should know better than to accuse him of something of which he was exonerated. Martinez also found it interesting that Lincoln would attack him on this issue and the fact that the former mayor stands against the cruel and unpopular policy of Cuban family separation espoused by the Diaz-Balart brothers in Congress and restricted even more in 2004 by the Bush Administration. Martinez said that what Diaz-Balart should be discussing are problems faced by many Americans, including his own constituents — lack of health care, higher taxes, the war, the insurance crisis, and others. Martinez went on to suggest that the right thing would be for the two to come together before the TV cameras and debate the issues mano a mano.
Finally, Martinez wondered why Diaz-Balart would attack him in such a manner when he hasn’t even declared his intentions to run for the District 21 congressional seat…
For today, I will leave it like this: if this is a preview of what this campaign will look like, I’m already looking for my balcony seat. The fact is that Diaz-Balart, who preaches the virtues of representative democracy, does not seem to like the idea of being challenged. At all times, he gives the impression that whatever political charge he has belongs to him and how dare anyone try to take it from him.
Raul Martinez is an aggressive and exhaustive political campaigner. Before Raul has even stepped up to the starting gates, Lincoln Diaz-Balart already seems to be fidgeting, nervous with the prospects of what may be on the horizon.
I will keep you abreast of developments as I see and hear about them.
Alvaro F. Fernandez