[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Mario Diaz-Balart is 100% Right (UPDATED)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mario Diaz-Balart is 100% Right (UPDATED)

(See bottom of post for update)

Mario Diaz-Balart's comments to the Naples Daily News regarding Cuba policy and comparing people doing business with Cuba with those who did the same with apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany, and the controversy it has generated courtesy of the illiterate and downright nasty denizens of Daily Kos Generation Miami, has been well covered by Babalu.

I'd just like to add my three quilos. I have no problem with someone disagreeing with Rep. Diaz-Balart. But why are so many people cynical about Diaz-Balart's motives and reasons for being in favor of Cuba sanctions? On second thought, it's understandable and perhaps even healthy to hold some skepticism (which is different from cynicism) of our elected officials.

Fair enough.

But where's that same skepticism and even cynicism toward those who favor a lifting of all sanctions, particularly people involved with or doing business with Cuba? It's one thing for a private citizen to desire to see his/her family. It's also one thing for someone to believe, however misguided it may be, that open relations is the fastest way to freedom for Cuba. I can accept those beliefs as part of an well-meaning, honest and reasonable debate of the issue, even if I don't agree. And to people such as myself and Mario Diaz-Balart, these individuals aren't the ones being compared to those who did business with previous oppressive and murderous regimes.

However, it's something totally different to be directly involved in the business of travel and other business endeavors to/with Cuba. This is what Diaz-Balart was referring to when he said:
Because, what the heck, let’s just do business with them because there’s a buck to be made.
The target of those words couldn't have been clearer. When the folks at Generation Miami try (and that's the operative word here) to accuse Diaz-Balart of drawing those comparisons with respect to ANYONE who disagrees with current Cuba policy, all they're doing is displaying their contempt for Diaz-Balart and those who think like him, instead of showing any evidence of intellectual honesty and unbiased thought.

Are Diaz-Balart's comparisons to doing business with apartheid-supporting and Nazi regimes that far off? Perhaps those who knee-jerk in reaction to every hard-liner thought and belief should seriously consider that, if they're at all intellectually honest with themselves.

(UPDATED 1030 PM): And I was 100% wrong for not catching this: I was under the assumption that the YouTube video Henry mentions in his Babalu post came courtesy of Daily Kos. Silly me for not connecting the dots Henry laid out. The misleading video which cuts out a significant part of Mario Diaz-Balart's controversial remark came courtesy of Generation Miami, the blog whose posts I also linked to above.

Giancarlo, if you're behind the "edited" video posted on YouTube, shame on you! Just goes to show that you don't have a case to make when you have to resort to blatant distortion of someone's statement and message. Here's some friendly advice: The campaign's over. Your man lost, OK? Spend your time looking forward rather than fight old battles with misleading videos.


Blogger Giancarlo Sopo said...

As the author of the posts being referenced here I would like to say a couple of things.

However, let's make one thing clear before I begin: I will not engage in an absurd debate as to who was worst, Hitler or Castro. It's offensive to the 20 million people that died in the holocaust, and to the families of the tens of thousands of men, women and children that were murdered at the hands of the Castro regime, among them my grandfather.

That's not what this is about. And one can try to deviate the topic as much as they'd like, but, as I will demonstrate, Mario Diaz-Balart's comments were clear and consistent with his long history careless remarks. This was just another drop in the bucket.

First, we stand 100% by our commentary, reporting and analysis of Diaz-Balart's remarks.

The "sure, let's just do business with them" line this blog quotes is Mario Diaz-Balart paraphrasing what Nazi supporters said during WWII. In other words, he was likening Cuban-Americans who disagree with his views to the folks that shared "the same attitude as those that wanted to do business and did business with Hitler." To be more specific, that comment belongs to the predicate of his sentence (Nazi/South African appartheid supporters), not the subject (Cuban-Americans).

The interviewer's question was clear and simple. He cited the attidunal changes among "people of Cuban heritage" with regards to US-Cuba policy. To which Mario Diaz-Balart replied by likening those who disagree with his views to the unscrupulous men and women that looked the other way while Hitler committed atrocities "because there was a buck to be made."

In fact, the interviewer's comment was a follow-up to a remark Diaz-Balart had just made where he mischaracterized the majority of people in this community (that do not agree with his views) and said with regards to Cuba policy you are either like him or you support policies that nurture and appease the regime. He has a right to his views on Cuba policy, nobody argues that, but what he doesn't have a right to do is to launch ad-hominem attacks against the majority of his constituents.

Secondly, the letter to Diaz-Balart from prominent Cuban exiles was signed by businessmen, community leaders, academics and students of the highest qualifications and finest schools. All of which saw the full video of Mario Diaz-Balart's remarks in their full context and found them offensive. Among them were three individuals of Jewish faith.

Third, Mario Diaz-Balart has a long history of making irresponsible and demagogic remarks. This blog should know better than anyone, since it was 26th Parrallel that rightfully called him out in October of 2007 for labeling the surcharge on tobacco to pay for SCHIP "an attack on the Cuban American community."

In addition to this, we know very well that Diaz-Balart has a history of red-baiting and accusing his detractors and political opponents of "representing the interests of the Castro regime."

Let's not also forget that this is the same man that once almost broke out in a fist fight on the floor of the Florida House after calling a fellow lawmaker's mother "a lesbian."

Again, this shouldn't surprise anyone. It's part of a pattern.

But let's be clear. If Mario Diaz-Balart really does not believe that those who disagree with his views on US-Cuba policy share the same attidudes of the supporters of two brutal regimes then why doesn't he just step forward and clarify his remarks? Or simply say "I misspoke, this is what I meant to say..."

Obviously, what he said couldn't have been too intelligible if so many people -- including Republican exile leaders with policy views very similar to his -- found his remarks offensive.

2:01 PM, April 26, 2009  
Blogger Alex said...

Intellectual dishonesty and demagoguery is to put in the same bucket people who want to visit and support their families, people who believe trade will help all Cubans and people who don't give a damn about Cubans, just want "to make a buck". Besides, if we accept family travel is necessary and just, then somebody has to provide that travel, and if irrational regulations don't allow or obstaculize American companies to market travel to Cuba, then you have to live with those who step in to fill the void. Simple as that.

But it isn't us who equate everybody who is not a hardliner with a regime collaborator. It isn't us who say the money we send and spend in Cuba only props the regime. It is Mario Diaz-Balart and the Babaluers who are defending him. Maybe it is you who should seriously consider if MDB is worth your support.

2:34 PM, April 26, 2009  
Blogger Robert said...


I'm not going to use Mario's history of alleged flippant and/or controversial comments and actions (as determined by you) as an automatic indictment of what he said and didn't say in the interview in question. Mario made the comparison for those who wish to empower the regime via the unlimited flow of cash AND business ties that the unconditional and absolute lifting of all sanctions would bring. What exactly is wrong with that statement? If Mario meant something totally different, it's yours to prove, not Mario's. Mario even went as far as stating that money should be given to families as long as the government doesn't benefit (take away the "remittance tax" as I call it).

I'm glad you mentioned the SCHIP post from 2007 in which I was critical of one of Mario's remarks (and was picked up by the Daily Kos - of all blogs). I also posted this past April 2nd criticizing Mario, Lincoln and Ileana for their support of government setting compensation limits for companies receiving bailout money. I think this shows that, while I like Mario and generally support his positions, I am not bound to him in any way other than to make sure he represents my fellow constituents in the way I would like him to. No more and no less.

On the other hand, Giancarlo, you were a part of Joe Garcia's campaign to unseat Mario, and while I respect and even admire your commitment and time to the candidate you felt was most qualified to serve District 25, it doesn't exactly make you the most unbiased person when it comes to Mario Diaz-Balart.

I am all for criticizing Mario when it's warranted, and will continue to do so. But this latest attack has all the hallmarks of a political hatchet job launched in order to de-legitimize the hard line stand on Cuba policy. If the Daily Kos is involved, you know that's exactly what all this is about. As I said in this post, if we're to be cynical of Mario Diaz-Balart's stance and words, then it's only fair to be cynical of those who stand to profit from any change in policy, as well as its effect on the Cuban regime that we all want to come to a quick end.

9:08 PM, April 26, 2009  
Blogger Robert said...

Allow me to add one wrinkle that wasn't addressed in my comment above. I also do not have any interest in debating which person was worse, Hitler or Castro. Both were/are horrendous to their respective peoples and to humanity in general. If some folks in our community were offended by the parallel drawn between Cuba's oppression and crimes and Nazi Germany's horrendous deeds, then Mario can and should be able to explain that quite easily. But I don't think it's that simple. There's more to this than Castro = Hitler, or Castro < or > Hitler. As I stated above, there's dirty politics in play as well.

10:01 PM, April 26, 2009  
Blogger Joe Garcia said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:52 AM, April 27, 2009  
Blogger Giancarlo Sopo said...

(please delete my previous comment. I left it under my campaign account)


First, whether I was involved with Joe Garcia's campaign is completely irrelevant. Joe is a private citizen now, enjoying life with his beautiful family. I don't blog or get paid by him. And the reason why I took a year off from school to help him out goes to show you to what extent, as a constituent, I was dissatisfied with Mario Diaz-Balart's leadership.

Secondly, Mario Diaz-Balart's past statements are important precisely because they show a pattern. If it had been Ileana Ros-Lehtinen who had made this remark, we probably would have given her the benefit of the doubt because although we disagree on policy matters, she isn't inflammatory like Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart are. In the case of Mario Diaz-Balart there is a very long history of ad-hominem attacks against those who disagree with his policy views toward Cuba. It wouldn't be the first time he compared someone with different views on US-Cuba policy than his to the supporters of some brutal regime. So, for him to now liken them to those that did business with Hitler doesn't deviate one millimeter from a pattern that, as you yourself well know, dates back many years -- it falls right in line.

Third, you're the one here spinning his remarks, not me. I'm no linguist n'or grammarian, I study government, but I know the English language well enough to critically analyze a paragraph. What Mario Diaz-Balart said is clear.

In a half an hour interview where the subject was Obama's lifting of the restrictions on CUBAN-AMERICANS, Mario Diaz-Balart was asked a series of questions regarding how this policy shift relates to the issue of family reunification, remittances etc.

In the statement immediately preceding this absurd comment, he argued that on Cuba policy there are only two sides: people who support his policies or those who believe that if we give concessions to the regime Fidel Castro will change his ways. What's a concession to Mario Diaz-Balart? Among many other things, permitting more remittances and family visits. So, it was already implied in his previous statement that he sees those who disagree with his views, including people advocating on behalf of more family visits and remittances, basically as appeasers. A view that I find both unprincipled and factually incorrect.

This then frames the follow-up question/remark by the interviewer where he specifically notes to Mario Diaz-Balart that there are many Cuban-Americans who disagree with his views, find them antiquated and support a new policy.

Here came Mario Diaz-Balart's golden nugget. This this he replied that those people (remember, we're talking only about Cuban-Americans) make the same argument as those who wanted to do business with South Africa. This by itself isn't that egregious (within the larger context) because he's saying the two make similar arguments.

The icing on the cake is when he then adds, in a completely different sentence and separate argument, that they share the same attitudes as those who wanted to do business with Hitler because there was a buck to be made.

Robert, as I'm sure you know, if you say someone shares the same attitude as Nazi supporters, they are personally attacking that individual. Mario Diaz-Balart at no point mentions he's only referring to those who want to do business with Cuba. The remark is a response to a very specific comment regarding Cuban-Americans who disagree with his policy views -- not 'granjeros' or Spanish hotel owners.

You may say that Mario Diaz-Balart was referring to people who want to do business in Cuba, but that's not what he said at any point. And the question, then why didn't he just issue a statement clarifying his remark? Why not just come out and say that he misspoke and doesn't think those who disagree with his policy views are akin to Nazi supporters?

Clearly, I wasn't the only one that interpreted his words that way.

Lastly, with regards to the editing of the video. Yes, the video was truncated. This is a very common procedure when you just want to provide people with hi-lights of a clip for expediency. Watch Politico's daily news reviews and you'll see what I mean.

It's unethical when a video is edited to change the meaning of words. In this case, it's not. In fact, I believe the complete video is even worse because you see Mario Diaz-Balart say that Cuban-Americans who disagree with his views make similar arguments than those who traded with the apartheid in South Africa.

And yes, I am 100% aware that among the folks who want to do business with Cuba there are some that quite frankly don't care about the human rights violations on the island and just want to make a quick-buck. We all recognize this. But that has absolutely nothing to do with what Mario said. And he of all people is the last person that should be speaking about this since he's accepted thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from companies that trade with the regime via their subsidiaries.

9:54 AM, April 27, 2009  
Blogger Giancarlo Sopo said...

No worries, I just deleted the comment.


On another note, Robert, I'm a reasonable guy. If you'd like to talk about this more in private feel free to e-mail me at giancarlosopo@gmail.com


10:01 AM, April 27, 2009  
Blogger Robert said...


We're just going to go around and around debating the same point endlessly, so let's just agree to disagree on what MDB said.

One quick response what you said regarding "appeasers" of the regime: if the policies someone endorses serves to strengthen the regime, whether it's through additional cash or giving them unlimited credit, in essence these individuals are contributing to the permanence of the regime, is it not? Unfortunately, most of these folks do not intend for the regime to benefit, but it happens anyway. That's what is meant by the saying "the road to hell is paved with good intentions". The Cuban-American travel I have no big problem with, for humanitarian reasons. Failing to ensure that the regime remove the "remittance tax", I do have a big problem with. It may not be "appeasing", but it certainly isn't helping either, IMO.

On to the editing of the video. If MDB's history is fraught with controversial statements and hypocritical remarks, then why engage in a dishonest game of "gotcha" in order to prove your point here? Just play the whole thing in its entirety and let people judge for themselves. What you're doing is the same old political garbage that only serves to deepen the level of mistrust between citizens and politicians (and their operatives). If you feel so strongly that your interpretation of MDB's remarks are fool-proof, then let the ENTIRE video speak for itself, not an edited version that removes an important context regarding South Africa, which you yourself acknowledge as being relevant.

As I said in a previous comment, I respect your dedication to a candidate and to the political process, despite our ideological differences. I really do. That's why it's even more disappointing that a young local Cuban-American who represents the future such as yourself resorts to the old tricks used by political professionals to distort your opponent's message. Just because everyone else does it "don't make it right", whether it's from Republicans or Democrats.

10:54 AM, April 27, 2009  
Blogger Joe Garcia said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:27 AM, April 27, 2009  
Blogger Giancarlo Sopo said...

Hola Robert.

That's totally cool.

We can agree to disagree on the interpretation of Mario Diaz-Balart's comments. All I want you to see is how someone can hear his words and walk away with the exact same interpretation that I, and many others, found incredibly offensive based on a literal interpretation of what he said. Now, if you think Mario meant something else, that's totally fine. But I went by what he literally said and so did a slew of people with more higher education degrees than I have fingers.

Regarding policy differences...

I'm not going to engage in a debate over Cuba policy because I'm not bound to any one policy. I'm a pragmatic man. I just want a policy that advances freedom in Cuba.

What I will say is that there are plenty of people who honestly believe the way to advance freedom in Cuba is via free trade. This is the very same argument that Ronald Reagan made when he vetoed sanctions on South Africa.

One can also argue that it's reprehensible and irresponsible to continue to support a policy that didn't even put a dent in Fidel Castro's feeding tube last year, right?

The point is that nobody should resort to comparisons with Hitler or ad-hominem attacks simply because they disagree with your views. That's what Mario Diaz-Balart did and, as I just pointed out, it wouldn't be the first time.

When someone tells you that you "represent the interests of the Castro regime" or that you share a similar attitude as those who did business with Hitler, they're not arguing policy, they're attacking you personally.

A link to the full transcript has been available on our site since Day 1. Just check for yourself. What the edited video did was make his comments more condensed without changing an iota of their meaning. News editors do this all the time because nobody has time to sit through Mario Diaz-Balart's nonsensical rambling. But hey, for those who do, the links were there for them. And I just took it upon myself to add the full video to the blog.

As a matter of principle, unlike other blogs, I don't believe in censorship so I would never try to change the meaning of MDB's words. And I'm glad you don't believe in censorship either as we can agree to disagree respectfully and openly here on your blog.

As always, the invitation is open to chat via e-mail if you'd like, or if you want to join us on GenerationMiami and comment there you can.

Un abrazo,


11:28 AM, April 27, 2009  

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