Marco Rubio Archives - Page 3 of 193 - SaintPetersBlog

Deb Tamargo battles Jonny Torres for future control of Hillsborough County Republican Party

November 8 was a pretty great night for Florida Republicans.

For the first time since 2004, the Sunshine State went red in the presidential race; Marco Rubio easily won re-election in his race for the U.S. Senate. And despite the redistricting of every state Senate seat, the GOP lost no seats in the Legislature’s upper chamber.

One not so bright place for the GOP was in Hillsborough County, where Hillary Clinton won decisively against Donald Trump, putting a dent into the county’s reputation as a reliable bellwether for the presidential race.

Now Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee Chair Deb Tamargo is being challenged in her bid for another two-year term by her second vice chair, Jonny Torres. The two engaged in an hourlong debate Wednesday night at La Teresita Restaurant, sponsored by the Hispanic Republican Club of Hillsborough County.

It began amicably enough, with Tamargo confessing that while the party could have apparently fared better in the election, it’s never been in better shape when it comes to issues like transparency and accountability. Torres agreed with her that party members have a stronger voice than under previous party chairs. But that would be the last time the two agreed on virtually anything the rest of the evening.

“The reason I’m running is there are candidates who were unsuccessful and elected officials who really felt that they were on their own,” Torres said flatly. “They weren’t getting the kind of support financially or with volunteer efforts.”

“I have to disagree with Jonny that we did not provide candidate support because we provided more candidate support than in previous years,” Tamargo replied. And she challenged Torres to name names of unhappy Republican candidates.

Torres responded that he has been endorsed in the race by Hillsborough Republican state House members Ross Spano, Dan Raulerson and Jamie Grant and said there were more“Out of respect to Chairwoman Tamargo, not everyone is willing to step forward,” he said. “What I keep hearing from the campaigns and the consultants time and time again is that they saw little to no members from the REC supporting their efforts.”

Tamargo strongly disagreed, saying that she knew that virtually everyone in the room had worked on the campaigns of at least one of the several Republicans who were on the ballot last month. She boasted of having the ability to fund first-time candidates for the first time, as well as providing slate cards, messaging and campaign “walkers” who went door to door to advocate for Republicans.

There are approximately 39,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans in Hillsborough County today. Some of that is attributable to the growing Latino population in the county, a demographic that both candidates agreed needs more attention from the Republican Party. But that led to another dispute about how much of that outreach has already occurred.

Tamargo said that the Hillsborough County REC for the first time had purchased airtime on urban radio and Spanish-language radio, and made those spots available for all candidates. “Some made themselves available, some did not,” she added.

Torres, who worked on Hispanic outreach in the Tampa Bay area for the Republican National Committee in 2015, said the most important thing was for the party to simply show up at events designed around the Hispanic community.

Approximately 50 people gathered to watch the debate, with the crowd occasionally making remarks indicating their support for a specific candidate.

During the Q&A session, the two candidates were asked how much time they would have available to chair the committee each week (the position is a voluntary one).

“I dedicated more than 40 hours a week to the mission,” said Tamargo. “I’m a workaholic. I can’t balance very well.”

With a full-top job and a family, Torres said he couldn’t specify exactly how much time he’d have available. He said he looked up to other GOP chairs like Blaise Ingoglia (the chair of the Republican Party of Florida), Joe Gruters or Nick DiCeglie, but then attempted to put the focus back on Tamargo. “No one can take away the hours, but what do we have to show for it? My philosophy is that we work smarter, not harder.”

The two also voter registration numbers, with Torres saying that Tamargo waited too to begin an all-out effort this year. Tamargo said she actively began those efforts a year-and-a-half ago. Torres says he would hire a political director to concentrate on those efforts year round.

Members of the Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee will decide between Tamargo and Torres on December 20.

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Mitch Perry Report for 12.14.16 – Fun with Guccifer 2.0

Over the summer, a hacker who went by the nom de guerre of Guccifer 2.0 began distributing internal documents from the Democratic National Committee to a variety of reporters and bloggers here in Florida.

I was one of those recipients.

I bring that up this morning because of the story in Wednesday’s NY Times which revisits the issue, and highlights the document dumps in the CD 26 Democratic primary between Annette Taddeo and Joe Garcia.

And it reviews the correspondence between Guccifer 2.0 and a blogger who created the website HelloFLA!,, who the Times reports was run by a former Florida legislative aide turned Republican lobbyist.

I know we published one, maybe two stories from the information that Guccifer 2.0 provided. I then remember he sent me a link to some “new” material in mid-September that didn’t seem that all that new, and that I didn’t use. And some of it was about congressional races in places like Arizona and Texas. When I informed him of that, he then sent me this link to a post written on the HelloFla! site. I never responded, and that was pretty much the end of our correspondence.

There’s no question that some of this opposition research material was used by Republicans in some congressional races, despite Nancy Pelosi’s pleadings to Paul Ryan that Republicans not exploit that.

With all the discussing about how the hacking of the DNC and John Podesta hurt Hillary Clinton, the fact is most of those emails were more on the gossipy and embarrassing side. There were hardly any smoking guns in the thousands of emails that were produced, which in October were released virtually everyday. But these DNC internal documents documented in today’s Times story, yeah, that could have definitely hurt some Dems in some congressional races around the nation.

In other news…

FDOT Secretary Jim Boxold had some interesting remarks to make about the extremely controversial Tampa Bay Express project at a Senate Transportation committee meeting yesterday.

Marco Rubio serves on the Foreign Relations Committee, the committee of U.S. Senators who will vote on confirming Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s choice for secretary of state.

The National Urban League is taking Equality Florida to court over what they claim is infringement of their logo.

The ACLU of Florida and other groups and individuals have gone to federal court to remove another provision of that controversial abortion bill passed by the Legislature earlier this year.

Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee Chair Nick DiCeglie was re-elected on Monday night, and now is hoping to lead the entire state of Republican DEC chairs next month in Orlando.

Newly elected Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren will kick off a listening tour starting this Friday.

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Marco Rubio says he has “serious concerns” about Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State

Marco Rubio had already weighed in negatively about Exxon Mobile CEO Rex Tillerson being floated as Donald Trump‘s possible choice for Secretary of State, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that now that it’s official, Rubio is still expressing his doubts.

“While Rex Tillerson is a respected businessman, I have serious concerns about his nomination,” Rubio said in a statement released Tuesday morning.

Other than John McCain, no other Republican has been so outspoken as Rubio in questioning the validity of the Tillerson nomination. Both men have been critical regarding Tillerson’s ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Tillerson negotiated an energy partnership with Putin in 2011 that the Russian president said would be worth as much as $500 billion. The next year, the Exxon Mobile CEO received the Russian Order of Friendship from the Kremlin, one of the highest honors that Russia bestows on foreigners.

The energy deal was put on hold when the U.S. levied sanctions against Russia for annexing Crimea. Reuters reported earlier this year that Exxon vowed to resume the agreement once sanctions are rolled back, a process Tillerson would be heavily involved in as secretary of State.

“The next secretary of state must be someone who views the world with moral clarity, is free of potential conflicts of interest, has a clear sense of America’s interests, and will be a forceful advocate for America’s foreign policy goals to the president, within the administration, and on the world stage,” continued Rubio in his statement. “I look forward to learning more about his record and his views.‎ I will do my part to ensure he receives a full and fair but also thorough hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.”

Rubio has also been out front in taking seriously the questions of Russia’s involvement in the just concluded presidential election.  Over the weekend, the Washington Post reported that the CIA‘s private conclusion that Russia’s activities were intended to tip the scales to help Trump. Senators from both sides the aisle says there will be a congressional investigation into that matter, but Rubio has been saying for months that he has concerns about possible Russian involvement.

While campaigning for re-election to the U.S. Senate in October, Rubio said“We don’t want to be in a country where foreign governments are able to blackmail our officials or interfere with our politics.”

Not too many other Republicans were saying that two months ago, when the WikiLeaks dumps of emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta were hurting the Democratic presidential nominee.

“Do we really want to live in a country where foreign intelligence agents can blackmail our public officials if they threaten that if we don’t do what they want, they’re going to release your daughter’s emails, or your son’s emails, or your wife’s emails?” Rubio said. “Today it’s [Democrats]. Tomorrow it could be us. Or everyone for that matter.”

“This is what Vladimir Putin does to the former Soviet republics: he blackmails leaders and interferes with their elections,” Rubio added. “This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. This is an American issue.”

Undoubtedly, there should be plenty of tough questions coming from the Florida senator when Tillerson comes before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee next month.

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Women slam Donald Trump in Tampa as part of a national day of protest

Approximately thirty people gathered in Tampa’s Lykes Gaslight Park on Monday to participate in a protest by women and their “allies in solidarity” against what they call Donald Trump’s hate.

The event was one of at least two dozen being held around the nation. In New York, protesters were gathering at Columbus Circle at 2 p.m., where they were then scheduled later in the day to march to Trump Tower to speak out against the president-elect.

“Part of the objective was to do this before the 19th to try to get the attention of the electoral college voters, however far fetched that might be,” said Suzanne Young, the organizer of the Tampa event.

December 19 is when the 538 members of the Electoral College will cast their ballots for president. Those electors are picked by their political parties, and in the states where Trump took the popular vote like in Florida, the Republican party’s slate of electorate will get to vote.

But a group of rogue electors known as the Hamilton Electors have been engaged in a last-ditch effort to stop Trump from becoming president. To do they must convince at least 37 of the 306 Republican electors currently pledged to Trump to instead support a moderate Republican alternative. Democratic electors have taken the lead in this long-shot effort, which if successful at denying any candidate 270 electoral votes could ultimately throw the presidential election into the hands of the House of Representatives.

“I have a fear for their own safety, because they can’t vote their conscious,” said one anonymous demonstrator about the electors at the Tampa rally. She told this reporter she feared retribution from her boss if she said her name while attending the event.

Others at the rally spoke in dark terms of what a Trump presidency could mean for the nation.

“I’ve lost a lot of elections, but I always had the security of knowing that the U.S. was going to be in pretty good hands. This time I feel that the entire world is at stake,” said Laura Manson from Dade City.”I’m an older women. I have studied some history. And I see some similarities, quite frankly, to Hitler, and I always said to myself, that couldn’t happen. Now I think it could happen. And if history has taught me anything, it’s that there’s a time to stand up.”

Nearly all the protestors in Lykes Gaslight Park were women, some of whom said they feared that under a Trump administration they could lose fundamental rights, such as the right to have an abortion. Trump has said that he supports pro-life justices to sit on the Supreme Court.

“We’ve got to stand up or we’re going to lose,” Geanne Marks from St. Petersburg said with concern. “All that we’ve fought for is going to go down the tubes. We have got to stand up. He’s in. We can’t do anything about that. But we can sure let our voice be heard, that we’re not going to put up with the kind of things that he’s shown while he was campaigning.”

Marks said she has only become more alarmed in the five weeks since the election by the choice of Trump’s Cabinet selections. “I mean you choose somebody for EPA who doesn’t believe in global warming?” she asked incredulously about the choice of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead that agency“You chose a woman for education who doesn’t believe in public education?” she added, referring to Betsy DeVos, Trump’s selection to head the Dept. of Education.

Over the weekend Florida GOP Senator Marco Rubio slammed Trump for considering ExonMobil Corporation head Rex Tillerson as be his choice for secretary of state. The 64-year-old Tillerson, who took home $27 million last year, also has close ties with Russia, which has led to the objections by Rubio, John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

Tampa resident Erin Feichtinger said after reading Rubio’s tweet about Tillerson, she called his office on Monday to tell him she appreciated the comment. “We should identify these issues that I don’t think should be partisan, that affect all of Americans, and so I think it’s important that I call him,” she said. “I’m going to continue to call the office and hold him to that and let him know that his constituents do see that and do support that.”

Protests against Trump began the night after the election and continued for over a week in the Tampa Bay area and around the nation.  There haven’t been as many recently, but several people who attended Monday’s rally say they’ll be active the entire time that Trump is in office.

Susan from St. Petersburg (she did not feel comfortable giving us her full name) said uncertain whether the Democrats are up to being the opposition party in full in challenging Trump, but she says she won’t quit.

“I believe that radical change and incremental change can co-exist,” she said. “I believe in both kinds of change and it doesn’t hurt me to participate in incremental change while I advocate for radical change.”

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Mitch Perry Report for 12.9.16 – Will Bud Selig’s entry into the HOF ease the way steroid users?

Happy Friday, y’all. Hey, can we talk baseball this December morning? Okay, how ’bout hypocrisy?

Bud Selig, the commissioner who presided over the game’s golden age of steroid use, was named to the sacred Baseball Hall of Fame earlier this week by what is called the “veterans committee.”

That’s not to be confused with the Baseball Writers Association of America, who will most likely once again diss Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens when they vote next month on who should make the hall.

There were a lot of other elements of the Selig era, but the press certainly was fascinated by the explosion of people using performing enhancing drugs (PED’s) during the late 1990’s and early aughts, and none were better on (or off them) than Bonds and Clemens.

Of course, it should be noted, steroid use was completely legal in the game at the time. A weak policy was put in place in 2003, but it was strengthen in the fall of 2005 after Congress threatened to intervene. Leading the game at that time was Selig, who, like most of the baseball establishment (including us fans) pretty much ignored the controversy until it centered around a guy that nobody liked named Barry Bonds.

Bonds owns both the all-time home run record for one season, hitting 73 in 2001, as well as the most in the history of the game, when he eclipsed Hank Aaron in 2007.

Bonds was a universally loathed man, but he was beloved in San Francisco. The same for Clemens in the towns that he played in. Alex Rodriguez? Well, when people were throwing fake needles at Bonds during his run-up to breaking the all time home run record in ’07, A-Rod was hitting 54 homers in the Bronx, and NYC sports writers were saying that he would ultimately surpass Bonds. Then A-Rod got busted again for steroid use himself a couple of years later, and ultimately became the whipping boy of the New York city dailies.

Of course, “Big Papi” David Ortiz also got busted for ‘roids a decade ago, but hey, he’s beloved by everyone, so nobody likes to bring that up. In fact Selig’s successor, Rob Manfred, says that drug test that Ortiz failed back then may have been faulty.

“I think that the feeling was, at the time that name was leaked, that it was important to make people understand that even if your name was on that list, that it was entirely possible that you were not a positive,” Manfred told the Boston Globe on October 3, Big Papi’s final day as a pro. “I do know that he’s never been a positive at any point under our program.”

Whatever. But come on, isn’t it time to end the punishment for these stars for doing better what so many others were doing at the time? At least some sportswriters are seeing the light. Veteran San Francisco Chronicle scribe Susan Slusser tweeted last week that it’s “senseless to keep steroid guys out when the enablers are in Hall of Fame. I now will hold my nose and vote for players I believe cheated.”

Will her colleagues in the baseball media follow suit?

In other news..

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel delivered a letter to Donald Trump earlier this week from 17 big-city mayors, calling on the President-elect  to reconsider his vow to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the provision that protects young, so-called Dreamers who came to the country before the age of 16 from deportation and allows them to study and work in the U.S. Bob Buckhorn wasn’t on the letter, but said he would have signed if he were asked.

Marco Rubio and the Republican Senate isn’t about to give Merrick Garland an up or down vote regarding his nomination for the Supreme Court, but a coalition of progressive groups in Florida aren’t giving up the opportunity to think about it during the lame -duck session of Congress.

And the Tampa City Council District 7 election is over, but the hard feelings aren’t – at least with one fallen candidate.

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Bill Nelson, Marco Rubio applaud NIH funding bill passage; Moffitt money preserved

Florida’s Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson both applauded passage Wednesday by the U.S. Senate of a bill that heads off potential cuts in cancer research at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa and the University of Miami’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The Senate approved H.R. 34, entitled the “21st Century Cures Act,” by a 94-5 vote Wednesday. The House of Representatives approved it earlier.

“This bill makes a lot of improvements to our nation’s medical research programs, but the most important thing it provides is hope — hope for patients affected by thousands of diseases, hope for people battling mental illness, and hope for families scarred by the ravages of opioid addiction,” Rubio stated in a news release issued by his office. “This legislation combines some of the best ideas for advancing medical treatment and research, speeding up the development of lifesaving drugs, and reforming our mental health system. It also funds the fight against the heroin epidemic and overdoses sweeping through far too many communities in Florida and around the country.”

The bill provides the National Institutes of Health an additional $4.8 billion over the next ten years.

“This funding will help us retain some of the nation’s best and brightest medical researchers and allow them to continue working on several important projects such as cures for cancer and Alzheimer’s,” Nelson stated in a news release from his office.

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Marco Rubio endorses Blaise Ingoglia for Florida GOP chair

Add Sen. Marco Rubio to the growing list of Republicans backing Blaise Ingoglia for Florida GOP chair.

Ingoglia, a Spring Hill Republican state representative, announced Tuesday that Rubio has thrown his support behind his re-election bid. In an email to Republican Party of Florida executive committee members, Ingoglia said Rubio has “been a great friend to the RPOF” and thanked him for his leadership.

“We look forward to seeing him shine in the U.S. Senate with Republicans now in control of all three branches of the federal government,” he said in his email.

Ingoglia was elected chairman in 2015, after Republican activists rejected Gov. Rick Scott’s hand-picked chairman. He had served as the party vice chairman, and was backed by grassroots leaders throughout the state.

“The Republican Party’s performance in Florida under Blaise’s leadership speaks for itself. We won tough races across the board in the nation’s biggest swing state, and Blaise’s leadership in the GOP’s get-out-the-vote ground operation this past year was decisive,” said Rubio in a statement. “He has worked tirelessly the past two years traveling the state, meeting with activists, and growing our party. Blaise has my full support for reelection as Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.”

Ingoglia will face Christian Ziegler, a Sarasota Republican committeeman, in the race to serve as the RPOF chair. Ziegler, 33, announced his candidacy in November.

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Marco Rubio: Cuba reforms are rooted in America’s national interest

Sen. Marco Rubio made the rounds of Sunday morning shows this week, discussing Fidel Castro and the way forward for U.S./Cuba relations.

Rubio, a frequent and fierce critic of the current president’s accommodation toward the Cuban government, has voiced an interest in applying more pressure on Havana in the Trump era. His comments Sunday were consistent with that theme, while advancing an interest in making change conditional on real Democratic reforms.

****

On Meet the Press, Sen. Rubio said that “as far as the practical day to day affairs … Cuba today is governed the same way it was 48 hours ago.”

Rubio noted that Raul Castro is 85 years old himself.

“He’s not Gorbachev. He’s not a reformer thinking of the interests of Cuba long term.”

Rubio believes that Castro wants to continue protecting his friends and family in positions of power, and posited that Fidel hasn’t been in charge for a decade.

Regarding policy, Rubio urged a holistic “look at all changes” in Cuba policy, examining them in the context of the “national interest of the United States.”

“Banking changes,” for example, should be conditional on “specific changes” in Cuba opening its society.

Rubio noted that Cuban policy contravenes American interests in many ways, citing Cuba “harboring fugitives” such as New Jersey cop killer Joanne Chesimard, and Cuba’s quashing of freedoms of press, expression, and organization.

While Rubio is against the kinds of “unilateral changes” that he sees the Obama administration having committed to, he does see a way forward, making moves toward rapprochement conditional on the kinds of changes that happened in Myanmar.

“Our goal is not to punish. Our goal is to figure out what can we do, through U.S. policy, to … look out for the national interest of the United States … to help create an environment where we are creating the potential for a transition to democratic order in Cuba at some point in the near future.”

****

On Face the Nation, Rubio hit similar themes, saying that a reformed Cuba policy should be linked to Democratic reforms, including expansion of the “free press,” a commitment to “independent political parties,” and the “kinds of things you find in every country in the western hemisphere besides Cuba and, increasingly, Venezuela.”

“Our #1 obligation is to act in the national interest of the United States of America,” Rubio added, and “democracy” in Cuba is key to that.

“I am not against change,” Rubio said, but he wants there to be reciprocity and a “pathway to democracy” in Cuba.

Rubio expects a “generational leadership change” and a “Democratic transition,” and it won’t be a moment too soon for American interests.

Cuba, said Rubio, is a “source of instability in the region,” with an anti-American government that aids and abets Chinese and Russian intelligence efforts, and “harbors fugitives from American justice,” including people who have committed Medicaid fraud and found refuge in the island nation.

****

The Hill also offered Rubio’s quotes from Sunday on CNN on President Obama’s “pathetic” statement in the wake of Fidel Castro’s death.

Barack Obama is the president of the most powerful country in the world. And what I called pathetic is not mentioning whatsoever in that statement the reality that there are thousands upon thousands of people who suffered brutally under the Castro regime,” Rubio said.

“He executed people.  He jailed people for 20 to 30 years.  The Florida Straits, there are thousands of people who lost their lives fleeing his dictatorship. And not to acknowledge any of that in the statement, I felt was pathetic, absolutely.”

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In Tampa, agreement that Fidel Castro was one of a kind

There was no harsher a critic of the Fidel Castro regime in Cuba than Ralph Fernandez. Yet the Tampa attorney who represented several former political prisoners in Cuba over the past several decades says that nobody ever challenged the U.S. government as the longtime Cuban leader, who died Friday at the age of 90.

“The guy stood up to America like no one could. He represented a shrimp of a country, just a dot on the map, and he was just in our face, and he became the advocate for an entire Third World,” Fernandez said Saturday morning. “We have to acknowledge that he was the most eloquent, articulate speaker of the Spanish language of all time. He was brilliant. He was evil. He was one of a kind.”

But Fernandez also compares Castro to some of the evilest men who ever walked the earth.

“It’s great news, but it’s way late. Now he’s gone off to spend time with his friends: Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, and Pol Pot and the rest of the gang, if there’s a hell, he should be there for eternity.”

There is no official registry of the number of victims who were killed during Castro’s reign in power, which lasted from 1959 until he stepped down as president in 2006 because of health issues, ceding power to his brother Raul. An analysis performed by necrometrics.com put it between 5,000-12,000 executions. Fernandez claims it was 30,000, with another 200,000 imprisoned over the years on human rights violations, and “a third” of the population leaving the island to become exiles.

Al Fox is perhaps the best-known advocate in Tampa for advocating for opening relations with the Cuban government. Since creating the Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation in 2001, he’s taken more than 100 trips to the Communist island, and he is fierce in criticizing those who deride Castro’s Cuba as a wasteland for its people.

“He took a country that 70 percent of all the land was owned by foreigners, and he gave it to the people,” Fox said. “And he took a country where only the elite were educated, and only the elite had proper medical care, and today you have a country of 11.5 million, and the people of Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras — they all wish they could live like a Cuban lives, but the perception out there is the complete opposite.”

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has been a steadfast critic of the Castro regime, and has refused to join the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, the Tampa City Council and others who have been calling for a Cuban consulate to be located in Tampa after the breakthrough in diplomatic relations set forth by President Barack Obama in December 2014. In a statement, he said that generations of Cubans have helped build Tampa.

“Many arrived in our City fleeing the totalitarian policies of the Castro government with nothing more that the shirts on their backs and a yearning for freedom,” Buckhorn said. “They have never strayed from the belief that one day Cuba would again be free. The passing of Fidel Castro offers hope that one day the Cuban people will enjoy the benefits of a free and democratic society.”

No Florida lawmaker was more than Marco Rubio, who called Castro an “evil, murderous dictator who inflicted misery and suffering on his own people” and turned Cuba into an “impoverished island prison.”

Although there was cheering in Miami overnight about the news, the mood was more downcast in Havana, according to CNN. Fox says that despite what others say, there are many Cuban people supportive of Castro to this day.

“He is revered in Cuba,” Fox says. “When Saddam Hussein was toppled, the people went dancing in the street, OK? You watch what’s going to happen in Cuba (referring his funeral next week). He was an absolutely revered, but the perception is that he was hated.”

Tampa-area Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor, who after traveling to Cuba in 2013 became the first Florida lawmaker to call for the end of the U.S. imposed sanctions on the Cuban government, said that she fears that Donald Trump will reverse the diplomatic measures that Obama has implemented over the past couple of years.

“Slamming the door shut at this point in time would be disastrous,” she said.” Instead, Fidel Castro’s death should encourage all of us to meet the challenge of better diplomatic relations, economic opportunities for Cubans and Americans, expanded travel, and support for the dignity of the Cuban people.”

On that point, both Fernandez and Fox agree that they do not see Trump reversing much of what Obama has done.

“There will be no wall, Obamacare will not be repealed in toto, and there will be no aggressive positioning in terms of the Cuba situation,” predicts Fernandez. “That genie’s out the bottle,” adds Fox.

 

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Darden Rice, FLPIRG call out Marco Rubio, David Jolly for failing to protect consumers

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. David Jolly have sided with Wall Street bankers rather than protecting financial consumers, according to Florida PIRG, a public interest advocacy group.

“Rep. Jolly and Sen. Rubio have sided with big Wall Street banks and other financial institutions at the expense of consumers,” said Turner Lott, a campaign organizer with FLPIRG. “They have supported legislation that would starve the [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau] by changing its funding source.”

FLPIRG, a nonprofit, public interest advocacy organization, is campaigning to highlight the work and successes of the CFPB. Lott said Jolly is being targeted because he may still be able to vote on legislation that affects the CFPB before he leaves office in January. Jolly, a Republican, lost his re-election bid to Democrat Charlie Crist.

Rather than siding with Wall Street, Lott said, Rubio and Jolly should instead defend the CFPB against proposals that would weaken it.

The CFPB is a federal agency tasked with the job of protecting financial consumers from unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices and taking action against companies that break the law. The CFPB also provides education and information so consumers can make good financial decisions.

The CFPB’s successes for consumers cited by FLPIRG:

— The CFPB has returned nearly $12 billion to more than 27 million consumers by holding companies accountable for breaking the law.

— Among its numerous actions is a record $100 million penalty and consumer restitution against Wells Fargo for millions of fake, fraudulent consumer accounts created by its employees.

— The CFPB’s website hosts a complaint database that has processed more than one million complaints. It provides educational resources to help consumers make important financial decisions.

— More than 64,000 complaints from Floridians have been published in the database.

St. Petersburg Council member Darden Rice agreed that the CFPB needs to continue as an independent watchdog agency. The CFPB’s work to regulate financial companies and ensure consumers are financially stable is critical to an area like St. Petersburg, she said.

The prevalence of payday loan companies in the city is a prime example of the need for a watchdog. Rice said, “There are more payday loan storefronts than there are Starbucks and Burger Kings in the St Pete, Tampa, Clearwater metro area.

“These payday loan vendors are concentrated in areas that are predominately lower income communities and are still recovering from the economic collapse. We need to take necessary steps, like strengthen the CFPB, to protect consumers from predatory loan businesses that put people in debt traps they can never escape.”

Lott cited three threats to the autonomy of the CFPB:

— Proposed changes to its leadership structure – The agency is currently headed by a single director, Richard Cordray. There are efforts to change the structure to a commission of five people. Getting Cordray confirmed was a long uphill battle, Lott said. Getting five people confirmed would be even more difficult, possibly leaving the agency unable to fully function. Or the five seats could be stacked in favor of the industry it is meant to rein in. Both scenarios have been seen at other agencies, Lott said.

— Changes to its source of funding – The CFPB is currently funded independently through the Federal Reserve. Every banking regulator has had independent funding since 1864 to protect the economy from the politicization of banking policies as much as possible. Lott said there is an effort to bring the CFPB’s funding under Congressional appropriations approval – this means Congress could starve it to death so it wouldn’t be able to do its job because the lobbyists dominate those funding decisions.

— Stall the CFPB’s current rulemaking – The CFPB is currently working on rules that would protect consumers from payday debt traps and forced arbitration. Forced arbitration is used to prevent consumers from banding together and joining class action lawsuits to seek justice when they are wronged by financial companies. There are efforts to hamstring the CFPB’s work on these rules, he said.

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