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In Ybor City, Charlie Miranda and Mike Suarez denounce Trumpism

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Tampa City Council members Mike Suarez and Charlie Miranda took time out Wednesday to praise how Tampa has always been a beacon for immigrants, and how Donald Trump’s incendiary rhetoric on Latinos threatens what Ronald Reagan once called “that city on a hill.”

“Donald Trump does not understand what it’s like to be an American,” Suarez said, speaking at the Blind Tiger Cafe in Ybor City. “He does not respect the institutions that we cherish as Americans.

“Without those institutions, we wouldn’t have that essential opportunity in order to make our country better, and when I mean better, I don’t mean stronger in terms of our finances, I don’t mean stronger in terms of our military, I mean stronger in terms of our diversity.”

“America is where people come for one word, and that is opportunity,” Miranda said, “because nowhere in the world is there any greater place to live than the United States of America. Mr. Trump was incorrect when he said that the Hispanics were bad and they’re lazy. You have to understand that in this country, the people who came here, no matter if you’re Mexican, Guatemalan, Spaniard, Cuban, whatever Hispanic race you are, you come here for one word only — opportunity. Opportunity to work. Opportunity to raise your family to have something better that you yourself didn’t have.”

The two Cuban-American Democrats were participating in the news conference organized by For Florida’s Future, a group affiliated with the national For Our Future PAC created by billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer. Their purpose was basic: energize Tampa Latino voters to go to the polls and support Hillary Clinton before the last day of Tuesday’s election.

“A leader is not a leader unless he knows how to follow, and Donald Trump can’t even follow his own feet,” Miranda said, criticizing the GOP presidential nominee for his style of insulting virtually everyone he disagrees with. “This isn’t a country about insults, this is a country about getting things done the right way and doing it, not for yourself, but for someone else. It’s not about how much money you have, what kind of car you have, where you live. It’s about helping humanity.”

Suarez and Miranda were joined by two young entrepreneurs at the presser.

“As a Hispanic, a Latino, a millennial, an entrepreneur, and an hombre, I believe that when we hear ignorant remarks and ignorant comments from Donald Trump, to a certain degree we should be thankful because it’s the perfect opportunity to shine a light on the importance of the Hispanic community,” said Tony Selvaggio, CEO and founder of eSmart Recycling in Tampa.

“As an entrepreneur in Tampa I am deeply concerned by Donald’s obsession with building a wall and closing off America to the rest of the world,” said Andrew Machota, founder of New Town Connections. “We should be welcoming talented immigrants who want to come to America to build their own businesses and improve their lives. Our diversity is what makes America strong.”

Trump is at even-odds at this moment to capture Florida next week and possibly win the presidency. When asked to explain all the appeal of the GOP nominee’s divisive rhetoric, Suarez said people are hurting across the country, and they see something in Trump that might alleviate that pain.

But, he said, Trump is offering “false reality — he’s not offering reality.”

Indications from Florida and around the nation are that Hispanics are fired up to vote against Trump this election. A survey taken in the middle last month — Oct. 17-24 — by the National Association of Latino Elected Officials shows nearly 75 percent of Latinos in Florida indicated they would most likely vote for Clinton.

And on a conference call Tuesday, Maria Rodriguez, executive director of the Florida Immigration Coalition and FLIC Votes, announced 359,000 Latinos in Florida had voted as of Monday, a record this early out before Election Day.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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