Throughout his embattled political career, David Rivera used his power to undermine Cuba's communist government at every turn. The Cuban-American Republican was one of the staunchest hard-line crusaders against Fidel Castro's regime. When he was a state legislator, he successfully championed a law that prohibited private colleges and universities from using state money, and public colleges and universities from using any money to plan, organize, or implement travel to countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism by the U.S. State Department.
During his one term as a U.S. congressman, Rivera tried to pass changes to the Cuban Adjustment Act that would have banned Cubans who claim political asylum in the United States from returning to the island nation.
So what the heck was Rivera doing raising glasses of wine with three Central American socialists from Central America this past September?
Last week, Diario Las Americas published a story about a photograph posted on Facebook that shows Rivera sitting at a table inside an unnamed restaurant alongside Daniel Ortega Reyes, son of Nicaraguan Sandinista President Daniel Ortega; an unnamed member of Nicaragua's Mesa de la Unidad Cristiana Party, which has Marxist ideals; Remberto Gonzalez, a member of the leftist Salvadoran Conciliation Nacional Party; and Al Gutman, a disgraced former state legislator who served three years in prison for public corruption.
According to Diario Las Americas, the photograph was allegedly taken around September 9 of last year, just three weeks after Rivera was implicated in a scandal that he allegedly financed a bogus candidate in the Democratic primary against his rival, Joe Garcia. Rivera lost to Garcia in Florida's 26th District by a margin of 54 percent to 43 percent.
Rivera and Gutman did not return a phone call seeking comment.
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In February, federal prosecutors charged Justin Lamar Sternad, the former candidate Rivera allegedly backed, with lying on his federal campaign reports to hide the source of secret money funneled into his run for Congress. Sternad will also be charged with conspiring with others as part of the alleged scheme to defraud the United States. Authorities suspect Rivera funneled the money to Sternad through his close friend Ana Sol Alliegro, a Republican political consultant who managed the Democratic candidate's campaign. She's been missing since September, when she failed to appear for an interview with the FBI. Media outlets speculate Alliegro is hiding in Nicaragua.
Rivera has denied wrongdoing, as well as insisting he has never met Sternad.
Follow Francisco Alvarado on Twitter: @thefrankness.