Politics

Miami Republican Once Criticized for Being Nice to Castro Now Claims Democrats Love Fidel

Maria Elvira Salazar, of all people, should know a thing or two about pro-Castro comments being taken out of context.
Maria Elvira Salazar, of all people, should know a thing or two about pro-Castro comments being taken out of context. Screenshot via Maria Elvira Salazar / Twitter
click to enlarge Maria Elvira Salazar, of all people, should know a thing or two about pro-Castro comments being taken out of context. - SCREENSHOT VIA MARIA ELVIRA SALAZAR / TWITTER
Maria Elvira Salazar, of all people, should know a thing or two about pro-Castro comments being taken out of context.
Screenshot via Maria Elvira Salazar / Twitter
Less than two years ago, Maria Elvira Salazar, a former TV journalist and current Republican candidate for Congress in Miami, said her words were being taken out of context when her opponents pulled up an old interview she conducted with Fidel Castro during which she called the dictator "comandante" and "un revolucionario por excelencia" — an honorific for "commander" and a compliment saying Castro was an exceptional revolutionary. She claimed the comments were taken out of context and were an unfair attack on her character.

Fast-forward just 18 months, and Salazar is attacking others, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, for being too nice to Castro. In a video she posted on Twitter this week, Salazar claims that the entire leadership of the Democratic Party is somehow pro-Castro and that her opponent, Democratic U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, is also a Castro fan. Those allegations are, obviously, nonsense.

"It's sick that Democrats now openly support Castro!" Salazar wrote in a tweet sharing her video.
Salazar's campaign did not respond to a message from New Times yesterday. But there's zero evidence that Sanders and the entire Democratic Party support Castro.

Earlier this week, Sanders praised aspects of the Castro regime. In an interview with 60 Minutes, he said Castro's literacy and medical programs had helped improve life for the nation's poor. That comment apparently angered the Cuban right and many centrist Democrats in South Florida because many of their constituents fled the Castro regime after the 1959 Cuban Revolution. In Sanders' defense, others noted that he made the remark while condemning the country's dictatorship and that his words echoed nearly note-for-note a 2016 speech by then-President Barack Obama. But that reasoning hasn't stopped Sanders' many detractors from launching waves of criticism at him.

Salazar, of all people, should know a thing or two about pro-Castro comments being taken out of context, because her own remarks about Castro have dogged her for years. In 2018, one of her Republican primary opponents dug up footage of her interviewing Castro in 1995 and used it in an attack ad. In the clip, she calls Castro "comandante" and "un revolucionario por exelencia" and pays him a few other compliments.

At the time, Salazar was livid. She said the clip was taken out of context and didn't show she also criticized Castro in the interview. She also claimed the footage had been "manipulated." In fact, Salazar was so upset she hired a lawyer and claimed the ad was defamatory. She said that she called Castro "comandante" only to avoid calling him "president" and that she called him "un revoliucionario por exelencia" only to set up a follow-up question that wasn't shown in the attack ad.

"Your campaign is currently broadcasting an advertisement that is false and defames my client," her attorney, Juan-Carlos Planas, wrote to her opponent, Stephen Marks, in 2018. "Ms. Salazar's disgust of the Cuban regime is well documented throughout her exemplary decades-long career as a journalist."

Barely 18 months later, Salazar, too, appears happy to take others' comments about the Cuban regime out of context.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.