The silence on the Hialeah mayoral race from former Sen. Rudy Garcia and Hialeah Councilwoman Vivian Casals-Muñoz is almost criminal -- and a sure sign of why they are not fit to be elected leaders of any community. Leaders lead by example, unafraid of the political consequences of doing what's right. They do not stay in the relative safety of the silent shadows.
What's right in this case is to throw their support behind former Mayor Raul Martinez. Not because he was a great mayor, which is arguable, or a great administrator, which is not. Not because he is squeaky clean, which is impossible to believe, or because he is a nice guy, which depends on the time and day. But because he is the least of two evils 24/7 and 365 days of the year. Because the alternative would be two more years of oppression, corruption, conflicts of interest and fraud under Su Alcaldito Carlos Hernandez. And that is what Casals-Muñoz and Garcia -- or anyone who claims to "I Love Hialeah" -- must try to stop.
Garcia -- who is not returning phone calls and threw me out of his family business, Atlas Carpets and Tile, Friday morning when I went to ask him about his plan to combat absentee ballot fraud (he has none, it was all more hot air) -- has said that he has not decided who to support. That, in and of itself, is disgraceful. Here is a guy who served for more than two decades in Tallahassee and wanted to be the mayor of the city, who wanted to lead the people and represent them. But he needs more time to decide if he should back a man who is raping the city, threatening employees, approving fraudulent budgets that call for a drastic and unnecessary reduction in firefighter paramedics, giving away millions in no-bid contracts to his friends and contributors of his campaigns and lying about everything, from the increase in water connection fees to his role in a loanshark operation where he was getting $5,400 a month in interest paid to him by a convicted ponzi schemer. The Senator kept saying he had to speak more to his wife, so maybe we should ask her who he is going to support since she seems to be the one who wears the pants in the family. At the Garcia campaign office Tuesday night, when I asked if he might cower in to the Republican party pressure to back su alcaldito, Zuly Garcia said, "Hernandez, no way!" So maybe there is hope. But don't expect Garcia to do the right thing and back Martinez. It's too politically inconvenient. And he's not a leader. He's a politician.
Casals-Muñoz, who won the first round Tuesday with more than 49 percent and thanked her opponent, former cop Danny Bolaños for running a clean race, won't do the right thing, either. At least she didn't do the completely wrong thing. Even though Hernandez has sought her for his run-off slate, Casals-Muñoz is staying independent. "I am going to stay by myself. I like who I am with and where I am," she told Ladra in a telephone interview Monday morning.
But it's not because she doesn't think Martinez is the right man for the job. She apparently does.
"I'm not going to support someone who is supporting someone against me," she told me, referring to Bolaños. When reminded that she might easily take the run-off even with Martinez supporting her opponent -- and that it would be an opportunity for her to show how much bigger she was than the political circus around her -- she scoffed. "He has a candidate against me. There's a protocol."
Really? Really? There's a protocol? You can't back Martinez, even though you know he is the best of the two options, because he won't abandon his slate mate and long-time family friend? Casals-Muñoz acknowledged that if Martinez did that, she would not support him anyhow. Of course not. And he won't. He is nothing if not loyal to those who are loyal to him. But why is protocol more important than the people of Hialeah? Ladra just doesn't get it. Shouldn't you represent the people who elected you and who are clammoring to elect you again?
"The people choose the candidate. And if Raul gets his message out loud and clear, he can get their votes," Casals-Muñoz said. "He's done a wonderful job of getting the message across."
Ladra can't help but wonder if it would be inconvenient for Casals-Muñoz to have Martinez, or Anyone But Carlos, in office on the fourth floor at City Hall. Martinez promises to open up all the no-bid contracts and contracts that look like they were quid pro quo for political favors. Who knows how much of that would involve Casals-Muñoz -- who notarized several questionable loans for former Mayor Julio Robaina and also loaned money herself to a condo-conversion king that got loans from Hernandez, Robaina and former Mayor Alex Penelas, in addition to others like Roberto and Mercedes Blanco. That certainly could be the perception among the voters.
But the silence is certainly inconvenient for voters and residents who are not being represented by these two. They are the ones who will lose much more than just an election if the silence is interpreted silence is that Garcia and the councilwoman are okay with Hernandez continuing with his corrupt, repressive and retrograde regime.