Wed, 04 October 2023
The Daily Ittefaq

Citizen Trump offers power to the people in downtown Miami

Update : 15 Jun 2023, 09:56

With his corporate suits, fussy hairstyle and penchant for glitzy decor, the Big Mac-munching former president of the United States isn't everyone's idea of a counterculture revolutionary.

But try telling that to the clientele at the Versailles Cuban restaurant Miami's Little Havana neighborhood, where Donald Trump strutted between booths Tuesday telling tales of his latest run-in with the government like he was a modern-day Che Guevara.

"These accusations against Donald Trump are a political tool to hurt the Republicans and him," Cuban-born Elizabeth Gonzalez tells AFP, echoing the views of many diners who have seen political repression up close in Latin America.

On Wednesday, the Versailles was still buzzing a day after Trump's impromptu visit on his way back from his arrest and processing at the downtown federal courthouse on charges of mishandling classified secrets.

It was the second indictment in a little over two months for the 77-year-old Trump, who coincidentally was born exactly 18 years after the Latin American revolutionary icon Ernesto "Che" Guevara. In April, Trump appeared in a Manhattan court over accusations that he lied about paying off a porn star who was shopping tawdry tales of extracurricular sex.

"What is happening is copied from Latin American countries. It's being transferred to us here," Gonzalez said, reflecting on Trump's mounting legal woes.

Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush had passed through the Versailles long before Trump, lured not only by the menu, but also by the promise of votes.

Florida is seen as the country's largest bellwether state, and Trump takes credit for turning it deep Republican red in recent years, principally by winning over Latinos in places like Miami.

On the terrace of the rococo-style restaurant, 69-year-old Hector Schwerert was weighing the significance of Trump making a stop-off in a Latin American neighborhood after decrying political persecution by what he describes as a corrupt regime.

"There is no doubt in my mind that the prosecutor was selected by the US attorney general to seek an indictment against the leading Republican candidate," said the Cuban-born US Army veteran, warming to the theme of US jurisprudence as an arm of repressive government.

"We are becoming very much like a banana republic."

Never mind that the idea behind appointing a special prosecutor – one who wasn't required to consult the government on his charging decisions, and didn't – was to insulate the Justice Department from accusations of political influence.

Hermes Pernia, a Venezuelan construction worker who is all too aware of the misery an authoritarian government can inflict on its people, isn't convinced.

"This is because they don't want him to be the candidate, because they know he is going to win," the 44-year-old told AFP about Trump's latest prosecution.

"As a Venezuelan, I know that what is happening is the same as in my country. They are pushing him aside. It's the same as in Latin America."

Across much of the restaurant the sentiment is shared: People are angry about Trump becoming a target and agree with his lawyer Alina Habba, who suggested outside the court that her client was a victim of the "kind of thing you see in dictatorships like Cuba and Venezuela."

Almost any broad statement made about American Latinos as a politically monolithic bloc is easily disproven by one community or corner or pocket that provides the exception to the rule, and not all residents of Little Havana are Trump fans.

Jorge Castro, a 75-year-old Democrat who arrived from Cuba in 1961, thinks the indictment against the Republican billionaire looks as rock solid as his lacquered coiffure, and says the former reality TV star is overdue a cold, hard slice of real life.

"In this case none of Trump's supporters have said that he is not guilty, but simply that this has been done to eliminate him politically," Castro told AFP. "And that's not true.

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