Robaina Responds To FIU’s Hispanic-Only Mayoral Debate

MIAMI (CBS4)-  A Miami-Dade Hispanic mayoral candidate said he will not participate in future forums unless all of the candidates are included.The move comes one day after two non-Hispanic candidates expressed their disapproval of FIU hosting a Spanish-only event.

Julio Robaina issued a statement regarding Wednesday’s candidate forum and future forums.

“The race to elect the next Mayor of Miami-Dade County is an opportunity for the community to listen to the views and ideas of all the candidates,” Robaina said in a statement. “It is unfortunate that yesterday’s forum did not include all of the candidates.  From this point on, I will not attend any forum that does not include all of the candidates for Mayor of Miami-Dade County.  All of the candidates in this race deserve respect and are entitled to having the opportunity to express their views.”

According to the statement, Robaina’s campaign has expressed its concerns to the organizers of Wednesday’s forum regarding “the importance of including all of the candidates and they will be contacting the other scheduled forum organizers regard this new policy.”

On Wednesday, Luther Campbell, a former rap star and African American candidate for mayor along with students showed up outside the campaign forum to express their outrage and disapproval of FIU hosting a Spanish-only event.

The debate, held at FIU’s Wertheim Theatre, broadcast by Univision radio and set for rebroadcast by Univision channel 23 television, was open only to candidates Julio Robaina, Marcelo Llorente, Carlos Gimenez and Jose “Pepe” Cancio.

“I was appalled,” said Campbell. “The university is having a Cuban-only forum, which is wrong to the students, because the students are from all different races and all different cultures and all the students don’t speak only Spanish.”

In its release announcing the forum, Univision said the “participants were selected based on the amount of funds raised” by their campaigns.  The four top fund-raisers are the only Hispanics in the race.  Cancio – in fourth place in fund raising – is a distant fourth.

A spokesperson for FIU said the school was only providing a location for the debate, and was otherwise not involved.

Campbell called that laughable, given that FIU’s brass put out a notice touting the event.

In an email to students, faculty and staff, Sandra Gonzalez-Levy, an FIU vice-president, wrote, “We encourage you to attend and be part of the political process taking place in our community.  Be involved!”

Roosevelt Bradley, another African American candidate told CBS4 News he was “outraged” that FIU’s president would allow such a “polarizing and divisive event” to be held on the campus of a public, state-run university.  Bradley said “this turns the clock back 50 years” on race and ethnic relations in the community.

Some students said they found the Hispanic-only forum troubling.

We have a large Hispanic community, but this is Miami and we like to celebrate our diversity here,” said student Esra Erdogan.  “I don’t think it’s right to exclude any candidate.”

Beyond denying any “real involvement” in the debate, a spokesperson for FIU declined comment.   The school did not respond to requests by CBS4 News for comment on criticisms raised by Campbell, Bradley and a third African-American candidate, Wilbur Bell.

Univision also declined to address the criticism, beyond saying that the participants were selected by the size of their campaign chests.  The company also said an English language transcript of the debate would be provided after the event was over.

After the forum, CBS4 News spoke with some of the Spanish-speaking candidates.

“Whenever we’re invited, we show up, oftentimes not knowing who else is invited. Whenever  we have an opportunity to communicate to our community, we’re happy to attend,” said Marcelo Llorente, Miami-Dade mayoral candidate.

“Well what I was told is that the criteria wasn’t whether you spoke Spanish or not, it was the four leading fund raisers,” said Carlos Gimenez, Miami-Dade mayoral candidate.

Other candidates vying for the spot as Miami-Dade mayor include Eddie Lewis, Farid Khavari, Jeffrey Lampert and Gabrielle Redfern.

On Tuesday, the candidates met at a debate.

The debate, sponsored by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, featured five of the candidates: Gimenez, Cancio, Bradley, Llorente and Robaina.

Five other candidates were not present: Eddie Lewis, Wilbur “Short Stop” Bell, Farid Khavari, Jeffrey Lampert and Gabrielle Redfern.

Redfern appeared after the debate and complained that said she had not been invited. “I thought this election would be open to all, not a few,” she said.

Chamber president and CEO Barry Johnson told Redfern that “everyone was invited.” The candidate said they were not.

Meanwhile, Campbell, the former frontman for rap group 2 Live Crew, was invited but didn’t show up until the conclusion of the debate. He walked in as candidates prepared to give closing remarks.

Campbell apologized for being late but promptly took aim at the Chamber. “I’m a little disturbed,” Campbell said. “The Chamber says it is about the all the community. But I don’t think it’s been serving all the community, just some parts.”

For more stories related to the Mayoral election, click here.

  • Suz

    Anyone who took part in this racist venue should be disqualified.

    • Cesar M. Gonzalez

      YES SUZ……..But keep in mind that all of these candidates were WHITE…….Hispanic IS NOT a race, however, the BLACKS should have been included, as well as the ANGLOS, or anyone else………HISPANICS CAN BE OF ANY RACE, including BLACK, WHITE, AND NOW THE BROWNS from Central America……

  • AndrewJ526

    Typical of FIU to do this.
    FIU is all about the MONEY!!!
    They don’t care about students or their education.
    Just the check!

    I went to FIU, and while I was attending there, FIU came up with 2 new required courses that every student was required to take in order to graduate, that is, if you did not already have your AA degree … Historical Analysis and Philosophical Analysis.
    Like these 2 classes held such significance to students’ futures that they should be required???
    No, it was all about increasing school revenues.
    After all, what better way to increase revenues than to require the majority of students to take 2 additional, non-essential courses! Not only did that translate to more credit hours necessary to graduate, but another semester of attending the University, meaning another semester of paying fees, and another semester of paying for on-campus housing.

    Like I said, FIU views students as ‘bank accounts’.
    They don’t care about the students, they ONLY care about the MONEY!

  • carol

    ummm….personally, i wouldnt want to sit and watch a debate i couldnt understand. I dont speak spanish,…and if they are going to speak it, i dont need to be there. Call me when they are speaking ENGLISH…the only language i understand.

    • Cesar M. Gonzalez


      • Me

        Because up until now, people born and raised the United States never had to know another language. Now, the Spanish language is being tossed right into everyone’s faces and especially in Miami Dade, someone can’t even get a job without knowing Spanish. I personally tried to learn it, but can’t. I’m in my late 30s and do not feel like learning another language. The entire USA is made up of immigrants from other countries and they all learned English upon arriving here.

      • AndrewJ526


        Shouldn’t you be telling the ‘educated Cubans’ the same thing?
        Especially when they LIVE in a country where ENGLISH is the primary language taught in the public school system?

        WHO exactly are the ignorant people here?
        Or do all ‘educated Cubans’ feel they are better than everyone else and should not be RESPECTFUL to others?

    • Me

      Exactly carol. A lot of us were actually born and raised in AMERICA and do not speak Spanish. Many Hispanics seem to be in their own little clique and throw their language down everyone’s throat. Look at the time line of Miami’s mayors. All Cuban and all corrupt.

  • Cesar M. Gonzalez

    WILLIE JOE……..KEEP IN MIND that to MOST of the world AMERICA is not just the United States, but the ENTIRE WESTERN HEMISPHERE, WHICH INCLUDES NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA……In that case, MOST of America is Spanish-speaking territory…….America was named by a German, named after an ITALIAN,
    ( Amerigo Vespucci ) and at the time in which America was named, the United States DID NOT even exist……READ YOUR HISTORY DUDE…..And stop hating the people who put Miami on the map…..When the educated Cubans landed here in 1959, Miami was still a sleepy southern town……And it is going to change even more ! Now Mexicans with doctorate degrees are coming for their Miami piece of the pie, and will encourage more Mexicans to come here, but NOT to pick tomatoes in Homestead, but to run Miami’s multi-million dollar corporations……STUDY SOMETHING WILLIE JOE……BECOME A WINNER….

    • karen

      Cesar, it sounds to me like you are a little hateful. Are you forgetting about the boat-lift that dropped countless amounts of prisoners on the American coastline. If Mexico is an indication of what ‘things will be like’ then everyone in America needs to be concerned…

  • Me too

    Cesar, you got it all wrong. As an American (people from the U.S. for clarification), your supposed to speak English. The cuban population shouldnt expect to migrate here from foreign soil and have us adjust to speaking their language. In NY, LA, etc., spanish speaking migrants learn to speak english, but in miami, hialeah, etc., you have 2nd Generation cubans still not speaking english correctly. This spanish only venue was simply a reach too far.

  • Grovelocal

    Cesar, it’s not just about the Spanish language issue. It’s also about the blatant bigotry and racism that goes along with it. The us-vs-you mentality.
    You say the entire continent is American and you don’t call yourself an American because of that, and yet you will call yourself a Cuban. Do you not see the bigotry involved in that?
    You really think that all the immigrants that come to America should learn Spanish instead of English? Or should the people who have settled here learn the language of every other nationality that settles here?
    I am third gen citizen of the United States and I’m a mutt. When my Greek family came here they learned English. When my German family came here they learned English. When my Irish family came here they learned English. They all did this so they could communicate with all the others who came here from other countries. They did this so all the nationalities could have a mutual reference. So all the races, religions and could have one point of reference.
    You seem to be demanding that all the different ethnic groups must speak Spanish and become used to living the Latin lifestyle. That is not becoming part of an existing nation and community. That is conquest.
    And please stop typing in capital letters. I hate being yelled at.

  • Grovelocal

    Oh, and I think it was a guy named Flagler that “put Miami on the map”.
    Everyone who has come here since just uses what has been built since then.

  • Grovelocal

    Cesar, you say Miami was a sleepy little town before the Cubans got here?
    Jackie Gleason, Al Capone, several United States Presidents, Miami Beach, and scores of smugglers would like a word with you.
    It is Miami’s geographical position and all those who come here that makes it what it is. Not one single ethnic group.
    Can you not see how racist your statement is? Really?

  • Tellthetruth

    Mayor Robaina back in December illegally fired 16 senior firefighters with the City of Hialeah. He has cost the city of Hialeah over 1 MILLION DOLLARS by this action. He has been ordered to return the firefighters back to work Immediately (WITH BACK PAY over 2 weeks ago). Everyday he ignores this ruling it is costing the City of Hialeah Taxpayer between 5000 to 10000 dollars a day. I am sure this taxpayer money could go to better use. A leader should be able to admit when he has made a mistake or misjudgement. In this order it was also found that he didnot save the taxpayers the money he stated. IS this savings (I THINK NOT). When you try to use a smoking gun (the word union) It is just that a word. Speaking of retirementsMayor Robaina has a fully funded(no contributions) (100%) retirement from the City of Hialeah. He talks with alot of words but if I am not mistaken he will be earning over 250,000 a year in retirement for serving as the mayor of hialeah ( that is not a career of over 25 years to say the least.) Again Mayor Robaina talks for others but it does not apply to him. This has nothing to do with anything but the truth.

  • Rose

    Have the Federal authorities been notified? There is no need for aid to this school; either from the federal government, nor the state.

  • Orlando Nunez

    Okay, let me get it out of the way that I had a good laugh from learning that ‘Uncle Luke,” who brought us the classic hit Doo Doo Brown, is running for mayor. I will admit that his history did water down the potency of his criticisms for me. Nevertheless I find the criticisms ungrounded and biased anyway, for the following reasons:

    First, since when is it unheard of that candidates are excluded from a debate because of relatively low fundraising or from the perception that they are not a leading candidate. Did Ron Paul get excluded from debates at the 2008 republican primaries? Yes, big time. So let’s not be surprised that this happens. That doesn’t make it right but one has to think about why the limit of four candidates happened in the first place. Consider this… You’re a television producer that has to put together a one hour television show about the big upcoming election. Do you equally divide those precious 60 minutes among 10 candidates or do you pick the most likely winners to debate the key differences in their campaigns? Keep in mind, there probably will need to be a question and answer session. If you’ve ever been at an FIU teach-in where this very thing happens you know how limited it is to get more than eight minutes out of a speaker on very complex and important topics. Univision’s decision to limit it to 4 candidates is most likely a result of this question of practicality. (Let me note, I did not watch this thing and don’t know if it was an hour or two or three.) I do however applaud Robaina’s gesture of saying he will only participate at all-inclusive debates but I find it hard to believe he will hold true to that. It’s probably just a maneuver to look like the ‘good guy’ (pardon my cynicism.)

    Second, if Univision wants to do a Spanish-only debate, they can. Guess what, IT’S A SPANISH SPEAKING TV NETWORK. Do we get mad at CNN having English-only debates? A common language is not one of the binding values of Americanism and English is not the official language of the United States. It is the de facto language. FIU as a public institution should be able to host events in any language it likes. This is America people, remember Diversity? If it chooses to host a forum in a language that the majority of Miami-Dade’s residents feel comfortable with, so be it. In so doing it is serving most of Miami’s public, isn’t that what politics is supossed to do?

    So… get over it Uncle Luke.

  • Grovelocal

    Orlando, Your level of admitted racism is as disturbing as it is common.
    What your comment basically said is that the Spanish race forms the largest voting block in Dade county so it’s okay for the politicians to ignore all the non-spansh-speaking immigrants and focus on only the desires of the dominant race. One race only.
    The word for that is racism.
    Then the one candidatemyou choose to criticize is black candidate. Deriding him because he made his money by being a musician and not for an of his political views.
    And your comment about Diversity? Diversity would imply multiple input from multiple races, not just one.

    The Spanish only debate only further increases and defines the Miami Latin attitude of “us vs them”.

    Your attitude is part of the problem not part of a way of life in which all citizens have equal rights and equal opportunity and equal access to our government politicians.

  • Johnathan

    Hispanics:descendents of hispania
    Latino:descendents of Latins(Italians)
    Hispanic Culture: Conquest of the Holy Roman Empire.
    I’m not surprise, after all Hispanics are white and proud of it.

  • Juan F.

    The Time for change is here and we need to elect Miami-Dade’s next mayor. Throughout this campaign we have heard from all the candidates and their platforms. While others have focused on attacks and divisive tactics,Robaina # 25 focused on the need to bring new leadership to County Hall that will repeal the property tax increase, reform the county charter and instill fiscal discipline. Julio will work to unite all of our county and tackle the critical issues such as the Public Health Trust and the crisis at Transit.

  • YQue

    cesar- You are in the United States of America. No other Country in all of the Americas has that in their name. You should be Proud of that, and understand that we have the right to call ourselves Americans in a way that does not denigrate any other country, if you were truly an American ,and not a Cuban(who got the boot from the Land of their Birth! by a rag taggle group of bearded murderers out of the Hills)

    We speak English Here, and all your pontifications will not change that.

    And, you should watch out for those Mexicans who you say are coming- they will make you wish for the 70’s, when you were bending over for the Colombians. They have No finesse.

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