MIAMI (CBSMiami)- New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio was caught on camera uttering a controversial slogan first used by Argentine-born Cuban revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara while addressing striking workers at Miami International Airport.

De Blasio is seen raising his arm and then is heard saying, “Hasta la victoria, siempre!” which literally translates to “Until victory, always!”

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Che Guevara used to sign off his letters to Fidel Castro during the 1960s using the slogan. The phrase became a mantra for the international left after Guevara was killed in Bolivia during a failed guerilla intervention in 1967.

Guevara fought alongside Castro during the overthrow of then-dictator Fulgencio Batista in Cuba in 1959. In February of that year, the Cuban government proclaimed Guevara “a Cuban citizen” for his contributions to the revolution.

No word if De Blasio wanted to get the attention of left-leaning Democrats in his party, but he certainly got the attention of Cuban Americans, Venezuelan Americans and Nicaraguan Americans living in South Florida.

Socialist regimes in those nations are responsible for holding thousands of political prisoners, oppression, brutal repression and for causing the flight of millions. In recent years, most notably in Venezuela under the Nicolas Maduro regime.

During afternoon talk shows, Spanish radio shows in Miami were receiving calls from angry voters and virtually all were criticizing the “insensitive nature of his statement.”

Local elected officials, many of whom are Democrats, were distancing themselves from De Blasio’s remarks on Thursday afternoon.

U.S. Congresswoman Donna Shalala tweeted, “It is unacceptable to quote a murderer like Che Guevara, especially in Miami, where so many people have suffered as a result of his brutality. The @iflymia workers protesting for better conditions deserve our strong support, but their efforts should never be tied to that murderer.”

Florida state Sen. Annette Taddeo also tweeted, “utterly disgusted.”

“This is completely unacceptable! How can anyone wanting to be the leader of the free world quote a murderous guerrilla – in Miami no less!” Taddeo said.

Former Florida Governor and U.S. Sen. Rick Scott tweeted, “In case there was any doubt about the Democrats running for President embracing socialism, @BilldeBlasio is in Miami quoting…Che Guevara.”

De Blasio would later apologize in a tweet:

“I did not know the phrase I used in Miami today was associated with Che Guevara & I did not mean to offend anyone who heard it that way. I certainly apologize for not understanding that history.”

After taking part in the first Democratic Debate last night in Miami, another presidential candidate was up early to lend his support to what he views as a worthy cause.

New Jersey Senator Cory Booker united with several baggage handlers, cargo workers and other airport employees of Eulen America in a strike at Miami International Airport. He joined the strike line around 7 a.m. and addressed the workers in Spanish and English.

“Your rights to organize are so important. I stand with you, I will fight with you and I am sure if we keep the pressure on, we will win. ‘Vamos a ganar!’ [Spanish for: ‘We will win’],” said Sen. Booker to a crowd of workers at MIA.

Eulen America workers on strike at MIA. (CBS4)

De Blasio joined San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz at the rally in MIA.

The airport workers union said the employees are going to walk off of their job to demand that Eulen ends the “abusive and hazardous working conditions” that they must work in. The union said some of the dangers include vehicles in poor and unsafe conditions, lack of staff, anti-worker tactics, health and safety concerns and intimidation and threats from management.

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Francisco Alfonso works for Eulen helping load the planes with bags. He said he hasn’t been able to go visit his family in Cuba because the company doesn’t give employees paid vacation time and he cannot afford to take time-off.

Alfonso also spoke about the poor conditions he and his co-workers are forced to work in.

“I’m here to support my fellow co-workers for justice because they treating us unfair. We work so hard, we work under rain, we work under very bad conditions and they don’t treat us fairly,” said Alfonso.

When asked about the benefit of having a candidate like Sen. Booker present at the protest, Alfonso said, “That makes us feel very confident that something good is going to come out of this and that this wasn’t done for nothing.”

In response to complaints of poor working conditions, Eulen America issued the following statement.

“Eulen America workers were not and are not on strike in any airport. All services are being provided with no disruption to our clients. The union PR campaign is using non-Eulen workers in their protests locally to create confusion. Our employees are at work, and flight and passenger support operations are not being disrupted. We do not object at all if our employees wish to unionize. No one needs to mislead the public about our company in order to choose the right to collective bargaining. What we DO object to is inaccurate and unfair characterizations about us and how we treat our team members.
Eulen America wants to reiterate our full commitment to our business partners, our employees and our culture of safety and respect.”

Xavier Rabell CEO Eulen America

The strike at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport began at 9 a.m. and included workers and wheelchair employees who were laid off.

Other Eulen workers in New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and Washington D.C.’s Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport hosted strikes of their own.

If you’d like to learn more about the ongoing controversy between Eulen and its employees, and to see photos and videos of the conditions being alleged by the workers, be sure to check out Jim DeFede’s CBS Miami Special Report ‘MIA’s Forgotten Workers’.







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