Wrong words, Wrong place
The first Florida based gaffe of the 2008 Presidential campaign.
People chuckled when presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a Mormon raised in Michigan and elected in Massachusetts, bungled the names of Cuban-American politicians during a recent speech in Miami.
But when he mistakenly associated Fidel Castro's trademark speech-ending slogan -- Patria o muerte, venceremos! -- with a free Cuba, listeners didn't laugh. They winced.
Castro has closed his speeches with the phrase -- in English, ''Fatherland or death, we shall overcome'' -- for decades.
''Clearly, that's something he was ill-advised on or didn't do his homework on,'' said Hialeah City Council President Esteban Bovo. ``When you get cute with slogans, you get yourself into a trap.''
Romney's fumble demonstrates the potential snags for state and national politicians trying to navigate the Cuban-American community of South Florida.
Ever since Ronald Reagan enthralled exiles by crying, ''Cuba sí, Castro no,'' in a landmark 1983 visit to Little Havana, politicians have clamored, with mixed success, for the Spanish-speaking vote.
Romney delivered a speech to the Miami-Dade Republican Party March 9 that was heavy on anti-communist rhetoric but light on policy details. He also condemned the Venezuelan president who has embraced Castro. That's when he tripped.
''Hugo Chávez has tried to steal an inspiring phrase -- Patria o muerte, venceremos,'' Romney said. ``It does not belong to him. It belongs to a free Cuba.''
No, it doesn't, said University of Miami Professor Jaime Suchlicki.
`BELONGS TO FIDEL'
''It belongs to Fidel,'' said Suchlicki, an expert on Cuban history. ``I don't know where [Romney] got that.''
The Romney campaign did not explain how the words got into the speech.
''Gov. Romney was trying to make the point that the phrase should not be used by oppressors, but by liberators,'' said campaign spokeswoman Gail Gitcho. ``It was an unfortunate error in the language that certainly wasn't meant to offend.''
All I say is Governor Romney is lucky to be alive.(Cue the sarcastic laughter) Courting the Cuban vote by quoting Fidel just won't work.
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