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Politics

Backroom Briefing: Venezuela Regime Comes under Florida Fire

July 6, 2017 - 12:30pm
Nicolas Maduro
Nicolas Maduro

Venezuela's Maduro regime and the investment bank Goldman Sachs could be in the crosshairs of Florida politicians heading toward the 2018 legislative session.

A high-profile attack on Venezuela's opposition-controlled National Assembly --- amid celebrations of the nation's independence day Wednesday --- and Goldman Sachs' purchase in May of $2.8 billion in bonds for Venezuela's state-run oil company have helped ratchet up oratory in Florida against the leadership of the South American country.

State Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, announced Wednesday he intends to introduce legislation --- directed at Goldman Sachs --- calling for Florida to divest itself from companies doing business with the Maduro regime.

"The Maduro regime has a horrific and escalating record of human rights abuses, including a death toll of more than 70 people killed in peaceful protests since April, and in the state of Florida ought to have no part in it,” Rodriguez said in a prepared statement.

Rodriguez, who is running for Congress next year, also asked state agencies not to wait for legislative action to begin severing ties with Goldman Sachs.

Goldman Sachs manages $478 million in what is known as the state's “Long Duration Portfolio.” The overall portfolio totals $8.2 billion.

Not to be outdone, Gov. Rick Scott followed Wednesday by declaring that he will introduce a proposal before the state Cabinet's Aug. 16 meeting that will ask the trustees of the State Board of Administration --- comprised of himself, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis --- to prohibit the state from doing business with any organization supporting the Maduro regime.

“Floridians stand with the people of Venezuela as they fight for their freedom, and as a state, we must not provide any support for Maduro and his thugs,” Scott, who is expected to run for U.S. Senate next year, said in a prepared statement.

The State Board of Administration, which oversees Florida's pension system, holds 687,581 shares of Goldman Sachs stock worth $318.2 million, according to Rodriguez.

Scott didn't say if his plans will result in divesting from existing contracts and agreements or simply from making future deals.

Scott spokesman John Tupps said more details on the proposal will be provided before the Cabinet meeting
.
The Goldman Sachs deal has brought outrage from South Florida politicians, who have long criticized Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Miami-Dade County Republican, echoed Venezuelan opposition leaders in tweeting last month that the Goldman Sachs deal is a financial “lifeline” for the Maduro regime.

And from the floor of the U.S. House on June 7, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, another Miami-Dade Republican, pointed to dire living conditions in Venezuela and suggested that Goldman Sachs is “adding to the people's misery."

ANOTHER QUIET FOURTH FOR SCOTT

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts had a busy Fourth of July that included three neighborhood parades and a pancake breakfast.

In Kentucky, Gov. Matt Bevin started the day by giving pardons --- independence --- to 10 low-grade felons who have shown good behavior while in the gray-bar hotel.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy went Tuesday to Bradley Air National Guard Base to welcome home 30 members of the state's Air National Guard's 103rd Airlift Wing who had been deployed to Southwest Asia since February.

In Florida, meanwhile, Scott had a clean slate for his Independence Day, according to a schedule released by his office Tuesday morning.

The same went for Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

A quiet holiday has become a tradition for Scott.

The Fourth of July has been clear of events on his schedule since 2013, when he was slated to throw out the first pitch at a Port Charlotte Stone Crab game.

According to past schedules, Lopez-Cantera attended the Coke Zero 400 in Daytona Beach over the Independence Day holiday last year and the Key Biscayne Fourth of July celebration in 2015.

DEMOCRATIC LEADERS UNITE ON VOTER INFORMATION

Florida Democratic Party leaders on Wednesday joined a number of their party's gubernatorial candidates in questioning a request by the White House for voter information.

As the Scott administration has been slow --- compared to other states --- in responding to last week's request from the White House, a letter signed by Florida Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Bittel and the party's legislative leaders implored Secretary of State Ken Detzner to reject the request.

“We remind you that complying with this request may put voters at risk of identity theft, encroach federal rights to privacy, and violate the Federal Voting Rights Act in addition to the Florida Constitution,” the letter said. “There are certainly issues in our electoral system that should be addressed --- foreign attempts to influence our elections come to mind most immediately.”

The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity requested the voter information --- addresses, partial Social Security numbers, voting history and felony convictions --- as part of its hunt into alleged massive nationwide voter fraud.

Florida has until July 14 to respond.

The majority of states and Washington, D.C., have publicly said that they will decline to provide at least some of the requested information.

The Democratic Party letter, also signed by Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon of Miami Gardens, Senate Minority Leader-designate Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth, House Minority Leader Janet Cruz of Tampa and House Minority Leader-designate Kionne McGhee of Miami, concluded by stating: “We trust that the administration will put politics aside in this instance and do the right thing.”

TWEET OF THE WEEK: “In case there's any confusion, @JohnMorganESQsez he's not Mother Theresa or @Pontifex. Calls self a `compassionate capitalist.' " --- John Kennedy (@JKennedyReport) of The Florida Channel.

 


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