Hizzoner missed the Marx with this one.
Mayor de Blasio was forced to apologize Thursday after quoting Argentine Marxist Che Guevara during a union rally at Miami International Airport.
In town for Wednesday’s presidential debate — where his rivals showed off their Spanish skills, gaffe-free — the mayor used one of Guevara’s most famous quotes while supporting airport workers who were protesting low wages and poor conditions.
“The eyes of the world are on this airport, the eyes of the world are on Miami-Dade — and we are not going to let these workers down,” Blasio shouted to the crowd, before cribbing from one of Miami’s most detested historical figures, according to video from the rally. “Hasta la victoria siempre!”
The phrase roughly translates to “ever on to victory” or “until victory always” and was a mantra for Guevara, a revolutionary commander and murderer who became one of Fidel Castro’s top lieutenants.
Two local pols who attended the rally but weren’t there when de Blasio spoke blasted the reference.
“Quoting a murderer responsible for death & oppression in communist Cuba and throughout Latin America is not acceptable. Please apologize,” tweeted Florida state Sen. Jose Javier Rodríguez, who represents Little Havana.
“I am utterly disgusted!” state Sen. Annette Taddeo tweeted. “This is completely unacceptable! How can anyone wanting to be the leader of the free world quote a murderous guerrilla -in Miami no less! A community filled with his victims! #DeleteYourCampaign”
Republican Miami Mayor Francis Suarez added: “The decision by Mayor Bill de Blasio to quote a ruthless murderer like Che Guevara in Miami is an extreme act of disrespect to this community. To quote this murderer for political gain is appalling. The families of his victims and all Cuban Americans deserve an immediate apology.”
De Blasio, who honeymooned in Cuba, also used the quote during a March 2013 forum while he was public advocate and running for mayor, according to the Empire State Tribune. The mayor still insisted he didn’t realize what he was saying at the rally and apologized.
“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,” de Blasio tweeted. “I only meant it as a literal message to the striking airport workers that I believed they would be victorious in their strike”
When he was 26, the mayor traveled to Nicaragua during the revolution and supported the socialist Sandinista National Liberation Front. He also studied Latin American politics while getting a Masters in International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.
Despite his background, de Blasio said later Thursday that quoting Guevara was an “honest mistake.”
“I literally meant it as a Spanish phrase, that these folks were gonna be victorious, hang on to victory, that kind of thing,” de Blasio said on CNN. “And you saw the response from the folks there working in the airport. They took it as just an affirmation of the strike. These airport workers are getting a real raw deal, they’re doing such important work and they’re not getting fair pay and benefits. That’s what I was there for. I do apologize because I didn’t understand the context and I certainly did not mean to offend anyone.”
He added that he understands now that the remark is offensive to Cuban Americans and Hispanics.
“I understand that now and obviously if I had understood the phrase’s origin better, I would not have used it, but it is simply a case of I literally understood it as a Spanish-language translation of something I was trying to say to these working people,” he said. “I think in life you have to, as a leader, be able to say if you did something wrong, even if you didn’t mean to, apologize and say, look, I certainly didn’t mean to offend anyone. I understand the sensitivities, I’ve learned from that mistake.”
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