The director of the Hialeah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mandy Llanes, said Sunday he welcomes the reactivation of another chamber of commerce in that city despite Mayor Carlos Hernández’s strong criticism.
“Organizations who help businesses and the city of Hialeah will always be welcome,” said Llanes. “Everything that can be done to push the economy in our community will always be positive.”
Llanes publicly addressed for the first time the recently reactivated Hialeah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (CCHH by its Spanish acronym), which named former mayor Julio Martínez as its new executive director.
Hernández, however, labeled the CCHH as “a trick” Martínez is using to seek political prominence despite having lost his run for mayor two months ago. Hernández got 81 percent of the votes vs. Martínez’s 15 percent.
“I believe that this chamber is only a trick,” Hernández. “The only chamber recognized by the Hialeah government is the one headed by Mandy Llanes, who has done a wonderful job in the last few years. He is the one who has done an important work of maintaining and helping businesses to survive and thrive in these difficult times.”
Vicente Rodríguez, CCHH president, has said that in the last five years he has devoted his time primarily to publishing his community newspaper La Voz de la Calle (The Voice of the Street), and with the incorporation of Martínez he was seeking to “give a new spark and energy” to CCHH.
Llanes said the parallel operations of both organizations should not be pigeonholed as divisive competition but as complemented efforts.
“I believe both chambers are not in competition with each other and what we want is to promote the city and work with the city administration,” Llanes said. “If new businesses open and the economy improves, we all prosper. [...] I believe Julio [Martínez] is a person of a broad trajectory of many years in this city and if he can contribute he will be welcomed.”
With about 400 registered and active members, Llanes said that the Hialeah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCIH by its Spanish acronym) seeks to continue to boost local businesses. He said that the Hialeah Park Racing & Casino has become an important local economic engine.
“The important thing is not only the people who work there but the dynamics it generates,” Llanes said. “The trainers and jockeys lodge in Hialeah, they go to barber shops and restaurants in our city. That’s important and it generates a positive domino effect. The chamber’s job is to bring together all the players for the city to make progress.”
In 2010, several CCIH members were implicated in a scandalous pyramid fraud that shook Hialeah. At that moment those involved alleged they were victims of a Ponzi scheme headed by jeweler Luis Felipe “Felipito” Pérez.
Pérez said several investors collected interests on loans, which prompted federal authorities to charge former mayor Julio Robaina, whose trial is scheduled to begin in April.
In the case of the CCHH, Rodríguez has said that in the late 80s, a conflict between him and entrepreneur Herman Echevarrría over the control of the then Hialeah Chamber of Commerce caused the breakup of the organization.
On that issue, Llanes said that the chamber did not break up but that Rodríguez’s term ended and he decided to retire.
On Sunday, Martínez and Rodríguez lamented Hernández’s comments.
“I respect the mayor’s opinion, but I am too old to begin playing tricks on anybody,” Martínez said.