Fabiola Santiago

May 6, 2014

Fabiola Santiago: Rivera and Robaina are shameless in any language

If there are more eloquent words, they elude me. These seem to fit better than any others to describe the disgraced politicians vowing to run for office again: No hay vergüenza.

If there are more eloquent words, they elude me. These seem to fit better than any others to describe the disgraced politicians vowing to run for office again: No hay vergüenza.

Literally, it means there’s no shame, but in Spanish it carries greater weight and damnation, as if all of the world’s shame should rest on someone’s shoulder. When our parents said this — and who in a Spanish-speaking household didn’t grow up hearing the lament? — they were fed up with the offender. You were not only a wrong-doer, you compounded the offense with your arrogance and failure to own up to your rottenness and deceit.

It seems as if former Hialeah mayor — and later Miami-Dade County mayoral candidate — Julio Robaina and former U.S. Rep. David Rivera missed the lesson on shame.

They’re incapable of feeling any.

Rivera, still the subject of an ongoing FBI investigation, filed last week to run for the District 26 congressional seat he lost in 2012 — despite the shenanigans exposed during his last campaign, ending with the arrest and conviction of a fake candidate his people bought and placed on the ballot, and, as of late, the arrest of his fugitive campaign operative and best friend.

Robaina, on the other hand, may have been acquitted by a Miami-Dade jury incapable of convicting him of tax-evasion on the testimony of other scoundrels and complex evidence, but that doesn’t mean South Floridians deserve to be represented by a politician like him.

No matter the verdict, his trial shed light on the seedy world of Hialeah loan-sharking — lending money at exorbitant interest rates to a Ponzi schemer and others — duties that apparently come with the territory of being in elected public office.

Robaina engaged in all these dealings, and so did current Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernández when he was a councilman, according to Hernández’s own testimony.

You’d think that after their chicanery has been exposed, the politicians would count their blessings — that they’re not serving prison sentences is only a fluke of the justice system — and go away.

But…. No hay vergüenza.

In a less cynical world, there would be a groundswell of outrage against this lot.

But what does the current mayor, who testified in federal court that he was a loan shark, receive? Praise from the man he testified against — Robaina, who, ebullient in light of his shocking acquittal, is telling the media he’s not running for mayor only because Hernandez is such a good mayor.

But he’s not ruling out running for a countywide office, or God forbid, state or congressional office.

No hay vergüenza.

Notice the constant in the storylines of these characters: Their legal troubles are all about money, money, money.

Yet they blame the FBI investigations and their prosecution on — who else? — the Miami Herald. They especially like to blame the Herald in media where they think they have a ready-made audience of sympathetic, non-questioning voters: Spanish-language television and radio.

Robaina couldn’t get there fast enough after his acquittal. Rivera announced he was running for office on a television talk show, but faced with a Herald reporter, he wouldn’t answer lingering questions about his campaign finances.

Ultimately, there’s a bigger culprit in all this: the voters who not only shrug their shoulders at their elected leaders’ misdeeds, but elect questionable politicians over and over again.

These shysters wouldn’t run if they didn’t think they could get elected. They count on voter amnesia and complicity.

“Nobody cares about a fake campaign from two years ago,” Rivera said.

I followed the Spanish-language television coverage of the Robaina verdict and the reporters were hard-pressed to find people at Chico’s Restaurant counter — Hialeah’s version of Versailles — that would condemn the not-guilty verdict or speak out against corruption. They could perfectly understand how an $800,000 payment by a developer could end up in a Robaina account unnoticed for tax purposes.

Why would they get it? In a city that blatantly runs on a parallel ghost economy from top to bottom, the loan-sharking mayors are simply catering to their constituents.

No hay vergüenza.

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