The lobbyist son of Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Democratic political consultant Freddy Balsera of Coral Gables met quietly with President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower in New York this week to chat about Latin America.
Balsera and C.J. Gimenez were part of a foursome that also included Julio Ligorría, a Guatemalan ambassador to the U.S., and David Duckenfield, a former deputy assistant secretary for public affairs at the U.S. State Department. The meeting was first reported by El País, a Spain-based newspaper.
Duckenfield works at Balsera Communications, Balsera’s namesake public affairs and media relations firm. Until recently, so did Gimenez, a Republican attorney who in the past has lobbied locally for Trump’s businesses. He recently started his own consulting and lobbying shop with Ligorría. Balsera advised President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign.
The four men sat down with Trump on Thursday. Among the topics discussed: U.S. policy toward Venezuela and the “northern triangle” nations — El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala — in Central America. They also posed for what has become the classic thumbs-up Trump photo.
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“Obviously, I have a long-standing relationship with Mr. Trump and the organization,” Gimenez told the Miami Herald on Saturday. “We had a discussion with folks on his team that thought it would be beneficial for us to sit down with him for a few minutes and bring up issues related to Latin America.”
Balsera told El País that Trump “was very interested in knowing our opinion about what’s going on, about what’s going to happen and about what has yet to happen” in Venezuela. Trump also inquired about Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma and opposition leader Leopoldo López, both political prisoners in the South American country.
“He knew everything we were talking about and responded with good questions and comments,” Gimenez told the Herald. “We want to see freedom come back to Venezuela, and prosperity.”
He said the meeting lasted 15 to 20 minutes.
The men also discussed Argentina, which has sought closer relations with the incoming administration. “I think we can create opportunities for business and cultural ties with Latin America,” Gimenez told the Herald.
Not mentioned: Trump’s more contentious comments about Hispanics, including his promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Now that he’s our president, I think it’s very important that we find a way to work, to cooperate with him, to have our voice heard in conversations taking place about Hispanics here or in Latin America,” Balsera told El País. “If we want to influence his thinking and his policies, we have to have some sort of interaction with Mr. Trump.”
Gimenez and his father plan to attend Trump’s inauguration next week, on their own dime. The elder Gimenez, a Republican in a nonpartisan post, was invited even though he said he voted for Hillary Clinton for president.