Politics

Nancy Pelosi to speak with Venezuelans and Haitians in South Florida

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is coming to South Florida — nearly a year after her visit triggered a raucous protest that made national headlines.

Pelosi, whose Democratic caucus is in the midst of a burgeoning impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, is making a swing Thursday through Weston and Miami. Trump, coincidentally or not, will be just a few hundred miles away in The Villages in Central Florida.

Pelosi is heading first to Weston, where she’ll meet with Democratic members of Congress and Venezuelan Ambassador Carlos Vecchio. From there, she’ll head to Miami for a roundtable on Haiti.

Pelosi’s office did not respond to a request for comment. Her visit — which was spurring plans for protests even before it was made public — was announced Tuesday by U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston.

Pelosi’s visit is a nod to the importance of South Florida’s international community.

She supports efforts to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and backed the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate leader. She has frequently met with Carlos Vecchio, Guaidó’s U.S. ambassador.

“We cannot champion Venezuelans in Venezuela, then ignore them here,” said Wasserman Schultz, among the South Florida Democrats who have pushed the Trump administration to grant Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, to Venezuelans in the U.S.

Haiti, like Venezuela, is enduring political turmoil, a concern for thousands of Haitians who remain legally in the United States under the TPS program. Pelosi’s event in Miami was organized by Miami Rep. Frederica Wilson, according to Miami-Dade Commissioner Jean Monestime, who plans to attend.

Pelosi’s visit is already drawing the attention of political opponents.

Republicans are planning a “rally against Democratic Socialism” in Weston at the Bonaventure Town Center Club. Janet Klomburg, a Weston Republican who created a Facebook page advertising the event, told the Miami Herald that 88 people have confirmed plans to attend an evening rally.

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Pro-Trump demonstrators gathered Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, outside a GOTV canvass launch in Coral Gables in protest against House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Donna Shalala, and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and a planned appearance from California lawmaker Barbara Lee, who has drawn scorn from the Cuban-American community for her support of the island nation’s late dictator Fidel Castro. Carl Juste cjuste@miamiherald.com

“This was a backdoor secret meeting that wasn’t even supposed to get out,” said Klomburg, who according to the New Times Broward-Palm Beach was recently accused of harassing people who sought help with citizenship applications at the Lauderhill Mall. “I have inside sources at the Bonaventure Town Center. I won’t reveal their names, but they’re high up.”

The last time Pelosi visited South Florida, she was hounded by Republican protesters.

Pelosi stopped in Coral Gables last summer to help then-congressional candidates Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Donna Shalala campaign for office. They were supposed to be accompanied by California Rep. Barbara Lee.

Lee didn’t attend. But her expected presence drew protesters who were angry that she said “we need to stop and mourn his loss” when Cuban dictator Fidel Castro died in 2016.

The protesters surrounded the small office building where Shalala kept her campaign headquarters and yelled at Pelosi, shouting expletives and “Communista!” as she slipped through a back door.

Enrique Tarrio, a Miami leader of the far-right Proud Boys group, filmed the episode, during which Miami-Dade Republican Party Chairman Nelson Diaz and lobbyist Kevin Cabrera — currently the Trump campaign’s Florida political director — banged loudly on the door after Pelosi slipped inside.

Diaz, who said he didn’t know Tarrio and didn’t coordinate with him, publicly apologized.

Miami Herald reporter Jacqueline Charles contributed to this report.

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