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Posts tagged ‘Havana’

Putin Taunts Obama By Parking Russian Warship 90 Miles Off Florida Coast.



Havana (AFP) – A Russian warship was docked in Havana Wednesday, without explanation from Communist Cuba or its state media.

The boat, measuring 91.5 meters (300 feet) long and 14.5 meters wide, was docked at the port of Havana’s cruise ship area, near the Russian Orthodox Cathedral.

The Vishnya, or Meridian-class intelligence ship, which has a crew of around 200, went into service in the Black Sea in 1988 before it was transferred seven years later to the northern fleet, Russian media sources said.

Neither Cuban authorities nor state media have mentioned the ship’s visit, unlike on previous tours by Russian warships.

The former Soviet Union was Cuba’s sponsor state through three decades of Cold War. After a period of some distancing under former Russian president Boris Yeltsin, the countries renewed their political, economic and military cooperation.

The ship is reportedly armed with 30mm guns and anti-aircraft missiles.

Its visit comes as isolated Havana’s current economic and political patron, Venezuela, is facing unprecedented violent protests against President Nicolas Maduro’s government.

Cuban President Raul Castro’s Communist government is the Americas’ only one-party regime. source – Yahoo News

by NTEB News Desk

Bill Richardson Admits: I Screwed Up on Alan Gross Detainment.

Image: Bill Richardson Admits: I Screwed Up on Alan Gross Detainment

Former U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson has admitted to Newsmax that he “screwed up” in his 2011 bid to free American Alan Gross, who has been held in a Cuban prison for four years.

He spoke to the press when it would have been better for him to keep quiet, he said on Newsmax TV‘s “Steve Malzberg Show.”

“I screwed that one up,” Richardson said.

“I thought we had a deal. I went in and talked to the Cubans. The Cubans were changing their policy at the last minute.

Story continues below video.

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“Instead of shutting up and waiting for things to calm down, I was in Havana and I went to the press. I said ‘Alan Gross is a political prisoner, [and] the Cubans are not playing straight.'”

Richardson, Bill Clinton’s U.N. ambassador from 1997-98 and later energy secretary and governor of New Mexico, is the author of a new book, How to Sweet-Talk a Shark: Strategies and Stories from a Master Negotiator.”

The book, he said, points out his successes, but in Gross’s case, he admits he made a mistake.

“The Cubans just dropped me off and I just wasn’t able to get Alan out.”

Richardson says he learned an important lesson: “Sometimes you can’t go public, you can’t show your emotion,” Richardson told Malzberg. “You’ve got to be very restrained and careful when you’re negotiating.”

And, he said, he’ll “always regret” going the press over Gross, rather than remaining quiet, “even though there have been many others trying to get Alan out.”

He said he feels “a lot for [his wife] Judy Gross. I met her, I talked to her. I mean, her husband has been unfairly incarcerated, but I wish I hadn’t lost my cool.”

At the time, Richardson said, he had not “been in negotiation in a while, and I was no longer governor, so I kind of lost my power base.”

Gross, 64, was working in Cuba as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development when he was arrested on Dec. 3, 2009, and charged with “actions against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state.”

The Cuban government accused Gross of spying for carrying telecommunications equipment to the island and sentenced him to 15 years in prison. According to Gross, he was contracted by Development Alternatives Inc., as part of a contract with USAID, to establish wireless networks and Internet connections for non-dissident Cuban Jewish communities.

Cuba state prosecutors, though, accused him of performing a “subversive project aiming at bringing down the revolution” by disseminating distorted information about the government.

Gross wrote a personal letter to President Barack Obama on Tuesday, the fourth anniversary of his imprisonment.

Judy Gross told Malzberg on Wednesday that her husband feels “abandoned” by the United States.

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“My hope is that the government is able to sit down and start talks and negotiate with the Cuban government,” she told Malzberg. “That’s how you start getting things done. You have to sit down sometime and start dialogue.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Former USAID Contractor Imprisoned in Cuba Appeals to Obama.

By Cathy Burke

A former U.S. government contractor imprisoned in Cuba for four years says he fears his country has “abandoned” him and is appealing to President Barack Obama to personally intervene in his case, the Washington Post reported Monday.Editor’s NoteHow China’s Air ID Zone Changes the Geopolitical Map of Asia 
In a letter to the president, sent via the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana, Alan Gross, 64, describes his isolation from the world, adding that his daughter and mother have been stricken by cancer, his wife has had to sell the family home in Maryland, and “my business and career have been destroyed.”
Indirectly critical of what the family believes are lackluster efforts to secure his release, Gross notes the Obama administration and its predecessors “have taken extraordinary steps to obtain the release of other U.S. citizens imprisoned abroad.”
But unlike those cases, Obama has sent no special emissaries nor agreed to negotiate over him, The Post noted.
“Our view is that unless President Obama becomes personally involved in this matter, Alan Gross will die in jail,” lawyer Scott Gilbert told Reuters.
The letter, a copy of which was provided to The Post, is to be delivered to the White House Tuesday — the anniversary of Gross’s 2009 arrest in Havana, and is part of a new strategy by his family to direct pressure at Obama, including at a demonstration Tuesday outside the White House led by his Gross’s wife, Judy.
The vigil will be led by Jewish Council leaders and was to include the broadcast of a video recording from Gross, who has personally written to the president seeking his intervention in the case, Gilbert said.
Gilbert said Cuba had agreed to sit down with U.S. government officials, without any pre-conditions, to discuss possible terms leading to Gross’ release and return home.
But the State Department has rejected any negotiated settlement of the Gross case out of hand.
“It’s a great puzzlement to me why no decisive action has been taken on Alan Gross, particularly when Alan is imprisoned in Cuba solely because of his work on a U.S. government project,” Gilbert said.
Gross said he was in Cuba to set up communications equipment to give unrestricted Internet access to Jewish groups. A judge said that activity was a crime against the Cuban state and sentenced Gross to 15 years behind bars.
The Gross case has often been described as an obstacle to any serious improvement in U.S. relations with Cuba after more than 50 years of hostility.
But Gross’s disenchantment with the administration over his treatment is shared by a growing number of U.S. lawmakers, who see him as one of the last victims of the Cold War and the decades-long freeze in U.S.-Cuba relations that has persisted despite Obama’s early pledges to work toward a thaw, The Post reported.
In a Nov. 21 letter to Obama last month, a bipartisan group of 66 senators, spearheaded by Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., called Gross’s case “a matter of grave urgency” and urged Obama to “act expeditiously to take whatever steps are in the national interest to obtain his release,” The Post reported.
The senators told Obama that they “stand ready to support your administration in pursuit of this worthy goal.”

And in another letter Nov. 15
, a separate group of 14 lawmakers led by Cuban American Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., urged Obama to continue his policy of demanding Gross’s “immediate and unconditional release,” The Post reported.
In a statement Monday, Leahy countered “instead of simply demanding Mr. Gross’ unconditional release — which has achieved nothing in four years, and which his family regards as a death sentence — they should not shrink from the obligation to negotiate for his freedom.”
Meanwhile, the State Department Monday pressed for the contractor’s release with its own statement, saying his continued captivity on the communist-ruled island was “gravely disappointing.”
“Tomorrow, development worker Alan Gross will begin a fifth year of unjustified imprisonment in Cuba,” the department said. “It is gravely disappointing, especially in light of [Cuba’s] professed goal of providing Cubans with Internet access, that the Cuban government has not allowed Mr. Gross to return to his family, where he belongs.

Editor’s Note: Domestic Pressure Drove Rouhani to Make Deal With West 

“Mr. Gross is a 64-year-old husband, father, and dedicated professional with a long history of providing aid to under-served communities in more than 50 countries,” the statement added.
“We reiterate our call on the Cuban government, echoing foreign leaders and even Cuba’s allies, to release Alan Gross immediately and unconditionally.”
Reuters contributed to this story
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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Cuba’s Catholic Church Calls for Accelerated Reforms.

HAVANA — Cuba‘s Catholic Church urged the government Tuesday to move more swiftly on reforming the communist-ruled island’s Soviet-style economy.

“We cannot hope to build a prosperous country and society without prosperous citizens and without opening the doors to financial sources that generate prosperity,” Orlando Marquez, spokesman for the Havana archdiocese, wrote in an article published in the church’s “Palabra Nueva” journal.

Cuba has tinkered with pro-market economic change since President Raul Castro took over from his brother Fidel in 2006.

But playing off the communist regime’s “slowly, but surely” slogan, Marquez said the government needed to move more quickly to stay ahead of demographic trends that show a bulging elderly population and not enough young people to support them.

In 2030, “30 percent of the population will be more than 60 years old,” he said, calling for “the creation of conditions that spur birth and discourage emigration of young people who would be ready to work and invest their capital and know-how in Cuba, including Cuban emigres willing to return.”

“It’s a waste of time to constantly insist on the long-proven ineffectiveness of state control on all production and services,” Marquez said, insisting that “our country’s technological backwardness puts us in a difficult situation in light of our need to join the global economy.”

“Accelerating reforms and generating wealth would be the best way to stop then reverse the deterioration of our society’s two most important sectors: health and education,” Marquez said.

In the absence of a legal opposition, the Catholic Church has emerged over the past three years as the sole organization with the standing to negotiate politically with the Havana government on social and economic issues.

© AFP 2013

Panama to Release NKorea Ship Held for Smuggling Cuban Weapons.

Image: Panama to Release NKorea Ship Held for Smuggling Cuban Weapons

The North Korean vessel Chong Chon Gang at Manzanillo harbour in Colon, Panama.

PANAMA CITY — The North Korean crew and ship detained in Panama for smuggling Cuban weapons three months ago will soon be returned to the reclusive Asian nation, Panama’s foreign minister said Thursday.

The crew’s return would mark the end of a bizarre chapter between the three countries that provoked international controversy after the ship was seized in July for smuggling military-style arms under 10,000 tons of sugar.

Repairs to the ship are nearly completed so the crew can sail back in the same vessel, Foreign Minister Fernando Nunez Fabrega told Reuters.

While the U.N. Security Council has yet to decide on penalties against Cuba, given a 7-year-old ban against arms transfers to North Korea due to the country’s nuclear weapons program, the arms will likely be sold or given away, Nunez Fabrega added.

In July, the North Korean crew sabotaged its electrical system and bilge pumps after Panamanian investigators stopped the ship near the Atlantic entrance to the Panama Canal on suspicion it was carrying drugs after leaving Cuba.

The North Korean flagged ship, known as the Chong Chon Gang, will be returned after the vessel’s owner formally signs off on the plan, Nunez Fabrega said.

Panama has issued visas for two North Korean diplomats to arrive shortly and complete the procedure.

Meanwhile, 33 of the 35 crew members, held at a former U.S. army base on charges of threatening Panama’s security, “appear to be ignorant of what was in the cargo,” Nunez Fabrega said.

“As a result, if the Attorney General determines they are not criminally responsible for their actions, they cannot be prosecuted,” he said.

Both the captain, who tried to slit his throat after Panamanian investigators seized the ship, and his deputy consistently refused to give statements during their detention, officials said. As a result, they might still face trial.

The whole crew refused efforts to put them in contact with their families, said Nunez Fabrega.

“Their families in North Korea must think they sunk with the boat,” he said.

After the ship was seized, Havana requested that Panama release it, claiming the vessel carried only the sugar cargo as a donation to the people of North Korea.

But once the arms were discovered beneath the sugar, the Cuban government acknowledged it was sending “obsolete” Soviet-era weapons, including two MiG jets, 15 MiG engines and nine anti-aircraft missiles, to be repaired in North Korea and returned.

An analysis by 38 North, a website run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Maryland, found the weapons shipment was larger than Cuba acknowledged and that many of the weapons were in “mint condition”.

The analysis concluded the arms were intended for North Korea’s own use.

Inspections of the equipment show they were “obviously not obsolete” as Cuba maintained, said Nunez Fabrega.

“One of the jets had kerosene in them, showing it was recently used,” he said. “Of the 15 jet engines, 10 were in immaculate condition.”

Since then, Panama has had “zero” communication with Havana, although it made at least four attempts. Havana also canceled a scheduled meeting between government officials from both countries at the United Nations last month.

“It was like talking to a brick wall,” Nunez Fabrega said.

A six-member U.N. team inspected the weapons in August but still seeks answers from Cuba about the shipment to provide a U.N. sanctions committee a full report.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.


Cardinal Dolan: Pope Francis Has ‘Captured World’s Imagination’.

Catholics attending Sunday services around the globe said they were heartened by Pope Francis’ recent remarks that the church has become too focused on “small-minded rules” on hot-button issues like homosexuality, abortion and contraceptives.

Worshippers applauded what they heard as a message of inclusion from the man who assumed the papacy just six months ago.

“I think he’s spot on,” said Shirley Holzknecht, 77, a retired school principal attending services in Little Rock, Ark. “As Catholic Christians, we do need to be more welcoming.”

In Havana, Cuba, Irene Delgado said the church needs to adapt to modern times.

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The world evolves, and I believe that the Catholic Church is seeing that it is being left behind, and that is not good,” said Delgado, 57. “So I think that they chose this Pope Francis because he is progressive, has to change things.”

Francis, in an interview published Thursday in 16 Jesuit journals worldwide, called the church’s focus on abortion, marriage and contraception narrow and said it was driving people away.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the pope’s words were welcome.

“He’s captured the world’s imagination,” Dolan said after Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. “Like Jesus, he’s always saying, ‘Hate the sin, love the sinner.'”

But Dolan said Francis’ change in tone didn’t signal a change in doctrine.

“He knows that his highest and most sacred responsibility is to pass on the timeless teaching of the church,” Dolan said. “What he’s saying is, We’ve got to think of a bit more effective way to do it. Because if the church comes off as a scold, it’s counterproductive.”

In Brasilia, Brazil, the capital of the country with the largest Catholic population in the world, 22-year-old student Maria das Gracas Lemos said Francis was “bringing the church up to date.”

She said children of divorced parents used to be barred from some schools in Brazil. “All that has changed. In Brazil, people are no longer rejected because they are divorced,” Lemos said. “The church has to catch up with changes in society, even if it still doesn’t admit divorce.”

In Philadelphia, churchgoer Irene Fedin said priests “should be more focused on helping the person gain a spiritual connection to God instead of just condemning people because of certain actions that they believe are wrong.”

Outside a church in Coral Gables, Fla., Frank Recio said he was grateful that the pope is trying to shift the church’s tone.

“I’m a devout Catholic, always have been. I think the Catholic Church had gotten out of touch with the way the world was evolving,” said Recio, 69, who’s retired from a career in the technology industry.

Recio said he would support changes like allowing priests to marry. “It’s a natural state in life, for men and women to have a partner,” said Recio.

In Boston, Evelyn Martinez, 26, said she agrees with Francis that compassion should be one of the church’s main priorities.

“I don’t believe that someone’s sexuality should keep them away from any religion,” said Martinez, a graduate student at Emerson College who attended Mass on Saturday night.

Jose Baltazar, a 74-year-old vice president of an insurance company and longtime church volunteer in Manila, in the Philippines, said the pope has set his priorities mindful of stark realities.

“We have to give priority in working to bring those who have gone astray back to the fold,” Baltazar said. “We pray for them. Why did they go astray? What’s our shortcoming? What’s the shortcoming of the Catholic Church?”

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© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Miami’s Back, Thanks to Its Mayor and Pro-Growth Policies.

Image: Miami's Back, Thanks to Its Mayor and Pro-Growth Policies

By Andrea Billups and John Bachman

Less than a decade ago, Miami’s inner city was mangy. The tropical city could have become the next Detroit.

When businesses, law firms, and government offices downtown closed, few people remained in its seedy core, fleeing to suburban Miami-Dade and Broward counties for their gated, manicured subdivisions and soccer fields, or to the glamorous nightlife across the causeway in sleek South Beach.

But that’s all changed. Miami is booming again. Construction cranes dot the skyline as a new wave of baby boomers, international residents, and businesses converge on the city.

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Call it the tale of two cities: Detroit sought to fix its urban blight with high taxes, heavy regulation, and big salaries and pensions for government employees.

Much of the credit for the transformation of Miami falls to the city’s mayor, Tomas Regalado, who decided to take his city on the opposite path, one of lower taxes and economic growth.

Regalado, a Republican born in Havana, Cuba, was elected mayor in 2009 and soon after, set out on an ambitious path of improving city finances, cutting taxes, and welcoming new businesses with a regulation overhaul.

He is running for re-election this November.

“This coming budget, we are proposing to reduce taxes, maintain the level of services, and hire more police officers. Why? Because property values are coming back,” Regalado told Newsmax TV.

After forcing concessions from city workers, there is room in the budget for tax cuts, he said. And following a series of lawsuits from public unions that ended in the city’s favor, Regalado was also able to trim Miami’s budget without eliminating jobs.

City employees making more than $40,000 saw salary cuts, but those earning less did not have to share the pain. The plan kept all city workers employed as the city implemented tough reforms.

“I didn’t want to kill a city to save a government,” Regalado said, defending his choices, which included slicing his own salary by 36 percent.

“We broke all the contracts with the union, created [new] contracts with salary reductions, and capped the pensions at $100,000, because in the city of Miami, you had [young] people retiring with $150,000, $140,000 per year for life. [In Miami] … firefighters and police officers retired young,” Regalado, a former broadcast journalist, says of the bitter fight and lawsuit he weathered.

He said topping pensions at $100,000 helped to “reduce the deficit and taxes. The reason I proposed to reduce taxes was because the foreclosures were affecting Miami. Miami was ground zero,” Regalado said.

“I thought that by reducing taxes, you would bring new investment into the city of Miami and it happened. People are moving back. The message is very clear: You reduce taxes, people will come because it’s a good investment.”

Regalado also cited tax enterprise zones and Business Improvement Districts — where business people in a geographic area tax themselves and decide which projects to fund — as programs that helped turn the city around.

Today, the city once known for its “vice” in a hit TV show now reflects Regalado’s opportunistic message: chic high-rise condos, an emerging crop of world-class restaurants, high-end hotels, a growing expanse of luxury retail stores, and a burgeoning cultural scene.

“I’ve been in this position for five years now. When I first got here, the condos were 62 percent occupied,” says Alyce Robertson, executive director of the Miami Downtown Development Authority. “We are at 95 to 97 percent occupancy now.”

The inner city, she adds, has become “its own destination,” making it an easier sales pitch for civic leaders seeking jobs for the city beyond those created by a service and tourism industry.

The city vigorously courted financial services companies from New York and Connecticut, tech industry jobs for the city’s South American Internet hub, and art groups seeking a friendly home.

“By the year 2025, we envision in our master plan a very vibrant, culturally diverse, walkable, livable downtown,” Robertson said.

After being hit hard by a foreclosure crisis that still lingers — about 41 percent of mortgages are still underwater in the Miami-Dade County region — real-estate experts say trendy areas like Miami Beach and Regalado’s downtown are flourishing with housing prices reaching levels last seen during the 2000 boom. Miami Beach is a separate municipality from the city of Miami.

The Miami arts scene is also in full tilt. In November, the world-class Perez Art Museum is set to open its doors alongside the premier Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science.

Other chic construction projects in the works for the Downtown-Biscayne corridor include an architecturally spectacular convention center and Marriott hotel with 1,800 rooms on the site of the old Miami Arena, adding to a changing landscape that also includes the elegant Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, the state’s largest facility of its kind.

Miami still has its share of urban problems such as homelessness, income inequity and, according to National Science Foundation data, the lowest science and engineering workforce for major cities in the nation.

But a coalition of business and education leaders is focused on changing that.

“I think there is a renewed spark of energy and it is palpable in this community,” says Robin Reiter, the interim president of Miami’s The Beacon Council, a public-private nonprofit organization that helps increase economic development and facilitates job creation.

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“I think you see it in the day life as well as the nightlife. I think you see it in the vibrancy of all our downtown communities,” Reiter said. Other Miami-Dade County cities like Aventura, Coral Gables and South Miami have their own booming downtown areas.

“I think the real estate market is recovering,” Reiter adds. “The pendulum here swings once again. The price of housing is going up. There is a thrust to build more rental units to accommodate those who don’t want home ownership … Yes, we’re still seeing a high level of homes in foreclosure, but we’re seeing them move off the market very quickly.”

Broader international interest in Miami is also heating up the market, Reiter says.

“We have folks from all over the world buying property here,” she said, noting that delegations from China and Taiwan have recently visited to examine possibilities in the area.

“We have a huge influx of businesses from across the globe who view Miami as the gateway to the Americas and as such, our business is booming,” said Reiter.

Reiter points to the metro area’s thriving Miami International Airport and its bustling seaport and cruise ships as crucial economic touchstones that are driving growth.

“There isn’t a locale around the world that anyone can travel to and from that, you can’t get to and out of Miami with great ease. That has been a tremendous bonus.”

Seth Gordon, who runs Seth Gordon Initiatives, which advises global businesses on how to become productive in Miami, praises new inner-city projects as giving the area “a heartbeat.”

When he moved to Miami in the 1970s, the city “had no life, no pulse.” Now restaurants and businesses are leaving the beaches for the Brickell Avenue corridor, where the new energy is pushing development.

“It’s become like a horse race to see how quickly you can buy up empty lots and fill them with very expensive buildings,” he said of the growth.

The area’s international cache, Gordon adds, is growing. “You see people from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, and also Russia, even New York. A lot of them don’t live here year-round, but this is one of their homes. They just want to have a place here,” and are willing to spend $2 million to $3 million on a pricey vacation spot.

For the wealthy, “it’s become one of their checkpoints,” Gordon observes.

But the challenge remains on how to create an economy that supports jobs for those who aren’t ultra-wealthy.

In terms of space, even as the city center explodes, Gordon said, “we’ve got another 95 percent of the county not exploited or built out yet: inland. We’ve got room to do whatever we want to do if people ever want to do it.”

Gordon adds, “There’s a huge opportunity for expansion, maturity and for growth — and all that comes with that. The last 10 years have been a good peek into the future of just what we can do. We’re on the right track now. We just have to keep doing more.”

Regalado Makes Case for Second Term

In the interview with Newsmax TV’s John Bachman, Mayor Regalado makes a strong case for re-election on Nov. 5, saying he helped bring the city back from a feared fiscal collapse.

“Miami is the poster child of what happens if you reduce taxes, reduce expenses, if you live like any other family in the United States,” says Regalado. “In bad times, you don’t spend what you don’t earn. In good times, you only spend what you have.”

“People will understand that this is the model for any city,” he says.

Story continues below video.

Regalado has done what many of the nation’s other big-city mayors have not had the courage to do: push back against costly union deals to stave off fiscal collapse and create a business climate favorable to private investment.

“I know that politicians always, always are really scared of unions because the unions do have great power, political power. They have the resources to go out and help you or hurt you,” Regalado says.

After a market boom from 2004 to 2006, property values were hot in the tropical mecca. But by 2008, the bottom dropped out of the housing market and foreclosures skyrocketed, leaving revenues sagging and city leaders searching for new ways to close the gap.

“The combination of having a lot of unemployed people, property values going down — which is [lost] taxes — and the fact that we overspent by giving unions huge increases in 2007 made us almost bankrupt,” said Regalado, describing the situation he says he inherited when he took office in 2009.

Regalado says Miami wasn’t fully into a fiscal emergency like Detroit, but the city was headed on a road to “fiscal urgency.” Thus, his need to make some difficult choices put him at odds with police and firefighters, whose union pension costs were cutting large slices of city funds.

Regalado said the growing pains of Miami can be an example to cities like Chicago, where mayors must wage similar union fights over pension and healthcare costs after years of fiscal malfeasance and high taxes.

“They only need the courage to do it,” Regalado tells Newsmax. “I know it’s difficult to fight unions. And in my case, I became persona non grata with the unions.”

ObamacareMassive New Rules Revealed for 2013

Regalado said winning the battle with the unions was the key to the city being able to stave off a tax increase, instead allowing for tax cuts.

“We would have made people leave Miami because of high taxes. And I thought that by reducing taxes, you would bring new investment into the city of Miami and it happened,” Regalado said. “The idea that you have to increase taxes to keep services is wrong.”

Such successful reforms will likely bolster the political future of Regalado, who until late August faced a serious challenge in his re-election bid from Francis Suarez, who was well-financed but dropped out of the race amid a series of miscues by his staff. He said the campaign was creating too much stress on his pregnant wife.

In his own life, Regalado was married for 37 years to Raquel Ferreiro, who died in 2008. He is the father of three and the grandfather of four, and lives in the city’s Little Havana neighborhood.

Regalado said that when he was elected mayor in 2009, “[it] was the worst economic time for the United States and for the city of Miami, especially.”

“Unemployment was like 13 percent,” Regalado said. “The construction boom had ended but we had 20,520 empty condo units in the downtown corridor, which is five, six miles. All these buildings, they were empty.”

Regalado recalled “at the time, you looked at the skyline at downtown at night and it was dark. Today we have 98 percent occupation. People are buying, people are renting, people are moving back, and that has helped the revival of downtown.”

With new restaurants in places far from South Beach, many are reconnecting with the new lively downtown area.

Regalado praised the growth in other areas of the city as well. In Overtown, once the site of riots, a new wing of the University of Miami has brought an improved landscape and 500 new jobs.

“They’re doing medical research, [with] doctors that specialize in care,” Regalado said.

In Wynwood, the center of the city’s arts district renewal, technology has been invited as an emerging partner to bolster the growth.

“We have a lot of technology companies in old warehouses that house hundreds of small companies … Technology, it is the future of Miami,” he said.

Soon, search engine powerhouse Google will announce a partnership with the city’s parks, he said. “We believe that if we train children after school in programming and in computers, more companies will come to Miami,” Regalado says.

Tourism and the potential of new citizens and foreign investors are an important part of the success equation, Regalado added.

“We have more than 20 flights a day from Miami direct to Europe directly feeding tourism, but there are [also] a lot of business people coming to invest here,” he said.

He said the city has applied to the Department of Homeland Security to be “certified as an investor visa regional center,” where a foreign national who invests $1 million in certain businesses can obtain for themselves and some family members a “permanent green card if they create 10 jobs.”

Tax enterprise zones and a healthy Business Improvement District also have played a role in allowing private enterprise drive the economy of the city, Regalado says.

“They decide how to spend that money, either in lighting, more police presence, or in infrastructure, and it’s working spectacularly because the fact is, these people know better,” Regalado said. “Usually government doesn’t know better.”

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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