Thursday, October 23, 2008

Doing Business With Dictators

Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL) has always been a strong voice — some would say a big mouth — against dictators, especially his relative Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela. So this little tidbit of news should raise some eyebrows.

A high-tech Perrine firm that delivered surveillance equipment to Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez’s intelligence agency is scheduled to get a $2 million contract from the federal government at the request of Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart.

The Republican congressman made the request for the funds, called an earmark, in late September. The company, Phoenix Worldwide Industries, is expected to use the money to develop mobile platforms outfitted with biological and video sensors for the U.S. Army.

In 2001, Phoenix delivered $225,256 in equipment to the DISIP, Venezuela’s secret police, according to federal court records.

Diaz-Balart, whose district runs from Perrine through Pembroke Pines, is an outspoken critic of Chávez — a close ally of the Cuban government — and joined with fellow Florida Republican lawmakers in March to ask President Bush to put Venezuela on the U.S. list of countries that sponsor terrorism.

It is not clear whether Diaz-Balart knew of Phoenix’s sales to Venezuela or if his office did not vet the Miami-Dade company before recommending the earmark. Diaz-Balart declined to comment, issuing a short statement through a spokeswoman.

”Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart will continue fighting for high-tech defense jobs for our community,” his campaign manager, Ana Carbonell, said.

I think I have this figured out. The only way Mr. Diaz-Balart stays in office is if he keeps railing against dictators; if they go, what has he got to talk about? So would that explain why he does just about everything he can to keep them in business?