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Black leaders blast Gov. Scott

Erick Johnson | 4/10/2014, 9 a.m.

While hundreds of thousands Haitians were stripped of their citizenship and ordered out of the Dominican Republic, Florida Gov. Rick Scott stood silent, but he has recently attended numerous rallies protesting the Venezuelan government crackdown on protesters petitioning the White House to impose sanctions against President Nicolás Maduro.

Scott traveled thousands of miles around the world and the state with wealthy lobbyists, while Black leaders waited for the governor to visit to their communities. And then last week, Scott called Obama a “weak leader” after accusing him of taking a soft stance on Venezuela.

Then there are heated issues concerning the Stand Your Ground law, Medicaid expansion, and the list keeps growing.

Those are among another concern fueling tensions between Scott and Black and Haitian leaders who are blasting the governor for remaining silent on key issues concerning civil rights, healthcare, jobs and other issues affecting their communities. Their frustrations have grown over the past several weeks as Scott became more accessible to and vocal with South Florida Venezuelans, many whom are registered voters who could help his re-election campaign for a win and second term in November. But Blacks leaders are determined to put a stop to Scott’s political ambitions.

“He doesn’t stand up to injustice, economic disparities and the plight of Haitians. This man has not stood up for the Black community at all,” said Henry Crespo Sr., president of the Florida Black Caucus. “The Black community should be outraged.”

It's an election year and Scott has been busy these days trying to improve his image with voters who, according to polls, favor his likely Democratic opponent, former Republican governor Charlie Crist. In 2012 Crist switched his political party to Democrat after his infamous hug with President Barack Obama.

According to a recent St. Leo University poll, Crist leads Scott by a margin of 43 percent to 39 percent among likely voters. The latest figures point to a possible jump in approval for the embattled Scott, who has consistently trailed Crist by larger margins in most polls.

Since February, Scott has attended demonstrations held by the large Venezuelan population in South Florida which is protesting food shortages, high crime and inflation in their native country. In recent months, Scott has joined Florida Senator Marco Rubio and other congressmen at demonstrations in Doral and all over South Florida in calling for sanctions against Venezuela for its harsh treatment of protesters.

Black leaders say Scott is supporting the Venezuelan community to boost his voter appeal. The governor has not spoken out or addressed any other issues concerning Venezuela prior to the controversy.

The size of the Venezuelan community in South Florida has more than doubled between 2000 and 2012, to more than 117,000 residents, according to the U.S. Census, which estimates there are about 250,000 nationally. More than three-quarters of Florida’s Venezuelans live in Miami-Dade and Broward.

Not counting those under 18, Florida’s population of those from Venezuela could translate into 30,000 to 50,000 voters or eligible voters, depending on how the percentages are figured.