On the day the indictment of Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., turned public in 2015, UnidosUS CEO Janet Murguia wasted no time defending him.
Murguia mentioned in an op-ed on the Huffington Submit web site that Hispanics “have each motive to offer the senator the advantage of the doubt,” as a result of throughout his time in Congress he was “our voice, our champion.” (On the time, her group was referred to as the Nationwide Council of La Raza.) Others tweeted assist and hashtags #IStandWithBob.
However Murguia and different Latinos within the Washington sphere have but to return to Menendez’s protection since allegations that he accepted bribes had been revealed on Friday.
“The silence is deafening,” mentioned one longtime Democratic activist, who, like different political aides and consultants who work with Latino lawmakers, spoke on the situation of anonymity in order to not jeopardize his relationships with Menendez.
A number of mentioned the stunning allegations of accepting bribes and proof of money hidden in clothes and gold bars hidden in his residence included in Friday’s indictment make it tough for Menendez’s Latino colleagues to defend him publicly once more.
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Menendez was indicted on federal corruption prices. In accordance with the indictment, he and his spouse, Nadine, accepted bribes in alternate for his affect on behalf of three New Jersey businessmen and the Egyptian authorities. Some money, gold and different objects, together with a luxurious automotive, had been discovered at Menendez’s residence once they searched it in the summertime of 2022, federal officers mentioned.
Menendez and his spouse have denied any wrongdoing. At a information convention on Monday, Menendez mentioned he firmly believes he shall be acquitted and can retain his Senate seat. “Prosecutors make errors typically,” he mentioned. Menendez didn’t reply to a request for remark.
Menendez’s significance within the development of Latinos and their illustration in American society turned starkly evident lately when the Senate confirmed Adriana Kugler as Governor of the Federal Reserve. She is the primary Latina to affix the Federal Reserve Board in its 109-year historical past, and Menendez was instrumental within the struggle for her nomination and affirmation.
It was essential within the quarter-century battle to determine a Latino museum as a part of the Smithsonian Museums. He has been a passionate advocate for immigrants and different weak communities, about whom he speaks from the Senate ground with eloquence and fervour. President Joe Biden final week referred to as for the usage of govt powers to open extra authorized paths for folks to return to america
Nevertheless, a veteran Democratic strategist mentioned pictures launched by the Justice Division of bundles of cash on prime of a jacket studying “Congressional Hispanic Caucus” brought about some to groan and left his colleagues “in a quandary.” “How do you suppose CHC feels about this?” The strategist mentioned. “Your affiliation with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus is now entrance and heart on this scenario.”
“We’ve quite a lot of very urgent points,” the strategist mentioned. “We’ve nominations, and a few individuals are ready for his or her vote to be confirmed.” “There are every kind of collateral harm that can’t be measured.”
The caucus, all members of that are Democrats, had not issued any remark as of Tuesday and didn’t instantly reply to messages searching for remark.
One other Democratic strategist mentioned the disappointment and disbelief amongst Latinos who’ve watched Menendez’s work on behalf of Hispanics or how he helped open doorways for them is palpable.
“Individuals do not realize he is like Charles Xavier,” the strategist mentioned, referring to the Marvel Comics X-Males character. “He is a man who’s been round because the starting of contemporary Latino political identification. He is a foundational determine.”
“Bob Menendez (understands) energy and the right way to use it, however he is additionally not somebody who’s afraid to throw his weight behind the issues he believes in. He went to the mat and fought the struggle, which may be very unhappy,” the strategist mentioned.
Consultant Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., was not united round Menendez. She demanded his resignation Sunday on CBS Information’ “Face the Nation.”
“Consistency is vital,” she mentioned. “It should not matter whether or not he is a Republican or a Democrat. The small print on this indictment are very severe. It issues not simply the character of his seat, however all of our seats in Congress.”
Menendez criticized those that are “fast to evaluate a Latino and push him out of his seat.” This has upset some Latinos, who agree there are variations in relation to the judicial system however discover it tough to dismiss the indictment towards him as biased due to its compelling particulars.
“There is a odor of disgrace as a result of he is utilizing the Latin protection,” one strategist mentioned. “He is finished that previously. Throughout his final dealings with the feds, one in every of his statements was alongside the traces of, ‘They cannot see a Latino or a Cuban from New Jersey succeeding at this.’
There was additionally a blended response to his clarification in his press convention that he saved cash from his financial savings account hidden at residence “due to my household’s historical past going through confiscation in Cuba.” Menendez was born in america. His dad and mom immigrated from Cuba within the Fifties through the regime of dictator Fulgencio Batista, earlier than the communists Fidel Castro seized energy.
Former Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., an MSNBC analyst, mentioned it is true that many households preserve their property shut, despite the fact that he would not. Curbelo was not prepared to convict Menendez, sustaining that he was harmless except confirmed responsible.
“This can be a unhealthy scenario. There is no denying that. However on the finish of the day, these are allegations, and the federal government goes to must show in court docket that sure legal guidelines had been violated by him personally they usually have to indicate how they had been violated. They’ve failed prior to now to take action,” Curbelo mentioned. “Due to this fact,” he mentioned, referring to the hung jury within the trial associated to Menendez’s 2015 indictment.
“Lots of people do not buy this,” one Democratic congressional aide mentioned.
However, some Latino supporters pointed to a hyperlink between the indictment and Menendez’s hard-line coverage towards Cuba.
Mario Benton, Spanish-language AM radio present host and AméricaTeVé journalist, He said in a post on XTwitter beforehand mentioned Menendez served as a “wall of insulation” towards “those that search a thaw” in relations with Cuba.
“It is vitally unusual that each instances when makes an attempt had been made to calm relations with the Cuban regime and the character of Senator Menendez bought in the way in which, these accusations appeared,” he wrote in Spanish.
“Castro’s dictatorship is celebrating,” he wrote.