Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney made a campaign stop at a Miami juice shop owned by a convicted cocaine trafficker.
In a South Florida trip meant to shore up support among the reliably-Republican Cuban exile community, Romney, accompanied by rising GOP star Sen. Marco Rubio, stopped at El Palacio de los Jugos. The juice shop, in the heavily Cuban Flagami neighborhood, is owned by Reinaldo Bermudez, who plead guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine in 1999 and served three years in a federal penitentiary.
Not only did Romney and Rubio visit the shop, Romney also filmed a campaign ad there.
Bermudez, aka "El Guajiro," was part of a 12-member drug ring busted in 1997 trying to smuggle more than a ton of cocaine disguised as fish and soap into three Florida ports. He told the Miami New Times that the Secret Service thoroughly vetted him and was fully aware of his criminal past.
"They absolutely knew about my record," he said. "[The conviction] was not a problem. Everybody deserves a second chance."
"Here in Miami there are a lot of people who have had problems with the law," he added. "Thankfully, we all have the opportunity in this country to re-enter society when we've done something wrong."
That's not exactly accurate; Florida is one of the states that makes it extremely difficult for convicted felons to regain their full citizenship rights; according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU):
In Florida, individuals convicted of a felony are stripped of their civil and voting rights, even after completion of their sentences. Loss of civil rights takes away not only the right to vote, but also the right to hold public office, serve on a jury and qualify for certain types of state licenses necessary for many jobs, such as those in the construction and medical fields.
In order to restore those rights, a person... must apply for a Restoration of Civil Rights. Only the Governor and the Executive Clemency Board have the power to restore those rights. The entire process is complicated and takes years. Even then, there is no guarantee an individual's rights will be restored.