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Lincoln Diaz-Balart joins David Rivera to woo Colombian-American vote

The congressional race between Republican state Rep. David Rivera and Democrat Joe Garcia is so bitterly fought that the two rivals disagree on one of the few issues they agree on.

Both candidates back the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, a pact stalled in Congress for several years. Touting his support of the agreement last week, Garcia unveiled an economic plan at a Doral flower distribution and packing plant owned by Colombian Americans.

Not to be outdone, on Monday, Rivera and Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart -- flanked by eight Colombian-American business people at a West Kendall Colombian restaurant -- derided Garcia's position as hypocritical, saying it's not enough for Garcia to favor the agreement if he also backs House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has helped block the pact from coming to a vote.

"We have to get this agreement approved, but first we have to get it considered," Diaz-Balart said. "In my opinion, you can't say you're in favor of the free trade agreement with Colombia and at the same time support Mrs. Pelosi."

Rivera, who in a statement called Garcia's support "hypocrisy at is finest," said he had spoken to GOP leaders in the House, and that they are committed to bringing the pact to a vote.

"We know that one of the best things we can do to rectify this unemployment problem is support this free-trade agreement," Rivera said. "Colombia is our best ally in Latin America."

House Democrats have raised questions about human rights issues in the South American country, including violence against union leaders.

In a statement, Garcia said he has supported the agreement since Republicans controlled the House, and said he met with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in Coral Gables in July.

"The Colombia Free Trade Agreement will create jobs in South Florida," Garcia said, "and I will make it my top priority to convince members of my own party and work across party lines to get it passed because it is good for America and our greatest ally in the region."

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