Emelina Llanes seems to be a lucky woman – and one with friends in high places.
This Hialeah activist, denounced as a boletera, or ballot broker, by two former police officers, lives in a townhouse that’s been repaired with some $58,000 worth of city funds. She drives a Nissan Xterra that once belonged to the city mayor.
And, though she doesn’t quite remember, Llanes is such a valued campaign worker that even Florida Gov. Rick Scott paid her thousands of dollars to mobilize voters on his behalf.
In recent interviews with El Nuevo Herald, Llanes said she’s tired of her critics, like former mayor Raul Martinez, who insist on calling her a boletera. According to Llanes, a charming 74-year-old widow, she’s never received special perks for her political involvement and assures she is not a boletera.
“What I do is help people,” she said. “Nobody has ever given me a thing.”
In the case of her townhouse, public records show that in 1996 and 2007, she benefited from municipal grants aimed at helping low-income residents do home improvements and keep their properties up to code. Currently, her townhouse is valued at $96,000, according to the Miami-Dade County Property Appraiser.
When she received these grants, Llanes said was a loyal campaign volunteer for then-mayors Martinez and Julio Robaina. She denied that her political activism helped her get the grants.
More from Enrique Flor and Melissa Sanchez here.