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Javier Figueras says he’s voting for presidential candidate Mitt Romney in the Florida primary because of his business experience.
"I trust his ability to bounce the economy back,” said Figueras, a 20-year-old sophomore attending the Miami Dade Honors College Program in Miami. “I don’t want to speak badly of President Obama, but we should be in a better place by now.”
A finance major, the third-generation Cuban-American says students like him are concerned about employment.
“We want to make sure that we’re going to have a job when we graduate that will allow us to pay back our college debts.”
His was among the many concerns expressed by a cross-section of students and business leaders who attended various forums hosted on Wednesday by Univision Network, Miami Dade College and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC).
GOP hopefuls Romney and Newt Gingrich, who attended separate forums, are neck and neck in the Florida primary, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll. Approximately 72 percent of the Hispanic voters in Miami-Dade County are Republican.
Over three million Hispanics own businesses in the United States, according to Nina Vaca, chairperson of the USHCC.
“Sixty-four percent of jobs created in America come from small businesses,” Vaca said, “and Hispanic businesses are the fastest growing of that sector.”
The owner of Pinnacle Tech Resources, a staffing company, Vaca added that “many business owners are interested in legislation that will promote the prosperity and growth of their companies.”
Henry Fleches said his biggest concern as an entrepreneur is taxation for private institutions.
“When you compete against regulation and taxation, it’s an additional threat to small business owners like me,” Fleches said.
Fleches, who is president and CEO of United Data Technologies, says he is concerned about the large sums of money the United States is borrowing from China.
“How do we stand on our own two feet,” he asked, “when we’re borrowing money from the same country whose goods we’re consuming?”
Many business owners admitted they still haven’t decided which GOP candidate they will vote for in the Florida primary, but they believe the forums will help them form an opinion.
While in Miami, Gingrich gave a lecture on Latin American policy at Florida International University.
Romney addressed a crowd on the same subject at the Freedom Tower, a building that served as a processing center for thousands of Cuban political refugees in the Sixties. Rick Santorum and Ron Paul, trailing in the polls, did not schedule appearances in Miami.
Cristina Puig is a freelance writer based in Miami.