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Congressional Debate at Belen Last Semester: Historic and Inspiring

A precursor to the presidential debates and election, this congressional debate was anything but boring.

US Representative Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla),left, shakes hands with his opponent Democrat challenger Jose Garcia at the end of the debate at their alma mater Belen Jesuit Preparatory School in Miami on Thursday, October 13, 2016. Garcia is challenging incumbent Curbelo for Florida's 26th Congressional District seat during the upcoming November 8, 2016 elections.

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The grand majority of Americans view American politics as something far-fetched,  something that doesn’t concern them. They feel as if their opportunities of participating and being active in government are limited to very few, such as voting. Others feel indifferent about what happens in American government and are foreign to American political processes.

However, on October 13, the Belen Jesuit community was blessed to be able to say otherwise. Those who attended the debate in the Roca Theater witnessed a congressional debate proudly starring three of our very own alumni. The debate was moderated by Emmy Award winning ABC News anchor and correspondent Tom Llamas, a graduate from class of 1997, and featured Republican Carlos Curbelo, a graduate from the Class of 1998, and Democrat Joe Garcia, a graduate from the Class of 1982. They covered many topics such as Belen, the 2016 presidential candidates, Cuban-American relations and immigration, as they clashed for a chance to represent Florida’s 26th district in the House of Representatives.

Right before the debate began, both congressmen took time to praise and appreciate Belen for preparing them in their careers and in all aspects of life. They especially thanked their former U.S government teacher, Mr. Patrick Collins, for inspiring them and preparing them for their careers in public service. Both also remarked Belen’s extraordinary progress and development since their last being there. Afterwards, Tom commenced the debate and began bombarding the candidates with questions.

One of the very first topics covered was about the 2016 presidential candidates. The topic was launched with Tom’s question to Mr. Curbelo, asking him which presidential candidate he supposed, if any. Mr. Curbelo responded by stating that he pledged support for neither Donald Trump nor Hilary Clinton, and denounced both of them. Mr. Curbelo reaffirmed this claim by saying that doing so would be going contrary to his ideals and beliefs. The same question was fired at Mr. Garcia, and he responded by saying that he supported Hilary Clinton. The questions traversed up to that point had been asked and responded to in English, but the subjects that followed were discussed in Spanish. Those included Cuban-American relations and Cuban and Venezuelan immigration into the U.S.

Mr. Curbelo’s stance on the Cuban-American relations was that he was against Obama’s embargo lift on Cuba. He believes that this will not incite any change in Cuba’s government and is only benefiting them. The republican congressmen believes that in deals made with Cuba, the U.S should be more demanding. As for Cuban and Venezuelan immigration, he maintained the importance of revising the Cuban Adjustment Act so that benefits are only given to those with legitimate causes such as political refugees and not everybody. Just like Cuban immigrants are financially aided,

Mr. Curbelo argued that because of the political turmoil brewing in Venezuela with the Nicolas Maduro’s government, Venezuelan immigrants should also receive benefits. Unlike his rival, Mr. Garcia promotes the reopening of Cuban-American relations and the embargo lift that Obama enacted and plans to keep all diplomatic policies and negotiations towards and with Cuba that way. Also contrary to Mr. Curbelo, the democratic former congressmen believes that benefits should be received by all Cuban immigrants. The only matter they agreed on was on expanding benefits to Venezuelan immigrants. Mr. Garcia’s final remarks on the topic concluded the part of the debate in Spanish and then finished the rest of the debate in English. Another key issue in the debate was on education and student debt, a matter which both congressmen emphasized.

Although the debate comprised mainly of the congressmen’s positions on major issues facing America and Florida today, but Mr. Curbelo wasn’t shy to take advantage of his opponent’s sexist remarks, corruption, and betrayal. Several times throughout the debate, Mr. Curbelo brought to light Mr. Garcia’s sexist remarks about Hilary Clinton, the time when he tried to rig an election in his favor, and the time when he betrayed his campaign director by denying that he knew him before being imprisoned.

The republican representative contrasted these negative qualities about Mr. Garcia with his honest and fair ways. Once, after bringing these matters about Mr. Garcia to light, he finished by using Belen’s school motto against him. He asked him “Whatever happened to Men for Others?” Like this, there were many more comments and attacks that caused Mr. Garcia to always be on the defensive against Mr. Curbelo. Another feature of the debate was the questions Belen students asked the congressmen throughout the debate, which in turn created more minor subjects of matter for the opponents to argue.

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Congressional Debate at Belen Last Semester: Historic and Inspiring