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As Foreign Leaders Gather at UN, Mayoral Candidates Talk 1980s Latin America

Monday, September 23, 2013

American policy in Latin America 25 years ago has become an issue in this year's mayoral race. Republican Joe Lhota seized on a New York Times story about Democrat Bill de Blasio's past activism in Nicaragua.

Both Lhota and de Blasio appeared at a Manhattan news conference near the United Nations to condemn the Iranian threat to Israel. But on US policy in 1980s Latin America, they're split.

Lhota told reporters that de Blasio's past support for the Nicaraguan Sandanistas underscored their different worldviews.

"He's done nothing to show his support for the business community of New York whatsoever, and I think that's indicative of his core political philosophy," Lhota said. "In his own words, he called himself a Democratic socialist. It's really unfortunate that that's the level we've come to in this city."

De Blasio called that a right-wing tactic of using labels and calling names.

"The bottom line is the values I have put forward have been consistent over the last quarter century or more. I believe in a more just society. I believe government has to be a tool for a more just society," he said, after accepting the endorsement of Democratic Party leaders in Queens. "Fighting for equality to me, I say this humbly, is my life's work."

De Blasio said his commitment to reduce inequality is shared by President Barack Obama, who endorsed de Blasio for mayor on Monday.

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