Bill de Blasio Apologizes For Quoting Che Guevara at Miami Rally: 'I Did Not Know... I Did Not Mean to Offend'

New York City Mayor and 2020 Democratic candidate Bill de Blasio on Thursday apologized for quoting Argentine Marxist revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara at a Miami rally and explained that he "did not know" that the phrase he'd used was associated with the controversial figure.

"I did not know the phrase I used in Miami today was associated with Che Guevara & I did not mean to offend anyone who heard it that way," de Blasio tweeted Thursday afternoon. "I certainly apologize for not understanding that history. I only meant it as a literal message to the striking airport workers that I believed they would be victorious in their strike."

During his appearance at a union rally earlier in the day at Miami International Airport, de Blasio quoted Guevara in saying "Hasta la victoria siempre," which roughly translates to, "Ever onward to victory."

"The eyes of the world are on this airport, the eyes of the world are on Miami-Dade — and we are not going to let these workers down," the 2020 hopeful said during a speech in support of airport workers protesting low wages and substandard working conditions, before chanting the quote into a microphone.

“Hasta la victoria siempre...”
Says Bill De Blasio in *Miami*

— liz roldan (@lizroldancbs4) June 27, 2019

Many of Miami's Cuban residents — a large number of whom are from families that fled Cuba to escape former Cuban leader Fidel Castro's Communist government — widely consider Guevara, a leader in the revolution and Castro's top lieutenant, to have been a mass murderer.

Although the crowd present at the rally did not call de Blasio out for quoting Guevara, several local politicians immediately went on Twitter to condemn the New York politician.

"Neither @Annette_Taddeo nor I were present when @BilldeBlasio spoke, didn't speak w him & only learn of this now. Quoting a murderer responsible for death & oppression in communist Cuba and throughout Latin America is not acceptable. Please apologize," Florida state Senator Jose Javier Rodríguez (D) tweeted.

"I am utterly disgusted! Both @JoseJavierJJR and I left before @BilldeBlasio spoke. This is completely unacceptable! How can anyone wanting to be the leader of the free world quote a murderous guerrilla -in Miami no less! A community filled with his victims! #DeleteYourCampaign," Florida state Senator Annette Taddeo (D) wrote.

Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez (R) added: "The decision by Mayor Bill de Blasio to quote a ruthless murderer like Che Guevara in Miami is an extreme act of disrespect to this community. To quote this murderer for political gain is appalling. The families of his victims and all Cuban Americans deserve an immediate apology."

De Blasio restated his defense in using the quote during an interview with CNN later on Thursday, calling the incident an "honest mistake."

"I literally meant it as a Spanish phrase, that these folks were gonna be victorious, hang on to victory, that kind of thing," de Blasio told the network. "You saw the response from the folks there working in the airport. They took it as just an affirmation of the strike. These airport workers are getting a real raw deal, they're doing such important work and they're not getting fair pay and benefits. That's what I was there for. I do apologize because I didn't understand the context and I certainly did not mean to offend anyone."

However, despite his claims of ignorance, the Empire State Tribune noted that de Blasio had previously used the same Guevara quote during a forum at the First Corinthian Baptist Church in 2013 while he was running for mayor of New York.

On Thursday, de Blasio explained that he "would not have used" the phrase if had better understood its origins.

"It is simply a case of I literally understood it as a Spanish-language translation of something I was trying to say to these working people," he said. "I think in life you have to, as a leader, be able to say if you did something wrong, even if you didn't mean to, apologize and say, look, I certainly didn't mean to offend anyone. I understand the sensitivities, I've learned from that mistake."

Bill de Blasio
Democratic presidential candidate New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio prepares for a television interview in the spin room before the second night of the first Democratic presidential debate June 27, 2019 in Miami, Florida. De Blasio on Thursday apologized for quoting Argentine Marxist revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara at a Miami campaign stop. Cliff Hawkins/Getty