This story is co-authored by Grant Stern. This story contains a clarification.
Members of the Proud Boys right-wing extremist group linked to its founder Gavin McInnis are openly planning and executing a takeover of the Republican Party apparatus in South Florida under an active and rebranded political front group.
Led by practicing attorney Gabe Carrera, who recently published a video of himself in-person on Telegram with both he and McInnes wearing their Proud Boys regalia, the Floridians First group has a comprehensive set of plans with a toolkit that includes sign-up materials for joining Republican Executive Committees in order to take over county-level Republican party committees.
In the largest county, Miami-Dade, the Floridians First group is led by Carrera’s apparent friend and realtor, Chris Barcenas, a Miami-Dade Republican Executive Committee member who attended the January 6th insurrection march wearing a black t-shirt with “Enrique Tarrio did nothing wrong” emblazoned on its front in white lettering. The shirt is a callout for his associate, the now-convicted Proud Boys leader Tarrio, who is facing new January 6th related conspiracy charges and is presently held without bail. Sedition hunters identify him as #USAPB.
Their efforts to obtain party appointments appear to be having measurable success.
Based on the most recently available Miami-Dade Republican Executive Committee roster we’ve got, which includes members who have been appointed since the 2020 general election, at least seven are confirmed to be members of the Proud Boys right-wing violent extremist organization.
Five members of the Miami GOP went to the January 6th Capitol insurrection rally, including Barcenas, and three are presently facing criminal charges in connection with that day.
According to a recent roster, the Miami-Dade Republican Executive Committee has approximately 142 authorized members, of which 82 of those positions are known to be elected roles voted upon during primary elections in general election years. Included in a REC membership list obtained by Occupy Democrats are notorious Proud Boys members. (embedded at the bottom)
They include Gilbert Fonticoba, who has been indicted on numerous criminal charges related to the criminal conspiracies to obstruct Congress from certifying the Presidential vote on January 6th, 2021. Other members of the Committee who are also Proud Boys members include Gabriel Garcia, who has been indicted on six charges, including obstructing law enforcement during a civil disorder by fighting with Capitol Police trying to hold back insurrectionists on January 6th, and who recently told the New York Times that the party had no problem with him remaining because he is innocent until proven guilty. Committeeman Alan Chovel stormed the Capitol on January 6th. Since then, he’s been seen with Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis.
TODAY Newly unsealed indictment charges alleged Hialeah, FL Proud Boys member Gilbert Fonticoba in Jan. 6 Capitol riot in case related to Nordean/Biggs/Rehl/Donohoe conspiracy and the Jackman/Rae Fla. group. pic.twitter.com/DwlZHWybLp
— Spencer Hsu (@hsu_spencer) October 26, 2021
REC member Ozzie Perez-Cerezal used to be the Vice President of Latinos For Trump, a political committee that raised about a quarter of a million dollars during the last cycle. He is also a Proud Boys member. So is Adolfo Dominguez-Fuentes, who is listed as a current advisor to Latinos for Trump in addition to his REC membership. Lastly, Pedro Barrios is another Proud Boy who is also an REC member.
With his rebranded Proud Boys group, Gabe Cabrera is pushing to recruit 300 people to Fort Lauderdale’s Broward Republican Executive Committee to elect “red hot spicy chili” MAGA candidates to leadership positions. MAGA refers to the acronym “Make America Great Again,” which is the first Trump presidential campaign’s slogan.
Included in Cabrera’s recruitment materials is a membership package claiming that they are”Like America First, But with Attitude,” promoting the Floridians First main Telegram channel, and concluding that the group is an “is an UNASHAMED Red Hot Chili MAGA Loving Movement Pushing TRUMP Policies for Broward County!”
The Proud Boy/attorney also has a plan to take over Miami’s GOP districts by creating shadow Republican precinct committee representatives, a strategy which is outlined in a blog post and video (embedded below) where Cabrera cautioned Floridians First members not to use the term “GOP” or “we’ll be sued.”
An overall Proud Boys plan is outlined on the “Floridian’s First” group’s website, and their mission statement is clear:
“Floridians First mission is NOT to create a 3rd party as some are doing, but rather to TAKE OVER the local GOPs by having America First Constitutional Conservatives apply in numbers to out vote the Republicans In Name Only (RINO’s)”
“MAGA recovery” is described as a three-step plan involving removing what they deem as not conservative enough Republicans from power.
The first step, according to Floridians First, involves recruiting 300 “America First MAGA-minded supporters to join their local Republican party as active voting members.
After raising “an army of MAGA-Minded individual [sic] who are [sic] willing to participate in the local GOP!” to “Drain the GOP Swamp of its snakes and slimy politico creatures aka RINOs” before establishing a slate of “Red-Hot Chili MAGA candidates.”
The Floridians First group also wants to send out legal notices calling for a no-confidence vote to remove “RINOs” and install their MAGA officers.
The final step in its plan involves holding the new officers accountable to the “MAGA SAVE AMERICA Agenda” and assisting the new executive board in vetting “MAGA-Minded Candidates for public office.
“THE BEST IS YET TO COME” is printed at the bottom of the plan alongside a link to join the Broward Republican Executive Committee with a complete membership package. Floridians First’s website continues:
“We are starting our focus in South Florida to drain the political Broward GOP Swamp. There are political fights of the swamp all over Florida and we seriously recognize that. As we grow in numbers with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ blessing us we will open other Florida First chapters throughout the state of Florida. For now we are focusing right here in sunny Broward County that is the most progressive bluest county in all Florida.”
An archived copy of Floridians First’s original website says that lawyer Gabe Carrera “got pissed-off like 80-Million other Trump supporters (President Joe Biden won more than 81 million votes in 2020) and created the group.
The above-described plan has been present on the earliest version of the website through today.
Miami-Dade’s Chapter of Floridians First is no longer linked to the main page, but a search of the Google Cache (archived here) shows that the page existed. It appears to hold some of the same content found in an active blog post entitled “THE AMERICA FIRST MIAMI-DADE STRATEGY FOR FLORIDIANS FIRST!” containing a video showing Carrera lecturing about the Miami-Dade GOP’s party structure and how to best infiltrate it.
“The program is going to be called the ‘precinct patriot plan,’ and what that is is that we’re going to assign people who raise their hand and step forward a precinct,” explained Carrera. “And what does that mean? It means you’re going to be the neighborhood GOP guru. Well, not GOP, because we can’t use that; we’ll get sued. You’ll be the conservative, liberty-loving, US Constitution flag-hugging individual that’s going to educate those in your precinct.”
From its now-private Instagram account, the Floridians First Miami-Dade group shares links with easy-to-follow instructions entitled “Become a Miami-Dade Republican Committee Member” alongside links to its Telegram channels. “Let me know if you have any questions,” concludes the instruction sheet with links to the specific forms necessary to join the Republican Executive Committee and signed “Chris Barcenas, Director of Miami-Dade Floridians First” with his phone number. (archived)
Today, the Miami Proud Boys inside the Republican Executive Committee and their associates can be found at many of the events Florida Governor Ron DeSantis holds in South Florida. Current Executive Committee members who are affiliated with the Proud Boys are Gilbert Fonticaba, Pedro Barrios, Ozzie Perez-Cerezal, Nowell Sangueiro, Chris Barcenas, Adolfo Dominguez-Fuentes, and Gabriel Garcia. The January 6th participants are Gilbert Fonticaba, Chris Barcenas, and Gabriel Garcias. Additional Executive Committee members who were at the January 6th insurrection are Alan Chovel and Barbara Balsameda.
Anyone can see the Florida governor — who is fearful of questions from the press — if they follow the Floridians First Miami-Dade Telegram channel, which Barcenas is believed to run.
In March, the channel administrator posted a link to the governor’s campaign event with famous Cuban-American UFC fighter Jorge Masvidal two days before the fundraiser at The Wharf, a popular bar outside of downtown Miami.
Despite Masvidal’s pending multiple felony charges, DeSantis kept the appointment with the fighter accused of causing brain damage when he allegedly assaulted a UFC fighter and former roommate who only recently defeated him in a nationally televised pay-per-view match.
In early April, tickets to the governor’s party appearance at the Miami-Dade Republican Party’s Lincoln Day dinner were made available.
Since DeSantis’ appearance, though, the Miami GOP has been roiled by internecine warfare, starting when one of its executive committee members Nowell Salgueiro, a Proud Boys member, is alleged to have assaulted a woman after several people in the dinner were escorted out by security.
Occupy Democrats exclusively reported the incident last week with footage of a corresponding restraining order being served against Salgueiro at the party’s meetings in West Miami’s Renaissance Ballrooms in late April.
A source familiar with the party says that the Miami GOP did not use that venue for a follow-up meeting in which our article was discussed by Executive Committee members.
The drift towards right-wing extremism within the ranks of Miami-Dade Republicans has been a public and violent one with its roots in the middle of the Trump era.
Just before the pivotal 2018 Midterm elections, members of the Miami GOP led by the party’s chairman staged an unhinged protest outside of former Congresswoman Donna Shalala’s campaign office.
Whipped into a frenzy by the soon-to-be future leader of the Proud Boys national hate group and led by Miami GOP Party Chairman Nelson Diaz and future-Florida Trump campaign chairman Kevin Cabrera, the gathering of Republicans, which included multiple paid Florida GOP operatives, descended quickly into a riot-like scene. Cabrera, a former district director for Rep. Carlos Curbelo, is now running for an open seat on Miami-Dade’s Board of County Commissioners and raised $100,000 in the first week of fundraising for his Dade First Political Committee in that race.
A mob entered the campaign office’s private entranceway to confront then-Minority leader Nancy Pelosi shouting obscenities while she entered the office flanked by the Capitol Police. With Diaz in the lead, the mob terrified local political volunteers when they started violently pounding on the office’s side entrance demanding entry, earning a rebuke from one of the officers.
Nelson Diaz apologized for the embarrassing episode while facing widespread condemnation even from his former boss, Marco Rubio, only after both the Republican chairman’s emails — and his RSVP to the Facebook event page organizing the catastrophe — were exposed .
The Senator, who employed Diaz as Chief of Staff when he was the Speaker of the Florida House, is of Cuban-American descent like the former Chair. That amplified the meaning of Sen. Rubio’s remarks when he described the scene his protege led as a “repudiation mob,” an intimidation tactic used by Fidel Castro in Cuban for actos de repudio, which is when the regime in Cuba engineered mob denouncements of government critics or political opponents to sew the fear of violent political retribution, public beatings or death.
You are not helping the cause of anti-communism if you behave like the repudiation mobs Castro has long used in Cuba. Not sure who was behind this behavior but you should have protested Pelosi campaign stop without borrowing the tactics of left wing mobs. https://t.co/LDsR4SDSPJ
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) October 20, 2018
Yet, Nelson Diaz remained in charge of a Republican party political operation that welcomed violent and extremist far-right actors within its ranks until late last year.
Former Florida State Senator Rene Garcia, who won election to the Miami-Dade County Board of Commissioners after being termed out for a second time, is the Miami GOP’s new chairman.
Last year, the rebranded Miami-Dade Republican Party hired Brandon Diaz as its executive director. He previously served as director of communications for the Miami Young Republicans. According to the Facebook profiles of both parties, Brandon Diaz is involved in a romantic relationship with Barbara Balsameda, a GOP operative that was an intern for Senator Marco Rubio. In 2018, Balsameda served as an organizer in Ron DeSantis’s first gubernatorial campaign.
More recently, she worked as campaign manager for Florida State Senator Ileana Garcia who is best known for winning the 2020 Senate race by 34 votes after a fake candidate scheme that led to criminal charges against former GOP State Senator Frank Artiles. The fake candidate pled guilty.
Balsamera recently came into prominence after being potentially identified in pictures inside the U.S Capitol on the January 6th insurrection mob alongside Proud Boys members Gabriel Garcia and Ethan Nordean, both of whom were arrested and charged in connection to their participation in storming the Capitol on January 6th.
The GOP political operative Balsmera was indeed inside the Capitol that day, according to a former Proud Boy member’s statement to the Miami New Times.
Diaz resigned at the end of April with only one day’s formal notice to pursue an unspecified position “more in line with my field of expertise in Marketing & Communications.” His resignation letter bragged about hosting the “largest and most successful Lincoln Day dinner in the 74-year history of the Party” and concluded, “The best is yet to come.” Last week, the Miami-Dade Republican Party lost its appeal against a hefty $21,000 fine incurred at the start of his tenure as executive director for failure to file timely campaign finance reports.
The 2021-2022 Republican Executive Committee roster shows that Barbara Balsameda is still a member alongside Gabriel Garcia.
Other far-right members of the Miami GOP Executive Committee include Chris Barcenas and Nowell Salgueiro.
The saying goes, the fish rots from the head down, which is certainly the case for the Republican Party of Florida. While no footage of him inside the Capitol has surfaced, the RPOF’s Vice-Chair was a January 6th rally participant.
Chair Joe Gruters boasted on social media about sending buses to a rally that always aimed to overturn legitimate election results.
The first step in the Proud Boys’ plan involves recruiting 300 “America First MAGA-minded supporters to join their local Republican party as active voting members. After establishing a slate of “Red-Hot Chili MAGA candidates”, Floridian’s First wants to send out legal notices calling for a no-confidence vote to remove “RINOs” and install their MAGA officers. The final step in their plan involves holding the new officers accountable to the “MAGA SAVE AMERICA Agenda” and assisting the new executive board in vetting “MAGA-Minded Candidates for public office.
The influx of Proud Boys and January 6th rioters into the Republican Party of Miami-Dade doesn’t seem to have impacted their operations positively. Miami-Dade Republicans just lost the appeal of a $21,181 fine issued by the county elections department for three months late filing a quarterly financial report in 2021.
County Commissioner Sen. Rene Garcia, who is the Chair of the Miami-Dade GOP, blamed the fine on a gap between the resignation of their previous treasurer and the election of the current treasurer, Annette Hernandez.
Brandon Diaz resigned from his Executive Director position in a letter addressed to Rene Garcia sent on April 29th, 2022. The reason for Diaz’s departure in his letter is that he has accepted another offer “for a position more in line” with his “field of expertise.” Whether that may be the case, public records confirmed the $21,000 fine, which equaled 25% of the party’s campaign contributions for that quarter. A source familiar with his departure mentioned his relationship with Balsameda and association with other January 6th participants created tension within the Miami-Dade Republican Executive Committee.
There are notable figures holding leadership positions within the Miami GOP’s Executive Committee. As we previously noted, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Rene Garcia serves as Chairman, alongside recently elected City of West Miami Mayor Eric Diaz Padron. We contacted both Garcia and Padron for comment regarding their comfort level, knowing that far-right extremists and January 6th participants serve in this leadership body alongside them. Neither man responded for comment.
2022 Miami Republican Executive Committee List:
CLARIFICATION 08/15/22: The original story mischaracterized Gabriel Garcia’s arrest as “assaulting a police officer” when he was indicted on 18 USC 231 (a) (3) and 2, which pertains to those who “obstruct, impede, or interfere” a law enforcement officer during civil disorder. It is more accurately described as “fighting with Capitol Police trying to hold back insurrectionists” because Garcia helped free a man trying to break through US Capitol Police lines holding back those who wanted to push further into the capitol on January 6th, 2021.
Thomas Kennedy is an elected Democratic National Committee member representing Florida. He tweets from @tomaskenn.
is a former reported opinion columnist and roving correspondent. He's an elected member of the Democratic National Committee from Florida and a fomer Director of Sunshine Agenda Inc. a government transparency nonprofit organization.