The crusade anti-woke Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida and probable candidate for the White House for the Republican Party in 2024, will stop at nothing, not even before the almighty Disney, the main employer of the Sunshine State. DeSantis has it in for the entertainment company since its then-CEO Bob Chapek last year criticized an education law that opposes teaching in Florida schools up to the age of nine about topics related to sexual orientation and gender identity. His detractors call that law Don’t Say Gay (Don’t say gay).
DeSantis summoned the media in Lake Buena Vista on Monday to sign a regulation that allows him to take control of the governing body of the Reedy Creek Improvement District (Reedy Creek Improvement District), an area of just over 100 square kilometers in the that sits since 1971 Disney World, the most famous amusement park in the world. The site, renamed the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, will no longer be governed by a board made up of people close to the company, but by five members handpicked by the governor.
Announcing it Monday, DeSantis, who is gearing up for a busy week that will continue this Tuesday with the release of his second memoir, The Courage to Be Free (The courage to be free), said: “There is a new sheriff in this town.” He is taking a liking to the phrase, which he already pronounced last week, when the law passed the parliamentary process in a Congress whose two chambers are comfortably dominated by the Republicans, which is allowing the governor to meet the objectives of his agenda in a hurry, before of the foreseeable announcement of his presidential candidacy. DeSantis added: “The corporate kingdom has come to an end,” in an apparent reference to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.
In the reign of DeSantis, that ultra-conservative experiment that is being carried out in Florida, there is no respite for the “culture woke”, a term that the American right has turned into its favorite insult and used to define those who “woke up” to injustices to fight against racism and inequality and in favor of feminism, LGTBI rights or trans people. All these groups have become the governor’s obsessions, and he seems to have obtained a high yield from them, as demonstrated by the results of the last elections in November, when he won by a margin of 1.5 million votes over the opponent from he.
“Disney opposed something (the education law) that was only intended to protect the little ones and make sure that students can go to school to learn to read, write, add, subtract and not have a teacher tell them that they can change sex,” DeSantis said Monday. “I think most parents are okay with that.”
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The move against Disney, harsh as it may be, is only a partial victory for DeSantis. His initial idea was to have made the district disappear, as of June 1, 2023, which would have been divided between Orange and Osceola counties. Both would have had to take care of paying municipal services such as electricity or water, as well as the costs of the police, ambulances or firefighters, accounts that since 1967 have been borne by the company. In addition, they would have inherited a debt of approximately one billion dollars. Those small details made Florida lawmakers recoil. And for a moment last fall it seemed that the multinational and the State were ready to sign peace, after the return of Bob Iger at the controls of Disney, replacing a struggling Chapek.
Although DeSantis could not strip the Californian company of the tax advantages it enjoyed, the new board members will have powers to tax, build infrastructure and borrow money for projects related to the theme park. The law also removes permits, never used, that Disney had to build its own airport or even a nuclear power plant.
Among the profiles chosen for the new board, which will meet for the first time next week, are Martin Garcia, a Tampa lawyer whose investment firm contributed $50,000 to the governor’s re-election campaign, and Bridget Ziegler, founder of the conservative organization Moms for Liberty, which is behind many of the book ban campaigns in libraries and school curricula across the United States. Faced with the prospect, DeSantis, a Yale and Harvard graduate who appears to have carved the rhetoric of him in a multiplex, watching 1980s movies, threatened Monday: “So fasten your seatbelts.”
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