Croat millionaire hopes to return home as leader
Saturday, November 06, 2004
Cleveland Plain Dealer Reporter
When Boris Miksic slipped into America 30 years ago with a fake passport, he spoke no English.
Three decades later, he is a millionaire businessman.
Now, Miksic wants to return to the homeland he fled Croatia not only as a successful native son, but also as Croatia's next elected president.
"All of the blood, all of the lives, given for independence cannot be wasted," Miksic said Friday before campaigning among Northeast Ohio's sizable Croatian community.
Miksic, who has dual U.S./Croatian citizenship, said he is depending largely on Croatia's expatriate community about 20,000 in the United States to lift him into office. Croatians who maintain their citizenship after leaving the country are still allowed to vote and have a powerful influence over their friends and families in Croatia, Miksic said.
For every vote he wins abroad, he is likely to gain five in Croatia, said Miksic, who compares himself to Arnold Schwarzenegger.
"I have the same motivation," said Miksic, who lives in Minnesota. "I have done everything and now it's time to do this."
Like billionaire and former U.S. presidential candidate Steve Forbes, Miksic is financing his own campaign, spending more than $1 million of the fortune he found producing anti-corrosion products.
Like ex-Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca, Miksic is handing out copies of a book he wrote, his life story, aimed at inspiring Croatians.
And like onetime House Speaker Newt Gingrich, he has written a "Contract with Croatia." Among other things, he vows to resign if he doesn't keep his campaign promises.
Last week, Miksic courted expatriate voters in Frankfurt, Germany. Friday night, he spoke to the American Croatian Business Association in Eastlake. Then, it's on to Chicago, Toronto and Los Angeles.
Miksic describes the issues facing Croatians as much the same as those facing Americans: the economy, social justice, and moral and spiritual values.
But it's the foreign ownership of Croatia's banks and natural resources that fuels his passion. He worries that the European Union is embracing Croatia as "a colony."
"We'll be second-class citizens in our own country," he said.
Miksic's chances in the upcoming election appear slim. A newspaper story this week about a break-in at his campaign office in Zagreb, Croatia, described him as a "minor candidate." The incumbent president, Stipe Mesic, is the front-runner.
Yet, Miksic is confident. Because the thief stole only computers containing his campaign strategy, Miksic said that someone is afraid of him.
He also sees hope in the recent polls, which project him capturing 1 percent to 4 percent of the vote during the Jan. 2 election.
"You know," he said confidently, "the current president only had about 2 percent at this time five years ago."
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© 2004 The Plain Dealer. Used with permission.