Daniel García Marco (dpa)
HAVANA TIMES — One thing does not change when one is interested in mobilizing Florida’s electorate: Cuba continues to be an issue that inflames passions. The difference today is that anti-Castro groups appear to be losing more and more ground in the State where Cuba’s largest émigré community is concentrated.
On Tuesday Nov. 4, Florida, divided by the opposing candidate views about Cuba, is to elect a governor.
Polls reveal a tie between the current governor, Republican Rick Scott, and Democrat candidate Charlie Crist. They are divided on policies regarding minimum wage, job creation and medical coverage – and Cuba.
Florida, the fourth most populated state in the US, key in most presidential elections, is home to most Cuban émigrés, a community that has traditionally maintained a hard line against the island’s communist government, Washington’s long-standing ideological enemy.
“I understand we have a terrible government in Cuba, but the embargo hasn’t worked,” said Crist during the first campaign debate. The former Republican governor even toyed with the idea of traveling to the island over the past few months, an option that was ultimately discarded.
Scott, on the other hand, maintains the hard-line stance towards Cuba traditionally held by the émigré community, close to the Republican Party. “I believe in the embargo and here’s why: the Castro brothers are terrorists,” he told his rival.
Following the triumph of the Cuban revolution in 1959 and the subsequent nationalization of US companies, Washington imposed a harsh economic and commercial embargo on Cuba and has maintained it to this day. In recent weeks, opinions calling for its lifting have been voiced in the United States.
Crist is already able to say he opposes the embargo – a stance shared by other leaders of the Cuban community in Miami and even dissident Yoani Sanchez – without fear of losing votes in Florida. The decision, however, must be made, not by governors, but by the federal government.
According to a poll conducted by the Florida International University (FIU) and published in June this year, 52 percent of Cuban-Americans in the Miami-Dade County are opposed to the embargo, a percentage that goes up to 62 percent in the 18 to 29 age group. Around 51 percent are in favor of the embargo among registered voters, who tend to be the oldest in the community.
During the current campaign, #CubaNow, an organization headed by young Cuban-Americans, launched a TV ad in Spanish calling on the government to put an end to the hard-line policies and to protect the right to travel to the island and help relatives of Cubans living there
The figures reveal a near-tie between those who support a hard-line policy (the first generation of émigrés that arrived in Florida in the 60s), and those who favor a rapprochement with Cuba, mainly the younger generations.
“The two [candidates] are betting that they have a certain degree of support among Cuban-American voters. There is support for both stances,” Jorge Duany, director of the FIU’s Cuban Research Institute, told DPA.
In the US presidential elections of 2012, Florida, an important “swing state”, voted for Barack Obama, who softened Cuba travel policies despite the embargo.
“There are many Cubans who aren’t aware of the past, who cling to the present and the future with a different mentality and who can travel [to Cuba] whenever they want. They aren’t going to let them take that away from them and vote for something that entails the opposite,” Emilio Morales, president of the Miami-based company The Havana Consulting Group told DPA.
According to the FIU poll, 69 percent of Cuban-Americans supported the lifting of restrictions on travel and the sending of remittances by the Obama administration. Among the young, support is as high as 89 percent.
During the current campaign, #CubaNow, an organization headed by young Cuban-Americans, launched a TV ad in Spanish calling on the government to put an end to the hard-line policies and to protect the right to travel to the island and help relatives of Cubans living there.
“Today, the majority [of Cubans in Florida] don’t want the spaces opened up by Obama to be taken away by anyone,” Morales said.