Cuba Stance Divides Florida Voters

Daniel García Marco (dpa)

The corner of Prado and Colon, Havana. Photo: Juan Suarez

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.



29 thoughts on “Cuba Stance Divides Florida Voters

  • Words have meanings. Justification does not mean the same thing as excuse. Please don’t confuse the two words.

    Justification comes from the root “justice”, and means “to make just”.

    Excuse comes from the Latin “ex causa”, to be free from accusations, to avoid blame.

    To make Justice is not the same thing as avoiding blame. I hope everybody can see the distinction.

    The regime attempts to justify their repression, but it is only any excuse. How does the embargo make beating up on the Ladies in White a just act? It does not. The regime is merely making excuses, avoiding blame for their repression.

    Sadly, too many people accept the flimsy excuse, even when they know it is a lie, as it serves to justify their own political biases.

    Dictators don’t need any justification. They will repress the people anyway because that’s what dictators do. The embargo on China was lifted, but the dictatorship did not become any less of a dictatorship. They still sent their tanks to crush the bodies of pro-democracy protestors in Tiananmen Square. They had no justification, only excuses.

    Justice is based on truth. Excuses are built from lies.

  • Using the embargo as a justification and being justified are two different things. And the embargo serves up the justification on a silver platter.

  • I don’t claim to be an expert on all things Cuba. I have read a couple dozen books on Cuba, fiction & non-fiction, by authors for and against the revolution. So I think I know some things, and I am continuing to learn. For example, I am aware of everything your wrote in the 2nd paragraph.

    So you stick with your statement that the Castro regime is justified in repressing the Cuban people, because of the embargo?

    Wow. Just wow.

  • If you are unwilling to make a public demand that Canada impose an embargo on Cuba and a travel ban on its citizens (not a tepid statment to some MP about taking a harder line) your telling the US government and people and Cubans what to do and not do will continue to be hypocritical.

    Your knowledge of Cuba is very limited. If you have worked there you would know that the embargo is the perfect excuse used for every problem, inefficiency, error. It’s widely seen as a virtual act of war on the government and people even by people who share many of your views on the failures and undemocractic nature of the government.

    By the way you say you traveled to Cuba a couple times before you saw the light; why shouldn’t other Canadians get the same chance? Or even US citizens for that matter. Imagine if you had never seen the light!

  • Oh yes, it has been a highly effective excuse for the dictatorship. Many people even believe it! They even get the UN diplomats to pretend they believe it.

    But an excuse is not the same thing as a justification.

    The Cuban population can be excused for believing the propaganda. They have had no choice but to live inside the closed Castro system which has force fed them a steady diet of propaganda since childhood. The interesting thing is that a significant percentage still don’t believe the government lies.

    People outside the island don’t have that excuse. They should know better. The information is there to see, yet they chose to ignore it. Fools is one word, or perhaps your term, hypocritical is a better fit?

    You wrote that the embargo justifies the internal repression of the Cuban people. Justifies. Really? That’s an astonishing assertion. Do you really believe that? The Castro regime is justified in repressing the Cuban people because of the embargo? Go ahead and beat up on the Ladies in White, ‘cuz the Americans won’t buy your rum…? Castro’s goons are justified?

    I can’t imagine you really believe that the regime is justified. Perhaps your passions got the better of you?

    Finally, I am sorry you don’t feel that my efforts at talking to friends and colleagues about the repression in Cuba and why they shouldn’t go on vacation there, and my emails to my MP and the Canadian Foreign Minister are not, in your opinion, equivalent to my “passionate” defence of the US embargo on Cuba in the comments section of your blog. It’s hard to evaluate equal weight in these things, isn’t it?

    After all, many Canadians read your blog, and even respond to my comments here. So doesn’t that reduce my hypocrisy score a wee bit?

    Is it the Canadian thing that gets your goat? The stereotype is that we Canadians are overly polite nice guys, and maybe that just rubs you the wrong way. But in my opinion, the truly hypocritical Canadians are the ones who vacation in Cuba, come home wearing their Che t-shirts, believing all the wonders of Cuban style “socialism”, and yet have the gall to call themselves supporters of human rights and democracy. Now that’s hypocrisy!!!

    There is one fellow Canadian who posts here occasionally and who I swear I met on the Malecon, right beside the Monument to the victims of the USS Maine explosion, and he asked me to take a picture of him & his “girlfriend”, a girl half his age who cringed awkwardly as I pointed his camera to record his …what? His trophy? She sure as hell wasn’t his girlfriend. I remember him because he mentioned the small town he was from when I met him in Havana, and he has mentioned that town here at HT. Quite a coincidence, eh?

    Now is that not hypocritical? Or just sick, immoral, exploitative and disgusting, but not hypocritical because he’s sincerely into that kind of thing?

    So, I think you are a bit unfair to judge me as hypocritical just because my government has not yielded to the force of my arguments. I do what I can for what I believe. You may not share my beliefs, but that does not make me a hypocrite.

  • So you don’t think the US embargo has been a constant effective excuse for internal restrictions and errors in Cuba? Are you calling a large portion of the Cuban population fools?

  • Dictators don’t need justifications for being repressive. They do it to keep their grip on power. It’s what dictators do. Clever dictators do use excuses. Only fools believe them.

  • Last first. Having to read your comments I became tired of the constant repetition and your hypocritical stance as a Canadian on the US embargo. It has nothing to do with your views on the Cuban government. I have no problem with those.

    There is only one embargo being imposed on another country and that is the unilateral US embargo on Cuba. The many internal restrictions in Cuba, often called the internal blockade, are not the same thing. And guess what, the US embargo is the biggest justification for the internal restrictions.

  • Oh no, it’s not a one-way embargo. The Cuban government blocks US media from broadcasting to the island, they severely limit internet connection for most Cubans and they restrict travel for Cubans wishing to leave the island. Don’t forget the internal embargo imposed by the Castro regime on the Cuban people.

    For the past two years that I have been reading & commenting at your fine blog, I have noticed only the occasional short comment from yourself. Then suddenly, in the last two days, you have been moved to direct a dozen or more comments & questions to me, exclusively. I wonder why that is?

    I don’t believe my position is hypocritical as you say, but you are entitled to your opinion. I regret that you have not chosen to answer any of the questions I put to you.

    I am interested to know your opinion of the hypocrisy of those who claim to support democracy and human rights around the world, but who turn a blind eye to abuses in Cuba and defend the Castro regime?

    Anyway, I thank you for your kind attention, Circles. At least I know my posts are being read.

  • I guess its only a one-way embargo. On the Cuban government and people and topped off by a travel ban that limits the travel rights of US citizens. Lots of losers.

    You seem to agree with the embargo as long as its the US and not your own Canada, which as you say plays the “good guy” with the island and collects taxes off its companies making good $$$ in Cuba.

    Your call for democracy in Cuba is legitimate, your support for the US embargo is hypocritical coming from a Canadian who does nothing to promote a similar Canadian embargo on Cuba and other undemocratic countries.

    Remember through your hard work maybe Canada could become the third of 193 countries that support the embargo.

  • I’m not sure I understand the question. The embargo is a US law. Are you saying that Cuba has placed conditions on the US before the US can change their own laws?

    That does not make sense.

  • By the way, what are the conditions that Cuba puts on the US for Washington to lift its unilateral embargo on the island that you so passionately support?

  • There are more conditions than that. History has made some of them moot:

    >Prohibits the completion of the Juragua Nuclear Power Plant.

    (That project was abandoned long ago)

    >Declares United States policy towards a “transition government” and a “democratically elected government” in Cuba.

    (So long as the Cuban government bans all opposition political activity, this condition is dead).

    >Prompts for the retirement of former Soviet Union personnel out of Cuban military and intelligence facilities, including the military and intelligence facilities at Lourdes and Cienfuegos.

    (No longer relevant, although if the Russians return, it might become an issue again)

    >Prohibits recognition of a transitional government in Cuba that includes Fidel or Raúl Castro.

    (The Grim Reaper will eventually fulfill this obligation)

    >Prohibits recognition of a Cuban government that has not provided compensation for U.S. certified claims against confiscated property, defined as non-residential property with an excess of $50,000 value in 1959.

    (This clause will be difficult to resolve, involving negotiations between Washington & Havana, as well as between Washington & various US claimants.)

    >Prompts for extradition or otherwise rendition to the United States of all persons sought by the United States Department of Justice for crimes committed in the United States.

    (Easy to do: the Cuba police can round these folks up and put them on a plane in no time.)

    The issues are tractable, but it will take political will in Havana to engage seriously in the process.

  • I believe there are only Three (3) conditions; 1) Free political prisoners, 2) Allow freedom of speech & press, 3) hold free democratic elections.

  • Actually, some of the conditions have already been met, or are moot:

    > Prohibits the completion of the Juragua Nuclear Power Plant.

    > Prompts for the retirement of former Soviet Union personnel out of Cuban military and intelligence facilities, including the military and intelligence facilities at Lourdes and Cienfuegos.

    Those two items can be struck off the list as “done”

    >Prompts for extradition or otherwise rendition to the United States of all persons sought by the United States Department of Justice for crimes committed in the United States.

    That one is easy to do. The Cuban government can round up the fugitives and send them packing back to the US, with no consequences to the current Cuban government.

    >Prohibits recognition of a transitional government in Cuba that includes Fidel or Raúl Castro.

    Ah. That one is a bit harder, as the people who would make that decision are, well, Fidel & Raul Castro. Still, the Grim Reaper may fill that obligation soon enough.

    >Prohibits recognition of a Cuban government that has not provided compensation for U.S. certified claims against confiscated property, defined as non-residential property with an excess of $50,000 value in 1959.

    That one is tricky and will require complex negotiations to complete, not only between Washington & Havana, but also between Washington and the US claimants. However, if such negotiations are at least begun, then there it is possible US Congress would find it acceptable progress.

    I do agree with your point: a negotiated resolution leading to the lifting of the embargo is the way to go. The various parts of the embargo can be lifted in phases as reward for progress in negotiations.

  • I can see you are tickled pink about the Republican wave that swept the USA on Tuesday and how that will make it even harder for the embargo on Cuba to be dropped. When does your public campaign begin to get Canada to impose a similiar embargo and travel ban on Cuba?

  • I see that Gov. Scott has been re-elected in Florida, and the GOP now hold majorities in the House & the Senate. Cuban-American Carlos Curbelo (R) has defeated the incumbent Joe Garcia for a seat in the House of Representatives. Garcia opposed the embargo, and Cubelo supports it.

    Therefore, the Castro apologists can forget any chance Congress will repeal Helms-Burton without any concessions from Cuba. Nor will President Obama spend what little political capital he has remaining to issue another executive order easing the sanctions at all.

  • I don’t think anyone is suggesting that the embargo be dropped unconditionally. It takes negotiations which the US is refusing to do. Instead they have put a set of around 15 conditions many of which are unobtainable and deeply interfering in Cuba’s internal affairs.

  • LOL! That’s actually the first funny thing you have written here.

  • An analysis of that sort of the FIU survey has been performed and published. I encourage you to go read it.

    I did not claim the survey was wrong because I don’t agree with the results. I pointed out that the survey was cooked with loaded questions designed to obtain the results which the sponsors of the survey immediately used in their ongoing political campaign.

  • All Cubans would like to see the embargo ended. However if you ask them if they favor an “immediate with out conditions” end to the embargo, their answer is overwhelmingly NO….

  • Libertarians are Republicans who smoke dope.

  • It’s a shame that the author of this otherwise informative piece does not know the meaning of the word communist ..as in “…”the island’s communist government…”
    It may accurately be called a Communist ( Party) -led government but it cannot , by any stretch of the imagination or of the accurate definition of communism as a BOTTOM-UP and DEMOCRATIC form be called a communist government.
    In fact, since communism is a future and very advanced state of human development where direct democracy obviates the need for formal government , the phrase “communist government” is an oxymoron.
    This is also the view of Noam Chomsky
    This error or deliberate misstating of reality hides the fact that Cuba is a state capitalist country, something the right-wingers don’t wish to talk much about. .
    I may possibly respond to intelligent replies.

  • Most surveys typically “clean” data to remove non-respondents, incomplete responses, and data that are categorized as “outliers”. Including data that do not fit the survey confound the study by producing erroneous results. If you believe that the Miami Herald survey did not utilize these techniques, then I would suggest you contact them to verify the veracity of their analysis model. Simply discounting a survey because it was produced by a group you do not endorse and is funded by backers that you believe might have ulterior motives would require you to ignore the vast majority of surveys managed by any political, business, medical, or financial group that you do not agree with. The only way to discredit a survey is to analyze the study protocol, survey instrument, and the coding analysis of the results. Claiming that the survey is wrong because you do not agree with the results is at best a lack of understanding of the research process and at worst an attempt to sway others with erroneous information.

  • I voted by absentee ballot for Adrian Wyllie last week as I am flying to Havana tomorrow (election day) to help the Cuban part of my family continue to make the Castro government more and more economically insignificant every day.

  • Yet another ginned up propaganda piece from the Castro regime trying to convince Americans that lifting the embargo will help ordinary Cubans gain their freedom. If ending the embargo would help bring change & freedom to Cuba, the Castro regime would not be spending so much time and effort to get it lifted, now would they?

    The FIU opinion poll has being thoroughly discredited. The poll was sponsored by George Soros’ Open Society Foundation and the Trimpa Group. Both of these organizations have long called for ending the embargo. The Trimpa groups has consulted for #CubaNow, itself an offshoot of the Cuba Study Group, to help promote their End the Embargo campaign. Carlos Saladrigas of the Cuba Study Group has traveled to Cuba and met with Castro regime officials to discuss how he can profit from Raul’s invitation for foreign corporations to invest in the Castro regime.

    Therefore, any poll these groups sponsor is highly suspect. The poll questions were designed to elicit and obtain the preferred answer: end the embargo. The FIU poll was nothing more than another phase of the publicity campaign by CubaNow & the Cuba Study Group to further their political goal of ending the embargo and allowing them to invest in and profit from the Castro regime.

    Compare the FIU poll results to those of a poll sponsored by The Miami Herald — a more neutral observer — and conducted by Democratic pollsters Bendixen & Amandi (no stalwarts of Cuba sanctions).

    According to The Miami Herald’s poll, Cuban-Americans oppose lifting the overall embargo by a 56-36% margin. Meanwhile, Cuban-Americans oppose lifting travel restrictions by a 51-42% margin. The alleged sea-change of opinion on the embargo among Cuban-American’s is not real.

    Finally, on the issue of the embargo, it doesn’t matter whether Crist or Scott wins the election as Governor of Florida tomorrow. The embargo will remain as long as the Castro regime hold power in Havana.

  • IF YOU ARE SICK AND TIRED OF THE CORRUPTION AND BEING LIED TO, VOTE FOR ADRIAN WYLLIE AND BILL WOHLSIFER.,,,!!

  • There is every reason to believe, unfortunately, that the next Congress will be more conservative and, therefore, less likely to pass legislation repealing Helms-Burton without major political reforms in Cuba. Likewise, no sitting President, neither Obama nor his successor will be politically free to make unilateral concessions to the Castro dictatorship while Alan Gross continues to be held hostage in a Cuban hospital gulag. This is the political reality that exists in the US. Castro bootlickers can point to changing views among young Cuban-Americans in Florida until the cows come home. Until the votes are there in Congress, there will be a US embargo against the Castros.

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