Cuba Travel Setback with US Vote

Dawn Gable

Havana, Cuba. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, Nov. 3 — The United States midterm elections are currently being interpreted in innumerable ways by journalists around the world. While the overall implications of the results and the portent for the 2012 presidential race can be little more than conjecture at this point, the effects on efforts to restore the right of US citizens to travel to Cuba are fairly cut and dry.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen will now head the House Committee on Foreign Affairs effectively preventing any legislation that would remotely improve US-Cuba relations from ever making it out of her committee. Current chairman Berman’s fear of this eventuality, coupled with a maximum-allowed campaign contribution from an anti-travel PAC, caused him to exert his jurisdiction over this year’s travel bill, lull his fellow Democrats into thinking he would call it up for a vote, and ultimately stall out the clock.

The big Republican gains in the Senate do not necessarily change the dynamic of that chamber. Before the midterm elections, the pro-Cuba travel camp was not filibuster-proof. That is, there were not 60 votes to override a filibuster by Senator Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat of Cuban decent. Although Senator Dorgan boasted to have the votes needed to lift the travel ban, he took no steps to prove his claim making them doubtful. While it is theoretically easier to overcome a one-man filibuster through wheeling and dealing than it is to persuade a handful of opponents, when the loner holding up the show is motivated by personal vendetta and ideology, like Menendez, that theory breaks down. So, the Senate was an obstacle before elections and will remain so.

Executive authority is what’s left

Therefore, with the Congress solidly stacked against any reform in US-Cuba policy, the only hope for change left is President Obama. But, the argument for Obama using executive authority to update Cuba policy was based on his winning Florida in 2008, which suggested that he need not worry so much about the Cuban-American vote in 2012. That thesis was strengthened by several polls in South Florida showing that most Cuban-Americans favor open travel for all Americans and better relations with Cuba in general.

But that breathing room has just crucially contracted. The House race in Florida’s 25th District won by David Rivera, a hardliner who thinks that even Cuban-Americans should not be allowed to travel to Cuba to visit their family, over Joe Garcia, once director of the extreme anti-Castro Cuban American National Foundation but now representing the more rational side of the émigré community that is open to exploring rapprochement, deprived Obama of political cover for such policies and cast shadows on the 2012 election.

Granted, the Florida race was not decided solely based on the candidates’ Cuba stance. The general backlash occurring against Democrats, of course, had an effect on the race in a long-time republican district.

In reality, the fact that Garcia had a chance at all was probably due to his more reasonable tenor on Cuba. But, it remains to be seen if the administration will bother to tease out the details and continue forward toward healing relations with Cuba or if Obama, joined by the 200+ pro-travel Congress Members, will shrug their shoulders saying “we tried” and allow the hard-line Cuban Americans in Congress to frame this defeat within their Cold War narrative, thereby halting all progress.

3 thoughts on “Cuba Travel Setback with US Vote

  • Since the spring of 1959 when the White Rose, the first counterrevolutarionary group was created in Miami, the Cuban people have seen their hopes of living in a peaceful environment, where they could carve out the type of life they wanted for their children, dashed over and over, by a cycle of hopes and dissapointments.

    Defeating invasions, sabotage, terrorism, economic warfare, demonizations and every form of attacks to overthrow ithe Cuban government, should have persuaded any of the 10 US administrations to seek a common ground, where detente, armistice or peace, could become the common denominator among close neighbors .

    Instead, every US president have developed a more vicious, wicked, treacherous policy, geared to inflict pain, hunger, sickness and death on the Cuban people. Coming from a different background, life experience and having suffered himself similar injustices, the world had high hopes that president Barack Obama would be different.

    Tragically, his lack of political convictions and compromising propensity with the hawks in his cabinet, did not allow president Obama to do the right thing, of bringing to an end the US Citizens travel ban and chip away substantial portions of the suffocating US embargo on Cuba.

    Repeatedly, president Obama he have heard the clamor of the world in every international meetings he have attended, or through the UN general assembly voting for the 19th consecutive year against this abomination, to no avail.

    Today, the world have seen the reward for his cowardice, when those he tried to apease, rejected overwhelmingly his half-baked policies. Cuba likewise, have waited and trusted in the high morals, human values and principles of past and present US presidents, to initiate an honest dialogue between both countries that could address all outstanding differences and bring peace to our region.

    Doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome is an exercise in futility. I hope someday, sooner rather than later, that Cuba would make a public offer to the business community of the world, to participate in joint ventures (51/49%) in almost every sector of its economy, and the world would see an unparallel stampide of CEO’s, CFO’s of every renowned enterprise in the world, sprinting and trampling every one in their path, for a front row seat at the bargaining table and dragging down the embargo in this financial tsunami.

  • Now that the US elections are completed, we’re in an interesting conjuncture: the lame-duck sessions of the United States legislature. One can only speculate as to what might happen in this interim period, but here’s one small but genuine possibility:

    Cuba continues its steady releases of the prisoners who were convicted of receiving money and political direction in 2003. They are releasing other jailed opponents of the revolutionary government as well. This process, as pledged by the Cuban government, will be completed in a very short time. With the US agent Alan Gross remaining in Cuban hands, Washington will have even less reason not to free the Cuban Five.

    Keep in mind, too, that Fidel promised the families, and it was reported on Cuban national television, that the Five would be home before the end of the year. Well, the countdown to year’s end is now on…

    There are but fifty-eight days remaining…

  • Dawn

    thanks for your your insightful writing on this subject but the change in policy really had a ghost of a chance of happening.

    Now if many of those who seem to have wasted their time on Obama , turn their attention to the problems of overturn of the socialist revolution now taking place we might be further along in supporting the real socialists who don’t want the return of capitalism in Cuba…

    Rojo Rojito


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