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From Key West to Miami, Rep. Garcia and district at center of Cuba clashes, changes


San carlosCongressman Joe Garcia had to choose between two worlds.

At one end of Garcia’s district, an ally persuaded fellow Key West city commissioners to unanimously pass a resolution inviting Cuban diplomats to the San Carlos Institute — a Duval Street landmark steeped in Cuban history, as well as tensions between exiles and the Castro regime.

The Key West resolution was met with outrage by some near the northern end of Garcia’s district, in Miami-Dade. His two Miami Cuban-American colleagues and another House member penned a letter that urged the U.S. State Department to block the diplomats’ Sunday visit from Washington.

Garcia didn’t sign.

The diplomats canceled amid the controversy.

But questions now linger about Garcia’s exile bona fides and, more broadly, the direction of U.S.-Cuba policy amid South Florida’s shifting politics and demographics.

The San Carlos controversy marked the second time in as many weeks that Garcia ostensibly distanced himself from the rest of the Cuban-American delegation. Last Monday, the Miami Herald reported, Garcia became the only delegation member to help advocate for U.S. trials of a diabetes treatment developed by a Cuban regime institute.

“Joe Garcia is at a crossroads. We’re at a crossroads,” said Rafael Peñalver, an exile leader who heads the San Carlos Institute and led opposition to the Cuban diplomats’ visit.

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