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Joe Garcia's backing for Cuba drug-trial puts spotlight on embargo, exile community

@MarcACaputo

In a significant break with Cuban exile leaders, Miami Congressman Joe Garcia is supporting the efforts of a Havana research institute that wants U.S. approval to test and market a diabetes treatment in this country.

Garcia’s endorsement marks the first time a Cuban-American in Congress has overtly backed a measure that, in the eyes of critics, undermines the embargo and could eventually give the Castro government access to U.S. markets without making democratic reforms.

The move splits the Cuban-American congressional delegation for the first time, could become a campaign issue in the Democrat’s reelection campaign and, more broadly, indicates a shift in Miami politics as the exile community’s power appears to wane amid new waves of immigrants.

Garcia said his decision was not political, but was intended to help people who suffer from diabetic foot ulcers.

“This is about something that can maybe save lives. This is about medicine,” Garcia said. “There are 70,000 amputations that happen yearly from diabetes. I’m not going to be the guy who decides that people will suffer because of the embargo.”

But the political significance is tough for experts to ignore.

“This is a ‘wow’ situation. Nothing like this has ever happened,” said Mauricio Font, a Latin America studies expert at the City University of New York. “In the past, this position would essentially be considered collaborating with the Castro regime.

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