April 08, 2015

Poll in Cuba: President Obama more popular than Raul and Fidel Castro

via @glenngarvin

President Barack Obama is more popular among Cubans than either of the Castro brothers who have ruled the island for the past five and a half decades, according to a new poll secretly conducted there last month.

Eighty percent of the Cubans polled said they had a “very positive” or “somewhat positive” opinion of Obama, while just 17 percent registered a “very negative” or “somewhat negative” impression.

The widespread approval of the U.S. president was in sharp contrast to the mostly adverse opinions of Cuban leader Raul Castro (48 percent negative, 47 percent postive) and his retired older brother Fidel (50 percent negative, 44 percent positive).

Obama’s popularity — exceeded by only that of Pope Francis — was perhaps the most startling finding of the poll, which was conducted by the Miami company Bendixen & Amandi International for the TV networks Univision and Fusion and the Washington Post.

The survey is the first nationwide opinion poll conducted in Cuba by a private firm since the country turned communist. Without the Cuban government’s knowledge or permission, the pollsters conducted face-to-face interviews with 1,200 adults throughout the island between March 6 and 16. The poll has a plus-or-minus 2.8 percent margin of error.

More here.

April 01, 2015

Poll: Support growing among Cuban Americans for new U.S.-Cuba policy

via @HeraldMimi

A new national poll of Cuban Americans shows that their support for the White House's new Cuba policy has grown in the three months since the historic announcement, and now 51 percent say they support the effort to begin normalizing relations with Cuba.

Forty percent said they disagreed with the new policy and 9 percent didn’t respond or said they didn’t know, according to the poll by Bendixen & Amandi International.

Cuban Americans living outside Florida have embraced the new policy much more than those residing in the Sunshine State, according to the poll. Attitudes also diverge between older Cuban Americans born on the island and younger generations.

Forty-nine percent of Cuban Americans living in Florida said they disagreed with the effort to normalize relations while 41 percent said they agreed. However, 69 percent of Cuban Americans living outside the exile stronghold of Florida said they agreed with the new policy.

The poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points, will be unveiled Wednesday in New York at the sold-out Cuba Opportunity Summit, a conference for senior level business executives interested in exploring business opportunities in Cuba.

Bendixen & Amandi International polled 400 Cuban Americans 18 and older March 20-25 in English or Spanish on their attitudes toward the new policy. It includes renewing diplomatic relations with Cuba, allowing more Americans to travel to the island, raising remittance levels, cooperating with Cuba on areas of mutual interest such as environmental protection, and increased commercial ties even as the U.S. trade embargo against the island remains in place.

More here.

March 24, 2015

Florida Senate votes to oppose U.S.-Cuba relations

Cuba

In an emotional speech Tuesday, Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, asked her fellow senators to oppose President Obama’s recent decision to open up diplomatic relations with Cuba.

All but one agreed.

The measure, which also discourages the federal government from allowing a Cuban consulate in Florida, is largely symbolic. But it was important for the Cuban-American members of the state Senate, Flores said.

"A lot of my friends and colleagues have asked why we care so deeply," she said on the Senate Floor.

Flores told the story of how her mother had fled the island nation as a girl. 

She spoke about the "hundreds of thousands [who] sit in prison every day for having the gall to stand up and say something." And she showed photographs of the Ladies in White, the wives and family members of imprisoned Cuban dissidents who hold regular protests in Havana.

"They are spit upon, they are beat up, they are harassed," Flores said.

Flores said the Obama administration's decision to ease travel restrictions to Cuba would allow American visitors to "have it all," while Cuban residents would continue to suffer.

"I know you've seen the pictures of the beautiful beaches were the tourists can go," she said. "No one who is a Cuban citizen can go to those places."

Her call was echoed by Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, a Miami Republican who said members of his family had been imprisoned and killed for speaking out against the government.

Diaz de la Portilla said the new Cuba policy would "do nothing but ensure that the [Castro] regime stays in power."

"To think that by spending American cash, so Americans can by Cuban cigars and Cuban rum and stay at hotels on stolen land, that these two obstinate octogenarian dictators and their cronies are going to change anything is naive at best," he said.

Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, urged his colleagues to "send a message to this administration that we understand the plight and the problems [Cubans] are facing, and that we must continue to put the pressure on the Castro regime to open up and be transparent."

The measure passed on a voice vote, with Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, saying he was proud to stand with the members of the Miami-Dade Legislative Delegation.

Only one senator opposed the proposal.

Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner, a Tampa Democrat, said she understood the Cuban-American senators' "passion and pain." But she defended the Obama administration's "historic steps to chart a new course" in Cuba.

"I know in my heart that there was no malice intended by the promulgation of this policy by the Obama administration, and I know that his moving this forward is an effort to bring freedom to the Cuban nation," Joyner said.

A similar proposal, sponsored by Republican Reps. Manny Diaz Jr. and Jeanette Núñez, is ready for a vote on the House floor.

So far, the House version has yet to win the support of a single Democrat. But Núñez hopes that will change.

"This is not a partisan debate for us," she said. "We're not going to denigrate the president. We're going to keep it to the policy."

March 19, 2015

Miami Republican members of Congress oppose Cuban embassy in Washington, citing spies

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami's three Cuban-American Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives say they don't want to see a Cuban embassy opened in Washington D.C. -- or a Cuban consulate anywhere else in the country -- because it would risk allowing Cuba to spy on the U.S.

There is already a Cuban interests section in D.C., and a Cuban mission to the United Nations.

"We are all too familiar with the Castro regime's efforts to utilize their diplomats as intelligence agents tasked with the goal of committing espionage against their host countries," the members of Congress and several colleagues wrote in a letter Thursday to the U.S. State Department. "We believe that allowing Cuba to open an embassy in Washington, D.C. or consulates will further open the door for their espionage activities." 

They also asked to be briefed in detail about the status of the negotiations between the U.S. and Cuba to normalize diplomatic relations.

Signing the letter were Miami Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo, as well as Rep. Albio Sires, a New Jersey Democrat and fellow Cuban American, and Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican whose father was born in Cuba. Cruz is considering a 2016 presidential candidacy.

February 26, 2015

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: 'Cuba poses a clear and present danger to the United States'

At a congressional hearing reviewing President Barack Obama's Cuba policy, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen told members of the Western Hemisphere subcommittee that the Castro regime "undermines our national security at every turn."

"Let me be clear," Ros-Lehtinen said in prepared remarks. "Cuba poses a clear and present danger to the United States."

Read her complete remarks after the jump.

Continue reading "Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: 'Cuba poses a clear and present danger to the United States'" »

February 17, 2015

Nancy Pelosi leads congressional delegation to Cuba

@PatriciaMazzei

A group of Democratic members of Congress, led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, is scheduled to arrive Tuesday in Cuba as part of the first formal U.S. House of Representatives trip since President Obama moved toward closer diplomatic ties with the island's communist regime.

The group will meet with "Cuban government officials, Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino, local community leaders and representatives, and American officials at the U.S. interests section," according to a news release from Pelosi's office. It's unclear whether the local community leaders and representatives will include any dissidents.

"This delegation travels to Cuba in friendship and to build upon the announcement of U.S. normalization of relations and other initiatives announced by President Obama," Pelosi said in a statement. "This delegation will work to advance the U.S.-Cuba relationship and build on the work done by many in the Congress over the years, especially with respect to agriculture and trade."

None of the representatives on the trip are from Florida.

In addition to Pelosi, they are: Reps. Eliot Engel, Steve Israel and Nydia Velázquez of New York; Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, Rep. Anna Eshoo of California, Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, and Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island.

Three Democratic senators -- Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Mark Warner of Virginia -- wrapped up a four-day visit to Cuba on Tuesday.

February 13, 2015

Marco Rubio faces stiff odds in reversing Cuba policy

via @CAdamsMcClatchy

In December, just hours after the White House abruptly changed course in the nation’s relationship with Cuba, Sen. Marco Rubio laid down his marker.

“I intend to use every tool at our disposal in the majority to unravel as many of these changes as possible,” he said Dec. 17.

It’s now February – and despite congressional hearings and ongoing pressure on the administration, it’s not clear that Rubio and other opponents can undo what the president already did.

Rubio is perhaps the nation’s most prominent lawmaker on the Cuba issue. He’s a Cuban-American, a member of the Senate’s Republican majority and a potential presidential candidate. And he represents Florida, Cuba’s closest U.S. neighbor.

But according to Cuba experts, Rubio might have little ability to reverse Obama’s changes. And Rubio might have realized that.

More here.

January 30, 2015

Venezuela makes wrongly detained Miami Herald reporter the face of....tourism?

From @jimwyss:

Venezuela is at a tourism convention in Spain this week trying to draw visitors. It has to be a tough sell, considering it’s one of the most murderous countries in the hemisphere and is prone to civil unrest.

Perhaps as part of the campaign, they’ve rolled out a hash-tag called #Amamosavenezuela or “We love Venezuela.” In a promo on state-run Telesur television the tag-line reads: “We love Venezuela for receiving foreigners like one of our own.”

Unfortunately, they’re using a picture of me at Miami International Airport from Nov. 2013. The reason I’m so happy is because I’m just getting back to the U.S. after spending 48 hours in detention in Venezuela.

Considering there are still dozens of people under arrest for protesting last year, perhaps the tag-line is right on.

Wyss

 

January 28, 2015

Marco Rubio schedules Senate hearing on U.S.-Cuba policy

@PatriciaMazzei

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio took the helm Wednesday of a subcommittee -- and promptly scheduled a hearing on on President Obama's new Cuba policy.

As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Western Hemisphere subcommittee, Rubio called for a hearing at 10 a.m. next Tuesday to "examine President Obama's changes to Cuba policy, and its implications for human rights in the island," according to a news release.

"Being from Florida, I've seen how events in the Western Hemisphere not only impact our state but our entire nation. For too long, Congress and the Administration have failed to prioritize our relations in this hemisphere." Rubio said in the statement.

"As chairman of the subcommittee, I will promote bold measures that improve U.S. economic and security interests by addressing the region's growing calls for transparent institutions, access to quality education, private sector competitiveness, and respect for political and economic freedom for all."

Rubio, who has been taking steps toward a potential presidential campaign, is also a member of three other Foreign Relations subcommittees.

Read his full statement after the jump.

Continue reading "Marco Rubio schedules Senate hearing on U.S.-Cuba policy" »

January 21, 2015

Miami-Dade commission asks Congress to revise Cuban Adjustment Act

@PatriciaMazzei

The most unusual of votes about U.S.-Cuba policy took place Wednesday -- not in Washington or Havana, but in Miami.

After a wrought discussion, the Miami-Dade County Commission unanimously agreed to ask Congress to revise the Cuban Adjustment Act, a 1966 federal law that allows Cubans, unlike any other foreigners, to apply for U.S. residency one year and one day after arriving.

As a local government, the commission has no foreign-policy authority. But as a legislative body in the home of the country's largest Cuban community, the vote represents a symbolic acknowledgment -- even from longtime hardliners -- that at least portions of U.S.-Cuba policy needs a fresh look.

"This is a good thing that has been misused in some cases, but it doesn't mean we have to throw it away," Commissioner Javier Souto, a Cuban-born Republican, said of the CAA. "We shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater."

Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, the Republican son of Cuban immigrants who became U.S. residents thanks to the law, had proposed asking Congress to repeal it altogether -- a bold request that drew attention among Cuban exiles already on edge about President Obama's move to normalize relations with the island's communist regime.

Continue reading "Miami-Dade commission asks Congress to revise Cuban Adjustment Act" »