October 20, 2016

Prominent gay-rights group backs Joe Garcia against Curbelo

NP-JoeGarcia-LBGT-SAVE-102016-006 Joe Garcia DS

@jamesmartinrose

A key LBGT organization in South Florida on Thursday endorsed Joe Garcia in his bid to win back from Rep. Carlos Curbelo the House seat that the Miami Republican wrested from him two years ago.

The Miami-based SAVE group, formed in 1993, said it was supporting the Miami Democrat because of his work advocating equality.

"During his term as congressman, Joe served South Florida's LGBTQ community admirably, garnering SAVE's Champion of Equality Award in 2013 for his sponsorship of the Federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act and his efforts to protect LBGT immigration rights," SAVE said in a statement.

Long before joining the House in January 2013, the group noted that Garcia had led the Cuban American National Foundation, which he then headed, in opposing the repeal of Miami-Dade's human-rights ordinance.

Once in Congress, Garcia served as vice chairman of the LGBT Equality Caucus. He helped pass bipartisan legislation reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, which extended protects against rape and domestic violence to members of the LBGT community.

"One of my guiding principles is that every person should be treated equally," Garcia said Thursday. "That's why I'm honored that SAVE would recognize my work in support of the LGBTQ community."

SAVE's endorsement of Garcia came six days after Log Cabin Republicans, an influential GOP gay-rights group, endorsed Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo of South Florida in their re-election races, along with five other incumbent lawmakers from across the country.

 

    

October 18, 2016

Ryan: We're going to keep U.S. embargo against Cuba

Cuba- paul ryan
via @FrancoOrdonez

WASHINGTON -- House Speaker Paul D. Ryan left little doubt about his current stance on the Obama administration’s warming ties with the Cuban government. He’s not a fan.

“The Castros continue to jail pro-democracy activists at a rate of hundreds per month, yet it is full steam ahead for the Obama administration’s efforts to appease this oppressive regime,” Ryan said in a statement Tuesday morning.

It’s a bold statement by the speaker and indicating a leadership strong position against President Barack Obama’s rapprochement with Cuban and public campaign to lift the embargo. Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, blasted the Obama administration’s latest round of regulatory changes meant to chip away at the U.S. embargo against Cuba and ease trade and travel with the island nation.

The strong rhetoric by Ryan on Cuba appears to be increasing. Ryan has spoken out more in recent years against what he’s called “appeasement” by the Obama administration. It’s a shift after being criticized for his earlier support for lifting the embargo.

More here.

Photo credit: John Hart, Associated Press

October 16, 2016

Cuba, Trump and Miami's most contentious state Senate race

Both
@PatriciaMazzei

Foreign policy isn't an issue for the Florida state Senate. Yet Cuba came up anyway Sunday in a Spanish-language debate between Republican state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and Democratic state Rep. José Javier Rodríguez.

Ambrosio Hernández, host of Univision 23's "Al Punto Florida," asked if they'd be willing to increase state commerce ties with Cuba, given President Barack Obama's renewed diplomatic relationship with the island's communist regime. Both candidates are Cuban American.

No, said Diaz de la Portilla. "There's political prisoners. There's human-rights violations," he said. "It's like doing business with the Mafia."

Rodríguez called the topic "painful" for children of exiles like himself. "I support the measures the president has taken because after 50 years without results, we needed to change, he said.

And then, Rodríguez invoked Donald Trump's reported violation of the Cuban trade embargo in 1998.

"We must be strongly against what Trump did," he said. "My opponent has not said anything, has stayed silent on the deception that Trump engaged in about doing business in Cuba, hiding it and lying to this community."

"I criticize anybody who breaks the law of this country, being Trump or [Hillary] Clinton," Diaz de la Portilla responded. Then, turning to Rodríguez, he added: "I don't know where he's been, because I've criticized [Trump] a lot for this hypocrisy."

Diaz de la Portilla has said he isn't voting for Trump or Clinton.

October 14, 2016

Rubio slams latest Cuba policy changes

via @learyreports

Marco Rubio continues to watch President Obama peel back decades of policy toward Cuba and today blasted new executive actions that will allow travelers to bring back as much Cuban run and cigars as they want (for personal use) and promotes more medical research, among other changes.

 

"The Obama Administration is making more concessions to the Castro regime, and the United States is getting nothing in return,” Rubio said. “Cash makes the Castro regime's grip on power stronger, its repression harsher and its exportation of misery throughout the hemisphere, especially Venezuela, easier‎. The Obama Administration, in collusion with American companies, is now responsible for essentially bankrolling a communist dictatorship which works each day to undermine America's security and national interests. By encouraging U.S. companies to do business with Cuban military-owned entities, the Obama Administration is giving them an open invitation to violate existing U.S. law.”

The sweeping changes toward Cuba come as politics at home have shifted as well. Hard line Cuban Americans are being replaced with a younger generation that is supportive of change and is voting more Democratic. That increasingly isolates Rubio, 45, whose outrage hasn’t resonated on Capitol Hill.

"After two years of President Obama's Cuba policy, the Castro regime has made out like bandits and received numerous concessions from the U.S. without lifting a finger to return the fugitives it is harboring from American justice, pay Americans for their stolen property, or allow the Cuban people to exercise their God-given freedoms. Today's announcement reaffirms the fact that President Obama's Cuba policy puts the Castro regime's interests first, profits ahead of America's national security, and the Cuban people's rights and dignity dead last."

Obama: "Challenges remain – and very real differences between our governments persist on issues of democracy and human rights – but I believe that engagement is the best way to address those differences and make progress on behalf of our interests and values. The progress of the last two years, bolstered by today's action, should remind the world of what's possible when we look to the future together."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

October 04, 2016

Ros-Lehtinen says Trump's dealings in Cuba 'merit more scrutiny'

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said Donald Trump's business dealings in Cuba "merit more scrutiny," after a report last week said Trump broke the U.S. trade embargo against the communist island.

"I look forward to seeing more facts and information regarding these allegations," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement Monday to the Miami Herald.

Ros-Lehtinen was the only one of Miami's Cuban-American Republican lawmakers who hadn't weighed in on the Newsweek report about Trump last week. She had been in Israel attending former President Shimon Peres' funeral.

The longtime congresswoman, a Cuba policy hardliner, has refused to back Trump for president.

Through a spokesman, the usually media-friendly Ros-Lehtinen declined to give an interview.

"Reports about the Republican nominee seeking to do business in Cuba merit more scrutiny," she said in the statement. "It's interesting to now see press reports highlighting that doing business with the Castro dictatorship is legally questionable at best. I hope that this inquisitive spirit continues instead of the 'Cuba is open for business' euphoria that has pathetically become the norm."

October 03, 2016

Clinton hits Trump over embargo, despite staying mum over Cuba in Florida visit

@PatriciaMazzei

Hillary Clinton's campaign released a new Florida radio ad in English and Spanish on Monday accusing Donald Trump of saying he backs the Cuban trade embargo while secretly violating it.

The ad refers to a Newsweek report last week that Trump's hotel and casino company broke the U.S. federal law by spending more than $68,000 to a consultant looking to do business in Cuba. The consultant later instructed Trump's company on how to cover up the expenditure to make it look like it went to charity.

"One Donald comes to Miami to sip cafecito cubano and talk about the human rights abuses of Castro's communist regime," says the ad, titled "Two Trumps" in English and "Dos Caras" (Two Faces) in Spanish. "The other Donald thinks that because of his money and his business, he's above the law."

Clinton, however, refused to slam Trump herself when she campaigned Friday in South Florida. At a rally in Coral Springs -- attended by a slew of Spanish-language reporters, given that the Broward County city is in the Miami media market -- Clinton didn't say a word about Cuba or the embargo. She only spoke to national reporters about the issue the day before.

September 30, 2016

In Broward, Clinton doesn't mention Trump and Cuban embargo

@PatriciaMazzei @dchangmiami

Though she was in South Florida on Friday, home to the biggest Cuban-American population in the country, Hillary Clinton did not mention a bombshell Newsweek report Thursday that Donald Trump’s hotel and casino company broke the U.S. trade embargo in 1998. Earlier Friday, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said Clinton shouldn’t criticize Trump over the report given that she wants to do away with the embargo.

“It’s kind of hypocritical to be out there screaming about this when she supports lifting the embargo and making it easier for everyone to invest,” he said.

Clinton had told reporters in Ohio on Thursday that despite her position, it mattered that Trump’s business might have secretly broken U.S. law.

On a conference call with reporters Friday, Republican National Committeewoman Sharon Day of Fort Lauderdale dismissed the Cuba question as a dated allegation unimportant to Florida voters.

“Their real concern is about jobs and what we’re going to do for America, not about something that is reported to have happened 20 years ago,” she said.

September 29, 2016

Revelations about Trump attempt to do business in Cuba roil Miami politics

@PatriciaMazzei

Revelations that Donald Trump’s hotel and casino company secretly spent money trying to do business in Cuba in violation of the U.S. trade embargo roiled Miami politics Thursday, forcing top Cuban-American Republicans to express concern about Trump’s dealings while maintaining that the allegation isn’t reason enough to disavow the presidential nominee yet.

Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts paid at least $68,000 to a consulting firm in late 1998 in an attempt to give Trump’s business a head start in Cuba if the U.S. loosened or lifted trade sanctions, according to a front-page Newsweek report titled “The Castro Connection.” The consulting firm, Seven Arrows Investment and Development Corp., later instructed the casino company to make the spending appear legal by saying it was for charity.

Trump’s most prominent local Cuban-American supporter, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, called the report “troubling.”

“The article makes some very serious and troubling allegations,” he said in a campaign statement. “I will reserve judgment until we know all the facts and Donald has been given the opportunity to respond.”

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami, who has espoused a strong pro-embargo position throughout his political career, struck a similar tone, saying for now he gives Trump the benefit of the doubt.

“What we have so far are unnamed sources,” he cautioned reporters, calling the Newsweek report “preliminary.” “It’s important to see what the facts are.”

Hillary Clinton pounced on the story, saying it exposed a “pattern” of obfuscation by Trump on his business dealings. Clinton is scheduled to visit Coral Springs on Friday, with polls showing her and Trump essentially tied in Florida, the nation’s largest swing state.

More here.

An earlier version of this story was posted Thursday morning.

Diaz-Balart gives Trump benefit of doubt on report Trump broke Cuban embargo

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart said Thursday he needs further evidence to know whether Donald Trump's hotel and casino company violated the U.S. trade embargo by trying to do business in Cuba in 1998.

The congressman, an anti-Castro hardliner who's said he plans to vote for "the Republican nominee," told reporters he hopes Trump will answer questions raised by the report published Thursday by Newsweek.

"They're very serious allegations," Diaz-Balart said. But he added that "up to now, it looks like there wasn't business" done in Cuba.

Newsweek reported that Trump's company reimbursed a consulting firm for spending more than $68,000 exploring doing work on the communist island -- and that the consultant later suggested Trump's company cover up the expenditure by saying it went to a Catholic charity.

"What we have so far are unnamed sources," Diaz-Balart cautioned, calling the Newsweek report "preliminary." "It's important to see what the facts are."

He conceded that "doing business in Cuba is illegal, absolutely" -- while getting in a jab at former President Bill Clinton, whose administration in 1998 loosened some of the sanctions against the island. Proving that Trump himself approved spending in Cuba in violation of the embargo would be politically "decisive," Diaz-Balart said, without elaborating on what he meant.

Diaz-Balart also gave Trump credit for traveling to Miami in November 1999 to denounce Fidel Castro and endorse the embargo. Rather than seeing that as a sign that Trump might have been playing politics with the issue, Diaz-Balart said he interpreted Trump's 1999 remarks to mean that Trump decided to steer clear of Cuba despite facing business pressure to do otherwise.

Though Diaz-Balart said he continues to wait for "clarification" from Trump on where he stands on various foreign-policy issues, the congressman lauded Trump's recent Miami visits, where he bashed President Barack Obama's Cuba reengagement policy. 

He might not know exactly where Trump stands on nuanced Cuba policy, Diaz-Balart admitted -- but Hillary Clinton would be worse, he argued.

"On all fo those issues," he said, "Mrs. Clinton's position has been frankly unacceptable."

 

Hillary Clinton campaign: 'Trump’s business with Cuba appears to have broken the law'

 

Trump_in_SunriseMH

@amysherman1

A day before her visit to South Florida, Hillary Clinton's campaign pounced on the Newsweek article that concludes Donald Trump's company violated the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba.

“Trump’s business with Cuba appears to have broken the law, flouted U.S. foreign policy, and is in complete contradiction to Trump’s own repeated, public statements that he had been offered opportunities to invest in Cuba but passed them up," said Clinton advisor Jake Sullivan in a statement. "This latest report shows once again that Trump will always put his own business interest ahead of the national interest - and has no trouble lying about it."

Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts paid at least $68,000 to a consulting firm in late 1998 in an attempt to give Trump’s business a head start in Cuba if the U.S. loosened or lifted trade sanctions, according to the front-page Newsweek report, titled “The Castro Connection.” The consulting firm, Seven Arrows Investment and Development Corp., later instructed the casino company on how to make it look like legal spending for charity.

The news could hurt Trump's efforts to win the Cuban American vote in Miami.

Clinton speaks in Coral Springs Friday afternoon where she is courting Democratic voters including blacks and Hispanics. It's unclear if she will use her speech to bash Trump about the embargo. In 2015 while in Miami, Clinton announced her support for lifting the embargo.

- with Patricia Mazzei