August 28, 2013

Marco Rubio’s deafening silence on Syria

@MarcACaputo

**Update: Rubio issued a statement hours after this blog was posted.

From threatened oyster habitats to the problems with Obamacare, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has commented on the headlines of the day recently.

Except one: Syria.

Though a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Rubio hasn’t issued any statements about this most-important of topics now that President Obama is weighing military action after what appear to be chemical-weapons use in Syria.

Should Obama strike Syria? How? And does the president need Congressional authorization to do so? Rubio (or his office) isn’t ready to say. It's a notable silence because not only is Rubio voluble, he has made an effort to showcase his chops on foreign policy.

We've asked for two days for a statement, but nothing. Rubio's Reclaim America PAC, though, just sent out a message from Rubio about the need to help Ken Cuccinelli, a Virginia candidate for governor.

Meantime, other Florida congressional members are weighing in on Syria policy.

Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chair of the House’s Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, said in a just-released statement that Obama needs congressional authorization for a strike on Syria. Ros-Lehtinen sounds willing to vote for “multi-lateral airstrikes” as long as the United States exercises “extreme caution when weighing our options in Syria. Putting boots on the ground is not an option.. At this point there’s no easy decision. We’re stuck with the least worst option.”

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July 26, 2013

Reps. Ros-Lehtinen, Diaz-Balart join chorus of critics over Steve King's DREAMer-drug-mule comments

@MarcACaputo

Miami’s three Cuban-American members of Congress have a message for fellow U.S. Rep. Steve King, who said more DREAMer immigrants are drug mules than valedictorians: Be quiet.

King’s statements, which drew swift rebukes from Republican congressional leaders earlier in the week, have become the latest flash-point in the immigration debate in the conservative House, which is divided over whether and how to reform the system.

“These comments are outrageous and reflect only this particular member’s views,” Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican House member like King, said in a statement. “Such statements are factually untrue, hurtful and seem designed to divide rather than to bring our nation together.”

Continue reading "Reps. Ros-Lehtinen, Diaz-Balart join chorus of critics over Steve King's DREAMer-drug-mule comments " »

July 23, 2013

Rep. Ros-Lehtinen bashes UN for honoring Che Guevara's works

From a press release:

(WASHINGTON) – Today U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, commented on the decision by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to include “The Life and Works of Ernesto Che Guevara” in this year’s additions to the Memory of the World Register. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:

“UNESCO continued its longstanding tradition of making a mockery of its own institution when it opted to venerate and memorialize the life of a blood thirsty, murderous sadist, Che Guevara, by including his works as an entry in its ‘Memory of the World Register.’ This decision is more than an insult to the families of those Cubans who were lined up and summarily executed by Che and his merciless cronies but it also serves as a direct contradiction to the UNESCO ideals of encouraging peace and universal respect for human rights.

“This latest reprehensible action is a microcosm of the existing problems within UNESCO today. There isn’t any semblance of common sense left in that body. From its decision to accept a non-existent state of Palestine into its membership, to glorifying Che’s ruthless crimes against humanity, UNESCO deserves no funding from US taxpayers. The Obama Administration is wrong to continue to seek to restore funding to UNESCO. The Administration must immediately end its push to send $225 million in American taxpayer money to UNESCO that would enable that organization to keep undermining our friend and ally, the democratic Jewish State of Israel, and would insult the memories of those who suffered under Che and continue to suffer under the Castro brothers.”

April 16, 2013

Will do-nothing Congress kill lawmakers call to fight $5b tax-ID fraud industry?

@MarcACaputo

Tax Day is no longer just a deadline for citizens to rush and file their returns.

It’s now a day for members of Congress — Democrats and Republicans alike —to file legislation or announce ways to prevent an estimated $5 billion in tax-identification fraud, which is particularly virulent in Florida and especially South Florida.

The effort by local lawmakers is nothing new, nor is the fact that the measures have died year-after-year in a do-nothing Congress.

On Monday, Miami-area Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Joe Garcia and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen all promoted legislation to put an end to the practice. Florida Sen. Bill Nelson announced a bill last week.

“Something needs to be done,” said Jon Simpkins, a Miami-Dade businessman who appeared with his wife, a tax-ID fraud victim, at Garcia’s press conference.

It took the Internal Revenue Service until April 8 to supply the family their tax-refund money from last year — a week before this year’s tax-filing deadline.

“I’m surprised they haven’t fixed this yet,” Simpkins said, detailing the delays and difficulties of just getting the IRS to do its job.

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April 14, 2013

Pitbull's rap response to Jay-Z's Cuba-trip Open Letter is a headscratcher for some

@MarcACaputo

Miami rapper Pitbull released a rap response to Jay-Z's "Open Letter" rap response to Miami's Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Marco Rubio for criticizing his recent trip to Cuba. (Yeah, it's confusing. Here's the last link that has other links).

Partisans in the Twittersphere seem confused. Is Pitbull taking sides? The wondering is understandable. Pitbull is a party rapper not known for subtlety (Rubio said as much on Twitter before clarifying his remarks).

But this is different.

Pitbull's track is less a political statement than a stream-of-consciousness that sounds like a rhyming history of Cubans in Miami, touching on everything from Scarface (the movie soundtrack appears to be sampled, FYI) to the Mariel boatlift crime wave to Operation Pedro Pan to Hermanos Al Rescate to Elian Gonzalez

Continue reading "Pitbull's rap response to Jay-Z's Cuba-trip Open Letter is a headscratcher for some " »

April 11, 2013

Jay-Z raps Diaz-Balart, Ros-Lehtinen over rapping him, Beyonce for Cuba travel

@MarcACaputo

In a new rap posted on his website, Rapper Ja-Z singled out Miami Republican Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for questioning and then bashing a Cuba trip taken last week by him and his wife, Beyonce. (Background and links here)

The relevant lyrics from Jay-Z's "Open Letter" (listen here, read them here):

Continue reading "Jay-Z raps Diaz-Balart, Ros-Lehtinen over rapping him, Beyonce for Cuba travel " »

Enrique Ros, voice of Cuban exiles and father of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, passes away

@MarcACaputo

Enrique Ros, the father of U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, lived the history of the clandestine resistance against Fidel Castro in the early 1960s that he recounted in the 19 books he authored.

At a time when Fidel Castro was sending hundreds of opponents to the firing squads, Ros was the on-island coordinators of the Christian Democratic Movement, one of the underground groups fighting to topple Castro.

“Enrique not only was a great historian. He was a man who made history,” said Pedro Roig, a long time friend of Ros, who died late Wednesday from respiratory complications at South Miami Hospital at the age of 89.

“My Dad was and will always be the wind beneath my wings. His passing leaves in us a loss that is eternal and deep,” Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. He was “the foundation of us all, and the one person who kept us grounded and confident.”

Born Enrique Emilio Ros y Perez in Cienfuegos, Cuba, Ros was one of the leaders of the risky struggle against Castro in 1959 and 1960. The Christian Democratic Movement was part of the Democratic Revolutionary Movement, a broad anti-Castro coalition.

Continue reading "Enrique Ros, voice of Cuban exiles and father of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, passes away" »

April 09, 2013

Diaz-Balart: Obama admin ducked questions about Jay-Bey Cuba trip

It's official: Jay-Z and Beyonce's trip to Cuba was legal, according to the U.S. Treasury Department (not a shocker)

And U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and other exile leaders aren't satisfied with Treasury's response.

Letter here: Diaz-Balart Letter. Press release here:

Continue reading "Diaz-Balart: Obama admin ducked questions about Jay-Bey Cuba trip" »

April 08, 2013

What Beyonce and Rep. Castor have in common: neither cares much about Cuba human rights, says Rep. Diaz-Balart

What do Jay-Z, Beyonce and Tampa U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor have in common?

All went to Cuba last week.

And all have shown relatively little concern for human-rights violations on the island controlled by the Castro dictatorship, said Miami U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who serves with Castor in Congress.

Castor’s office disputed the criticism, pointing to press statements where the Democrat has met with Cuban dissident Yoani Sanchez and called for independent investigations into the deaths of others.

But it’s not enough for Diaz-Balart, a Republican leader in Miami’s exile community who raised questions last week about the legality of Jay-Z and Beyonce’s trip to Cuba. That visit overshadowed one made by Castor, who travelled on an unrelated mission to increase business opportunities between Tampa and Cuba.

“She [Castor] has been consistent in trying to help business groups and big-business interests do business with the dictatorship,” said Diaz-Balart. “Unfortunately, she has not been very concerned about human-rights violations, about demanding freedom of the press... about free elections."

Diaz-Balart noted that Beyonce performed for the family of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2009 at a private concert attended by Jay-Z and others in the Caribbean.

“She [Beyonce] has a history of not being too concerned about human rights,” Diaz-Balart said.

Continue reading "What Beyonce and Rep. Castor have in common: neither cares much about Cuba human rights, says Rep. Diaz-Balart" »

Reuters: Jay-Z, Beyonce Cuba trip was "fully licensed." But questions remain

@MarcACaputo

UPDATE: Click here for a fuller explanation of Jay-Z, Beyonce, Cuba and U.S. sanctions

Pop star Jay-Z and Beyonce's fifth wedding anniversary trip to Cuba was "fully licensed" and therefore was legal, a source told Reuters.

But beyond that, it's unclear just what kind of permission they got.

And Miami's Republican U.S. representatives, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, say they want to know more about the case. On Friday, they openly called for details of the trip by the R&B stars who happen to also be big-time backers of President Obama.

Many celebrities have visited Cuba, but this trip drew more attention because it was billed in the press as a purely tourism-driven trip, said Diaz-Balart, and that's not legal.

Under federal law, American citizens traveling to Cuba generally need United States Treasury Department permission to spend U.S. currency on the communist island because U.S. money is technically property of the federal government. Licenses are often granted for journalistic, academic, religious, academic or cultural reasons.

Assuming the performers were given a license on cultural grounds, did their mothers, body guards and other members of their retinue receive a license to travel to Cuba? Also, the performers stayed at a hotel reportedly costing $149 a night. And under many licensing arrangements, we're told, many U.S. citizens are limited to spending about $140 daily. Did this apply to Jay-Bey?

Developing.... more later