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

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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):

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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

 

April 06, 2013

Miami lawmakers question Beyoncé, Jay-Z trip to Cuba

@PatriciaMazzei

U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, both Cuban-American Republicans from Miami, sent a letter late Friday to the Treasury Department asking for details about R&B stars Beyoncé and Jay-Z's trip this week to Cuba.

In the letter to the office of foreign assets control, the members of Congress say they want to find out which type of license the couple received to travel to the island, what the purpose of their trip is and who approved it.

"As you know, U.S. law expressly prohibits the licensing of financial transactions for 'tourist activities' in Cuba," the letter says. It also notes that so-called "people-to-people" licenses require that travelers have "a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities" in Cuba.

"Despite the clear prohibition against tourism in Cuba, numerous press reports described the couple's trip as tourism, and the Castro regime touted it as such in its propaganda," the letter says. "We represent a community of many who have been deeply and personally harmed by the Castro regime's atrocities, including former political prisoners and the families of murdered innocents."

March 01, 2013

Walking the talk: Miami Reps Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen among most-bipartisan

@MarcACaputo via NBC Latino

According to new ratings from National Journal, Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.), Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.), Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wash.), and Raul Labrador (Idaho), as well as Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas were near the ideological center of Congress, after an analysis of votes taken in 2012. Republican David Rivera of Florida also ranked near the middle but lost re-election last fall because of ethics, not ideology.

The most moderate Latino Member last year was Ros-Lehtinen, who has been in Congress for more than two decades and had a conservative rating of 49.3 percent last year (100 percent would be the most conservative Member of Congress). She added to her centrist credentials this week when she signed a legal brief, along with 75 other Republicans, that advocated for gay and lesbian couples’ right to marry.

Her Florida colleagues, Diaz-Balart (52 percent conservative) and Rivera (53.7 percent), also ranked as two of the more moderate House Members, along with Herrera Beutler (56.2 percent) and Labrador (58.2 percent), both of whom were first elected in 2010. Labrador has received some national attention for his efforts to push his party to a more moderate position on immigration (even though he still opposes a path to citizenship), but he consistently gets excellent marks with conservative, anti-tax groups.

February 07, 2013

Rep. Ileana Ros Lehtinen's letter, an FBI-raided donor's port deal, and the Bob Menendez scandal

 At first glance, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s letter to the Dominican Republic’s ambassador to the United States looks like standard fare for a chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

“Recent reports that the illicit drug trade and the presence of drug cartels may shift towards the Dominican Republic are of increasing concern to the Committee,” the Miami Republican, then committee chair, wrote Ambassador Aníbal de Castro April 10, 2012.

“I am interested to hear what specific steps your administration is tak[ing] to improve cargo security,” she closed, “and reducing the flow of drugs to the United States and how we can work together towards achieving this goal.”

Someone else was keenly interested, too: Dr. Salomon Melgen, investor in a Dominican Republic port security company, ICSSI, which wants to X-ray cargo at the very ports Ros-Lehtinen was concerned about.

Ros-Lehtinen's letter came a month after Melgen contributed $5,000 to her campaign in a race where she faced token opposition (in 2011, he contributed $4,800). And, a few months before that, Ros-Lehtinen held a benefit for medical research in which Melgen cut another $15,000 check.

Melgen’s West Palm Beach offices were raided last week by federal agents in a Medicare-fraud investigation. FBI agents are also examining his ties with Sen. Bob Menendez, D-NJ.

Melgen has a reputation, among some political insiders, of being “transactional,” meaning he gives donations but also expects to get something in return. Sources tell The Miami Herald the doctor has asked various members of Congress over the years for help with one of his lawsuits, his port deal, Medicare and a tax issue.

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January 14, 2013

Rubio, Obama, Diaz-Balart, Ros-Lehtinen, Jeb -- oh my! Everyone's talking immigration now

The fiscal cliff debate is on hold. Now comes the demographic cliff debate: Immigration.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush hosted a Friday powwow about immigration reform. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and President Obama’s administration leaked details of their plans over the weekend that would give varying degrees of amnesty to those illegally in the country.

And on Monday in Doral, Miami U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen held a forum to gather ideas and, in Diaz-Balart’s words, give them “ammunition” to call on their colleagues to reform immigration.

With the exception of Obama, all are from Florida and are Republicans. Their party’s hard-line immigration stances helped drive Hispanics, the state and nation’s fastest-growing demographic group, to the Democratic Party this last election. Republicans don’t want a repeat in two years.

“Both parties have used immigration as a political wedge issue,” Diaz-Balart said. “The Democrats never wanted to get it done. They wanted to have it as a political issue. It worked very well for them.”

But, Diaz-Balart said, his party isn’t without fault.

“Republicans didn’t want to get it done — leadership — they wanted it as a wedge issue. It has worked poorly for them,” he said.

Diaz-Balart and Ros-Lehtinen say this is the year that Congress needs to pass immigration reform. A major fault-line: Whether to give illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship or a pathway to residency.

Still, this is the time, Diaz-Balart said because it’s not an election year. So there’s less chance for hyper-partisan politics, Diaz-Balart said. It’s also a new Congress. And Republicans, who blocked major congressional immigration legislation in 2010 and 2006, might be more willing to vote for immigration-reform plans as the lessons of 2012’s elections are still fresh.

More here