January 09, 2015

Cuban Americans in Congress ask John Kerry to stop U.S. 'concessions' to Cuba


Six Cuban-American members of Congress asked U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday to reconsider normalization talks with Cuba.

"We agree in the importance of advocating on behalf of U.S. national security interests, human rights, and basic freedoms for the Cuban people," the letter says.

"However, mere lip service is inadequate. As such, we urge you to cease unilateral concessions that reward and embolden a brutal dictatorship in the midst of a brutal crackdown. Canceling future talks, and ending unilateral concessions, would signal that the Administration's position on human rights is not just empty rhetoric and broken promises, but is actually supported by concrete actions."

The letter is signed by three Miami Republicans, Reps. Carlos CurbeloMario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and by Reps. Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.) and Albio Sires (D-N.J.) and Sen. Ted Cruz, D-Texas.

The missing Cuban American is one of Cruz's potential presidential rivals, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who wrote a letter of his own earlier this week to President Barack Obama urging him not to hold talks with Cuba without more information on 53 political prisoners the island's communist regime was supposed to release. Some of the prisoners were reportedly freed Thursday.

The Obama administration has given little attention to Cuban Americans who have loudly criticized the president's rapprochment with Cuba. Talks between the two countries are scheduled to take place in Havana on Jan. 21-22.

December 23, 2014

Pro-embargo, Cuba hardline is a minority stance in U.S., polls show


The polling is in: Cuban exile hardliners and Republicans are in the clear minority nationwide when it comes to the embargo and reestablishing ties with the island nation.

A raft of new surveys, taken after President Barack Obama announced plans Wednesday to normalize relations with Cuba, shows far more Americans want the sanctions lifted and relations improved compared to those who favor current U.S. policy — namely Republicans and many Cuban-Americans.

But there’s one aspect of U.S. Cuba policy that Cuban-Americans, rank-and-file Republicans nationwide and Americans in general agree on: Easing travel restrictions to the island.

The surveys are unwelcome — but not unexpected news — to embargo supporters, mostly centered in South Florida where two potential presidential candidates, former Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, have been outspoken about strengthening the embargo.

“We’ve found that the more information people learn about what happens in Cuba, the more they are to support U.S. policy,” said Mauricio Claver-Carone, executive director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, the nation’s premier political action committee that supports the exile community.

“That’s always been the challenge: Informing people,” Claver-Carone said. “We’re a small community, yes, but we have a big megaphone.”

And in America at large, Republicans’ and the Cuban-American community’s attitudes about Cuba policy are decidedly in the minority, according to a comparison of national polls from CNN/ORC International, Langer Research/ABC-Washington Post, Reuters/Ipsos, CBS and a Bendixen & Amandi International survey conducted last week for The Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald and the Tampa Bay Times.....

Normalizing relations:

ABC/Langer: Americans back it 64-31 percent; while the GOP is split 49-47 percent. “Very conservative” respondents’ support was lacking, 36-61 percent.

CNN/ORC: Americans support, 63-33 percent; while GOP support is split, 45-51 percent.

Reuters/Ipsos: Americans back it 45-22 percent, while GOP support is 31-38 percent. Reuters is the only online survey.

Herald/Bendixen: Cuban-Americans oppose normalization, 48-44 percent, an inside-the-error margin tie in the poll of 400 Cuban-Americans. It showed Republican Cuban-Americans oppose it 79-11 percent.

CBS: Americans back it 54-28 percent. CBS did not provide political party data. All the national polls surveyed about 1,000 people and have an error margin of 3.5 percentage points. The Republican polling numbers have a larger error margin.


ABC/Langer: Americans want it ended, 68-29 percent; while Republicans want it ended 57-40 percent. But “very conservative” support is lowest at 42-57 percent.

CNN/ORC: Americans want it ended, 55-40 percent; while Republicans want it ended 44-52 percent.

Reuters/Ipsos: Americans want it ended, 40-26 percent; while Republicans want it ended 28-41 percent.

Herald/Bendixen: Cuban-Americans want it discontinued, 44-40 percent; while Cuban-American Republicans wanted it to remain in place, 70-18 percent.

Travel restrictions

ABC/Langer: Americans want them ended, 74-24 percent, with Republicans at 64-33 percent and the “very conservative” at 51-47 percent.

CNN/ORC: Americans want them changed, 67-32 percent, with Republicans at 58-40 percent.

Herald/Bendixen: Cuban-Americans want them eased, 47-39 percent, with Republican Cuban-Americans oppose easing, 56-26 percent.

More here

Mario Diaz-Balart's claim about what Obama said about normalizing relations with Cuba in 2008

President Barack Obama’s announcement that the United States and Cuba would proceed toward normalized relations put Miami’s Cuban-American GOP Congressional delegation in the national spotlight.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Reps Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen held a press conference Dec. 18 to bash Obama’s announcement.

Diaz-Balart characterized Obama’s position as a significant change from what he said during the 2008 campaign.

Back in 2008, during Obama’s first White House bid, the future president said that "before normalization would take place, there would have to be liberation of all political prisoners and some basic steps toward freedom, including freedom of the press, political parties, labor unions, etc.," Diaz-Balart said at the press conference. "Then, once again, President Obama -- breaking his own word, breaking his own pledge -- has decided to do something absolutely without precedent, and that is to give an anti-American terrorist dictatorship exactly what they have been asking for."

Is Diaz-Balart correct about what Obama, then a senator, said would be his criteria for normalizing relations with Cuba? We went back to his campaign speeches and statements to find out. See what PolitiFact Florida found.


November 20, 2014

Rep. Diaz-Balart scores transportation, housing budget chairmanship

From a press release

WASHINGTON – Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) released the following statement after the House Republican Steering Committee approved his appointment as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Appropriations in the 114th Congress.

“I am honored to have been chosen to chair the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development. I look forward to working with House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers and other committee members to best solve our nation’s transportation and housing issues. It is of utmost importance that we prioritize transportation initiatives that will improve our local communities, while also providing housing solutions for those most in need. I will work tirelessly to uphold the high standards established by former Subcommittee Chairmen, including the Honorable Tom Latham and our very own South Floridian, the Honorable Bill Lehman.

“I would like to thank Chairman Rogers for this opportunity and am grateful for his continued friendship and leadership.”

June 10, 2014

With Eric Cantor's shocking defeat, immigration reform all but dies in US House this year


The No. 2 Republican in the U.S. House is a goner.

And amid the ashes of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s shocking defeat Tuesday night, comprehensive immigration reform smolders.

This is not to say that immigration reform would have passed this year if the Virginia Republican had not been the first House majority leader to lose since 1899. Immigration reform was already endangered in 2014.

But Cantor’s defeat to tea partyer David Brat was so intertwined with immigration — “amnesty” and “illegal aliens” — that the few fence-sitters in the GOP-led House are going to flock back to the politically right side of the divide.

Regardless of polls showing comprehensive immigration reform is popular nationwide and even in Cantor’s district, Brat’s win and Cantor’s loss is now a powerful symbol, a rallying cry.

That matters in politics.

“Is it absolutely devastating? I don’t know,” said U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican who for years has tried to get his party to tackle the issue.

Full story here

March 22, 2014

After Pelosi presser, SEIU activist gets arrested outside Diaz-Balart's office in immigration demonstration


A national union organizer and immigration activist was arrested after refusing repeated police requests to demonstrate farther away from a Doral building that houses U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart’s office.

The Friday arrest of 68-year-old Eliseo Medina is the latest sign of the increasing pressure from Democrats and their allies to get U.S. House Republicans to schedule an election-year vote on immigration reform.

“This is brilliant. This is brilliant,” one activist, whose identity is unclear from a YouTube video, said after Doral police busted Medina, a Los Angeles resident who’s the international secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union.

Medina’s arrest and subsequent release from jail – on trespassing and nonviolent resisting of arrest charges -- made local English- and Spanish-language television.

Continue reading "After Pelosi presser, SEIU activist gets arrested outside Diaz-Balart's office in immigration demonstration" »

March 03, 2014

Wasserman Schultz: Obama ‘looking’ at Venezuela sanctions, should act on immigration


President Barack Obama’s administration is considering imposing sanctions on Venezuelan officials culpable in that nation’s repression and who travel to and hold bank accounts in the United States, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Monday.

“There should be sanctions on individuals. ... The administration is looking at those,” said Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chairwoman, citing an unnamed “high-level” state department official she spoke with earlier in the morning.

A measure to impose individual sanctions on Venezuelan apparatchiks was introduced last week in the U.S. Senate by Republican Marco Rubio and co-sponsored by Florida’s other senator, Democrat Bill Nelson.

Wasserman Schultz said she’s also speaking to the administration about Obama taking executive action to clear up the immigration status of some Venezuelans in the United States.

Continue reading "Wasserman Schultz: Obama ‘looking’ at Venezuela sanctions, should act on immigration" »

February 27, 2014

Another Miami member of Congress speaks about Venezuela on House floor


On Thursday, it was Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart's turn to support protesters on the streets of Venezuela from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Miami Republican said the U.S. should demand that the Organization of American States convene a special meeting. Panama made that request earlier this week. The meeting was called but then put off.

"I urge the international community to aggressively express their commitment to the basic freedoms that are under assault in Venezuela," Diaz-Balart said.

Earlier this week, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami, both Republicans, also used their floor time to draw attention to the Venezuelan unrest.


February 13, 2014

UPDATED South Florida members of Congress weigh in on deadly protests in Venezuela


Amid fears that the Venezuelan government is cracking down on political opponents in the wake of deadly student-led protests, Miami members of Congress criticized President Nicolás Maduro and called for peace to prevail over violence.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, all Republicans, each issued statements Thursday siding with the protesters. Rubio also directly called out President Obama's administration, urging him to condemn any violence from groups affiliated to the Venezuelan government.

On Twitter, Rep. Joe Garcia, a Miami Democrat, responded Wednesday to a tweet by El Nuevo Herald by saying, in Spanish, "El pueblo venezolano se merece paz, estabilidad, y democracia!" (The Venezuelan people deserve peace, stability and democracy.)

UPDATE: On Friday, Garcia released a full statement of his own, which has been added to the bottom of this post.

The statements are below:

Continue reading "UPDATED South Florida members of Congress weigh in on deadly protests in Venezuela" »

February 04, 2014

Diaz-Balart to sugar baron: Hey, Alfy, try crying for democracy in Cuba instead of lost mansion


And the hits from the Cuban exile community keep coming.

Outraged by a Washington Post report about Florida Crystals' Alfonso Fanjul appearing to sidle up to Cuba's regime, Republican Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Sen. Marco Rubio are hammering away at him. Meantime, Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia has held his fire.

Alfy is the Democratic side of the sugar company's duo; with brother Pepe contributing to Republicans. So consider the criticism by the Republicans is a political two-fer:

Continue reading "Diaz-Balart to sugar baron: Hey, Alfy, try crying for democracy in Cuba instead of lost mansion" »