December 17, 2015

Miami Republicans slam U.S.-Cuba policy, a year after change


Miami's Cuban-American Republicans in Congress used Thursday's one-year anniversary of renewed U.S.-Cuba relations to bash President Obama's policies.

In a statement, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen called the change a "sham." In an op-ed published on Medium, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart noted that "Cubans are departing Cuba in record numbers." And in a news release styled as an email tipsheet, presidential candidate and Sen. Marco Rubio decried a Cuban "chokehold on freedom."

Here's Rubio's statement:

The first year of President Obama's Cuba policy has been like the rest of his foreign policy: a disaster that prioritizes legacy-shaping headlines over freedom and results, treats our enemies far better than our allies, and negotiates deals from a position of weakness -– as if we are ashamed of our moral obligations as the world’s most powerful nation. Because of President Obama's Cuba policy, the U.S. has never been closer to the tyrants that rule the island or more alienated from the Cuban people working tirelessly to build a free and democratic future. Because of President Obama's weakness in negotiating with the Castro regime, cop killers, terrorists and other fugitives from U.S. justice continue to enjoy greater freedoms in Cuba than average Cubans who are experiencing a historically relentless wave of repression and political arrests this year.

American businesses have placed a risky bet to enrich themselves and, in the process, enrich the Cuban military that actually controls the economy. The next U.S. president should end the many concessions this one has made to the regime, and send a clear message that betting against the Cuban people's free and democratic future is a losing bet. With a year to go, President Obama can still inflict a lot of damage that further sets back the cause of a free and democratic Cuba, but those who care about freedom and the fate of the Cuban people will continue to fight him at every turn.

Here's Ros-Lehtinen's statement:

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December 06, 2015

South Florida politicians denounce Venezuelan government ahead of elections


South Florida is home to the largest Venezuelan community in the U.S., so local politicians -- including Miami's two Republican presidential candidates -- made sure to weigh in ahead of Sunday's legislative elections in the South American country.

All declared support for the opposition candidates looking to wrest power from the party of President Nicolás Maduro, who succeeded the late President Hugo Chávez. Maduro has banned several of the Miami politicians from traveling to the country.

Jeb Bush, former Florida governor and Republican presidential candidate (who in the 1980s briefly lived in Venezuela):

Instead of standing up for democracy, free elections, and the rule of law in Venezuela, President Obama and Secretary Clinton have acquiesced to dictators like Chavez and Maduro whose regime of criminality, corruption, and narcotrafficking threatens Venezuela, the Western Hemisphere, and our own interests.  The eyes of the world this Sunday will be on Venezuela as people seek to overcome the Maduro regime’s campaign of intimidation and criminality to demand their rightful stake in their future.  As President, I will stand with the people of Venezuela and the region as they seek to build a freer and more prosperous future.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who is also a Republican presidential candidate:

Venezuela is in crisis. Because of the Chavez and Maduro regimes, Venezuela has deteriorated from a prosperous country to a failed economy, broken society and repressive police state run by narco-traffickers. It’s no surprise that many polls suggest the opposition will win this Sunday’s legislative elections, and even less surprising that Nicolas Maduro’s regime is already threatening to ignore the wishes of the Venezuelan people.


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October 28, 2015

Miami members of Congress back immigration reform - and Paul Ryan, who won't bring it to vote under Obama


When Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin said he'd likely run for U.S. House speaker, Miami's three moderate GOP members of Congress quickly threw their support behind him -- even though Ryan has said he won't take up one of the lawmakers' top issues: immigration reform.

Ryan said he would not bring immigration legislation to a vote under Democratic President Barack Obama, whom many Republicans say can't be trusted. They accuse Obama of playing politics with immigration to keep Hispanic voters casting ballots for Democrats.

No one expected an immigration vote during the remainder of Obama's term. But Ryan's assertion nevertheless offered Democrats a way to jab pro-reform Republicans for supporting his bid for speaker.

Nonsense, according to the Miami Republicans.

"I'm strong proponent of fixing our dysfunctional immigration system," Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. "I deeply wish the U.S. Congress could come together and address this issue but I know of Ryan's reluctance to make a deal with the Obama administration. Ryan has also said he believes in the pressing issue of immigration reform. However, instead of working with Congress, President Obama has taken steps that undermine this effort by taking unilateral executive actions that bypass the legislative branch and this develops deep mistrust." 

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October 05, 2015

Heavy hitters introduce Carlos Lopez-Cantera in Washington

10052015_140541_clc_meet_and_greet__8colvia @learyreports

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Lopez-Cantera has some influential Washington backers hosting a meet-and-greet for him later this month.

The Oct. 21 lunch will be held at the Capitol Hill Club and is hosted by Cesar Conda, former chief of staff to Marco Rubio, and Scott Weaver, a top bundler for Rubio’s presidential campaign

Special guests include Reps. Ileana Ros-LehtinenMario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo, an invite shows.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

August 13, 2015

Florida politicians react to U.S. embassy opening in Havana


South Florida Republicans in particular are upset about the Obama administration's planned opening of a U.S. embassy in Havana Friday. We'll update this post with statements as we get them.

(We posted separate blog items about a Marco Rubio speech, and about a Jeb Bush statement.)

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami

John Kerry's presence in Havana on his global capitulation tour is yet another example of the Obama administration’s d’esire to pursue deals at any cost. While the Castro brothers will roll out the red carpet for Secretary Kerry, the people of Cuba will continue to be met with violence and detentions. While Secretary Kerry just changes the sign on the door at our post, he purposefully forgets that the Castro regime tries to prevent the people of Cuba from even reaching our building.  While political prisoners languish in Castro’s gulags, Secretary Kerry will be shaking hands with their oppressor. The arrest of more than 100 pro-democracy leaders just days before Kerry’s visit should provide proof enough that the Castro regime has no intention of changing, so why should our policies change?

From a dangerous Iran deal to being weak against North Korea to giving in to the demands of the Castro brothers, this administration has demonstrated it imposes no moral bar to negotiating with tyrannical regimes. It is a shame we continue to give away so much in exchange for nothing since the White House was unable to ensure democratic freedoms for the people of Cuba, the return of fugitives from American justice, or compensation for illegally confiscated properties. Our country stands for so much more than the pittance it has accepted from the Castro regime.

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, 2016 Republican U.S. Senate

The Obama Administration’s refusal to invite pro-democracy leaders to Friday’s U.S. Embassy ceremony in Havana is a shameful embarrassment that emboldens Castro's repressive regime. Once again, it demonstrates that President Obama is committed to a policy that allows the Castros to dictate the terms and conditions of their relationship with the U.S., to the detriment of the Cuban people’s right to freedom and self-determination.

During his visit to the enslaved island of Cuba, I call on Secretary Kerry to demand the dictatorship immediately release all political prisoners and end the repeated violence against peaceful pro-democracy leaders. Because the Obama Administration has decided to proceed with normalization while disregarding the clear evidence of increased brutality against peaceful dissidents, President Obama now bears the responsibility for the violence that will continue to be inflicted upon the Cuban people.

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July 20, 2015

'Sad' day for Miami GOP members of Congress over Cuban embassy opening

Mario21 cuba new hmg


The three amigos, as U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen calls herself and Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart, watched Monday morning from Miami as the Cuban flag rose once again in Washington D.C.

In the afternoon, they gathered in Ros-Lehtinen's district office to declare it a "sad" day for Cuban Americans who have fought to keep the dictatorship isolated until the Castro regime becomes a democracy. The three Miami Republicans stood next to posters brandishing images of beaten up Cuban dissidents and the four men who died shot down by the Cuban government in the Brothers to the Rescue flights of 1996.

"There is not enough room in this office to display the faces of the opposition," Ros-Lehtinen said. 

Diaz-Balart said he won't consider a Cuban ambassador or other diplomats representatives of the people who live on the island.

"Cuba's true leaders, those are the ones that are in the prisons,"  Diaz-Balart said, or who've had their professional licenses or rationing cards taken away as a punishment for their political views. "The Castro regime is not the Cuban people. If only we had a president who knew the difference."

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July 14, 2015

Florida politicians react to Iran nuclear deal


The big news of the day in politics and the federal government is the announcement that a group of countries, led by the U.S., negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program have reached an agreement. 

Some Florida Republicans had harsh words for President Obama's administration over the deal, and at least a couple of Democrats sounded skeptical. Here are their statements:

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida

First thing is to not tear down this agreement before the ink is even dry, before we even read it. Congress has a role now, by law, and it's to thoroughly scrutinize the details of the agreement. We're not going to approve something that doesn't keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons and doesn't give us the ability to inspect and verify that Iran abides by all the terms.

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami

It was announced today that a final agreement with Iran has been reached.  Unfortunately, it appears that all key aspects of Iran’s nuclear program will remain in place. Preliminary information suggests that the agreement not only fails to completely prevent Iran from gaining nuclear capabilities, but it also strengthens the regime’s ability to support terror in the region, both militarily and financially. In addition to the many troubling aspects of what looks like a weak deal that gives Iran undeserved concessions, it’s important to note that Iran still holds American hostages. 

Protecting the security interests of the United States and our allies is of the utmost importance.  While Congress will carefully review the details, the initial reports do not give me confidence that an acceptable deal has been reached.

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July 09, 2015

Reaction from members of Congress directly affected by Florida Supreme Court redistricting order


Eight incumbent members of Congress were directly affected Thursday by the Florida Supreme Court's ruling that state lawmakers redraw their districts. (Other representatives will likely be indirectly affected by new boundaries.) 

Here's what the members of Congress had to say:

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami (District 27)

I look forward to representing the constituents of whatever district the court decides should be drawn up. It has been an incredible experience to have represented every part of Miami-Dade County during my years of public service so in whatever form the district ends up, it will be like coming home again. No worries.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami (District 26)

Since arriving in Washington I have been focused on improving the quality of life in South Florida and making our country stronger. The potential of new district lines is not a distraction for me nor will it diminish my desire to represent and serve the community in which my wife and I are raising our family.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami (District 25)

At this stage, I am still reviewing the Florida Supreme Court's opinion, and will be interested to see what the State Legislature will do.

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July 07, 2015

Miami Republicans cite attack of dissident as sign Obama Cuba policy isn't working



Two of Miami's Cuban-American Republican members of Congress condemned an attack on a Cuban dissident as a sign that President Obama is foolish to pursue closer relations with the regime on the island.

The beating of Antonio Rodiles, which Rodiles blamed on Cuban security forces, and mass detention of nearly 100 other dissidents Sunday prompted statements in solidarity from U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

"Beating activists committed to the return of democratic rights to the island, such as Rodiles and members of the Ladies in White, show that the Castro regime has no interest in changing," Ros-Lehtinen said Monday. "The opening of a U.S. embassy in Havana demonstrates that the Obama Administration is willing to turn a blind eye  to the sadistic ways of this brutal regime in order to build a presidential legacy."  

"Since President Obama's December 17, 2014 announcement, the Castro regime's brutality against innocent pro-democracy leaders has escalated," Diaz-Balart said. "Predictably, following the President's announcement a few days ago that he will press ahead with opening embassies without any conditions, the human rights abuses in Cuba continue unabated. The Castro regime has been emboldened by President Obama's shameful disinterest in human rights and liberties in Cuba."

Photo courtesy Antonio Rodiles

June 12, 2015

Jeb Bush secures endorsements from top Florida Republicans ahead of campaign kickoff

@PatriciaMazzei @learyreports

Jeb Bush will gain endorsements Friday from a host of top Florida Republicans, including Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.

Bush will also be endorsed by 11 of the state’s 17 Republican members of the U.S. House.

The endorsements, obtained first by the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times, come as Bush prepares for his official announcement on Monday in Miami, home also to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who has emerged as a strong candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.

With people beginning to talk up Sunshine State showdown between Bush and Rubio, the list is a way for Bush to show off the depth and geographical range of his support.

Bondi, Putnam and Atwater plan to attend the event as do some of the congressional members, subject to duties in Washington.

They are: Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor; Vern Buchanan of Sarasota; Ander Crenshaw of Jacksonville; Carlos Curbelo of Miami, Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami; David Jolly of Indian Shores; Jeff Miller of Chumuckla; John Mica of Winter Park; Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami, Dennis Ross of Lakeland; and Daniel Webster of Winter Garden.

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