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" »

Hispanic Leadership Network's Miami meeting features Jeb, Diaz-Balart, Fortuño, Ralph Reed

@MarcACaputo

From a press release:

WASHINGTON, DC - The Hispanic Leadership Network (HLN) today announced the agenda for its “Family Reunión” conference to be held next Thursday, April 18th, and Friday, April 19th, at the Biltmore Hotel in Miami, Florida. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutiérrez will serve as conference co-chairs. The two-day gathering will bring together more than 15 distinguished speakers and panelists.

“This year’s HLN conference will focus on three of the most pressing policy matters for Hispanics - the economy, education, and immigration. We will come together as a family to discuss our concerns and hopes for the future. I am honored to co-chair the conference with my friend Carlos Gutiérrez, and look forward to a spirited public debate about the best path forward,” said Governor Jeb Bush.

The conference kicks off on Thursday night with a welcoming reception featuring both co-chairs, as well as former Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuño.

“We are proud to once again provide a platform for conservative Hispanics to have a dialogue with our national leaders about the issues that most affect our community. We hope to inspire Hispanics nationwide to continue the policy debate long after our conference,” said HLN Executive Director Jennifer S. Korn.

On Friday, the conference program includes two panel discussions on Immigration and Economy & Education. Former U.S. Surgeon General Antonia Novello will deliver the keynote address, marking the third anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. In addition, HLN will host two breakout sessions focusing on grassroots advocacy and the media.

The full agenda is below as a JPEG

HLN

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

 

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.

January 28, 2013

Mario Diaz-Balart likes Gang of 8/Rubio immigration plan

From U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican and key House member on immigration:

“Although we have not seen the legislation text, the principles released today are compatible with the discussions in the House. The prospect of true immigration reform can only happen with bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress, and today’s news is a step in that direction. I commend the dedicated efforts of the group. We look forward to working with the Senate and President Obama to find a real, permanent solution.”

Note: If Diaz-Balart, a longtime friend of Sen. Marco Rubio's didn't support the plan of his fellow Republican, it would be big news. Diaz-Balart was on CNN talking about the issue.

"If this was an easy lift it would have been done a long time ago," Diaz-Balart said. "We've been hammering out our differences, we've been hammering out what needs to be fixed."

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

January 04, 2013

South Florida lawmakers bring back congressional 'Everglades Caucus'

For all the partisan bickering that cripples Congress these days, there is one thing that Florida lawmakers have generally been able to agree on: the need to restore the Everglades.

With a new congressional class coming in, two South Florida representatives — Miami Republican Mario Diaz-Balart and Miramar Democrat Alcee Hastings — announced they are reintroducing the “Everglades Caucus” in the U.S. House. The goal is educate members and staffers about the Everglades and, of course, foster support for the projects and money still needed to complete the $12.4 billion restoration effort.

In a joint announcement, Diaz-Balart and Hastings said they would co-chair the caucus.

“The Everglades is one of the true ecological wonders of the world, and we must do everything we can to keep it thriving and healthy,” Diaz-Balart said. “We will work together with other members of Congress to support restoration efforts of this unique ecosystem.”

Hastings called the Everglades “a national treasure that provides Floridians with clean drinking water, and is home to many endangered and unique species. It makes up a large portion of my Congressional district, and therefore I am acutely aware of the vital need for its restoration.”

--CURTIS MORGAN

September 22, 2012

Paul Ryan to Little Havana: 'We will be tough on Castro'

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan got the Cuban exile seal of approval Saturday at a campaign rally in Little Havana where he pledged to hold a hard line against the Castro regime.

The Republican vice presidential candidate did not mention that he once opposed the U.S. trade embargo against the island, but he pointed to his change of heart — prompted by Miami’s current and former Cuban-American Republicans in Congress, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart.

“They’ve given me a great education — lots of us in Congress — about how we need to clamp down on the Castro regime,” Ryan told supporters at the Versailles restaurant. “We will be tough on Castro, tough on [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chávez.”

Ryan, a Wisconsin congressman, has voted against the embargo at least three times. The Midwest tends to see trade opportunities in agriculture with Cuba.

 

Ryan began supporting the embargo in 2007 as he started to ascend the House Republican leadership ranks. And on Saturday he began criticizing President Barack Obama’s policies toward the island. The Obama administration has made it easier for families and certain groups to travel and send money to Cuba.

 

Ryan said he and GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney would take a different approach.

“We will not keep practicing this policy of appeasement,” Ryan said. “We will be tough on this brutal dictator.”

More here.