October 02, 2018

Newest Obama endorsements highlight Gillum, snub downballot candidates



Former President Barack Obama had Twitter abuzz Monday as he rolled out dozens of endorsements in key state and federal races nationwide. 

Obama endorsed Andrew Gillum in the high-profile governor's race, emphasizing the importance Democrats are 

In Florida, Obama also endorsed U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, congressional candidates Stephanie Murphy, Chris Hunter, Nancy Soderberg and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Florida Senate candidates Janet Cruz, Annette Taddeo and David Perez, and Florida House candidates Nick Duran, Fentrice Driskell and Javier Fernandez. 

Missing from the list? Democratic candidates for all three non-gubernatorial cabinet offices -- Nicole "Nikki" Fried for Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Jeremy Ring for Chief Financial Officer and Sean Shaw for Attorney General. 

"The unfortunate reality is that our race likely isn't on his radar," said Anthony Pardal, a spokesman for the Jeremy Ring campaign.

Shaw's campaign said any Democratic campaign would love to have the president's endorsement, but they are hopeful Obama will make an announcement ahead of election day in November. 

Fried's campaign declined to comment. 

Kevin Donohoe, a spokesman for the Florida Democratic Party said it appears that Obama is focusing more on the gubernatorial and legislative seats, not the downballot statewide positions. 

He's right. In the latest round of endorsements, Obama only picked two state treasurers (Colorado and Ohio), one secretary of state (Nevada) and one attorney general (also Nevada).

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Ben Lujan Ray told the Miami Herald Monday that he expects a third round or even a fourth round of endorsements from the former president.

“I know they are always strategic in their thinking with rolling out endorsements," he said then. 

Katie Hill, a spokeswoman for Obama's office, said Obama specifically focused on endorsing candidates in close races where his support would make a meaningful difference, in races with redistricting priorities and those who are alumni of Obama campaigns and adminstration. 

Hill said it's possible Obama will endorse additional individual candidates between now and Nov. 6.


June 07, 2017

Gov. Rick Scott: "The United States must stop doing business with Venezuela"



In a new op-ed, Florida Gov. Rick Scott encouraged United States companies to stop conducting business with Venezuela and its embattled President Nicolás Maduro, without mentioning his position on Goldman Sachs' recent purchase of Venezuelan oil bonds. 

"The United States must stop doing business with Venezuela immediately," Scott wrote. 

He then compared the Maduro regime to Cuba while criticizing Barack Obama's move to open up relations during the final stretch of his administration. 

"The turmoil in Venezuela is eerily similar to events that have plagued the island nation of Cuba for decades. When President Obama moved to normalize relations with the Castro dictatorship many argued that the new relationship would be the beginning of a better life for the Cuban people. Yet two and half years later, repression is growing and the brutal crackdown of the peaceful opposition movement is most alarming." 

Earlier Wednesday, Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen criticized Goldman Sachs' purchase of Venezuelan bonds for a cut rate price on the U.S. House floor. 

Read the full text of the op-ed below: 

U.S. Must Take Stand Against Cuba and Venezuela

By Governor Rick Scott

In recent months, we have seen Venezuela slip into complete chaos. Under the brutal and oppressive dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro, we have seen things go from bad to worse. Food and medicine shortages, violence on the streets and economic uncertainty.

We've also seen companies like General Motors, Bridgestone and General Mills scale back their operations in Venezuela. Recently, United Airlines also joined in this effort by announcing it will suspend flights to Venezuela next month.

It's no wonder that these companies are pulling out of a country engulfed in violent political protests and economic chaos.

Venezuelans endure long lines to purchase basic necessities all while Maduro's dictatorship blames companies for the country’s shortages. The Maduro regime continues to mismanage the country's oil resources, has produced a swollen inflation rate and dismal exchange rate, leaving the Venezuelan people to deal with hardship and corruption.

This is not acceptable and we should not stand for these injustices to the Venezuelan people. The United States must stop doing business with Venezuela immediately.

The turmoil in Venezuela is eerily similar to events that have plagued the island nation of Cuba for decades. When President Obama moved to normalize relations with the Castro dictatorship many argued that the new relationship would be the beginning of a better life for the Cuban people. Yet two and half years later, repression is growing and the brutal crackdown of the peaceful opposition movement is most alarming.

This was the wrong move. A message must be sent to both the Maduro and Castro regimes and their gangs of thugs that the United States will not tolerate their continued aggressions.

Organizations like the Ladies in White and UNPACU are the constant targets of the Castro regime's violent rage. The anticipated "emerging private sector" (cuentapropistas) has actually decreased and tens of thousands of Cubans have attempted to flee the enslaved island in numbers not seen since 1994. In Venezuela, the Castro dictatorship continues to pull the strings, aiding the Maduro government's bloodbath against the heroic Venezuelan people.

Moreover, the Obama-Castro deal failed to prioritize America's interests. It purposely did not contemplate the certified claims of American citizens whose properties were stolen by Castro's regime; it allowed Cuba's trafficking of 240 tons of missile technology and other heavy weaponry with North Korea, and those responsible for it, to get away without consequence; it allowed companies to put American workers at a competitive disadvantage through deals with Cuba's state-owned entities, which employ forced and exploitative labor practices that are contrary to international norms; it ignored judicial claims of American victims of terrorism by Castro's regime and the cries for justice from American families whose killers are being harbored by Castro's regime. To add insult to injury, President Obama even commuted the life sentence of a Cuban spy that was convicted of conspiracy in the murder of three American citizens.

The approach for the new United States-Cuba policy should be a substantive shift. The current direction has proven to provide the Cuban military and state security the resources that will enable them to transfer power from one family member to another. The new course must be focused on doing our part so that the Cuban people may regain their right to self-determination.

Today, I am encouraging President Trump to take a stand against these brutal dictatorships. President Trump and his Administration have the opportunity to set a new course. One that recognizes that the Cuban and Venezuelan people deserve to be free, and prioritizes human rights, democracy, security and the rule of law. This new course should serve as a beacon of hope for those brave activists in Cuba and Venezuela by making it clear that, if you are a Castro or Maduro government official involved in the violation of human rights, you will be prohibited from obtaining any immigrant or non-immigrant visa to the United States. I'm convinced that this new direction will better serve U.S. interests, generate genuine economic prosperity and help the Cuban and Venezuelan people achieve their long-awaited freedom.

March 07, 2017

Donald Trump's misleading claim about Gitmo and Obama


@laurenfcarroll @amysherman1

For his entire term, former President Barack Obama wanted to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but he was unsuccessful.

President Donald Trump promises to keep it open, and he took to Twitter the morning of March 7 to criticize Obama for releasing Guantanamo detainees at all.

"122 vicious prisoners, released by the Obama Administration from Gitmo, have returned to the battlefield. Just another terrible decision!" Trump tweeted — from both his personal account and the official White House account, @POTUS.

Guantanamo detainee transfers are likely in the news because a March 2, 2017, U.S. military airstrike killed a former Guantanamo prisoner, Yasir Ali Abdallah al Silmi, who Obama released to Yemen in 2009.

Trump’s claim that the Obama administration released 122 prisoners from Guantanamo that "returned to the battlefield" is right on the numbers but wrong on who is to blame. The vast majority of detainees who fall into Trump’s total were actually released during the administration of President George W. Bush.

Keep reading from PolitiFact.

January 19, 2017

Obama's inaugural poet to debut new poem on Trump inauguration day

Richard blanco
via @Carlos_Frias

Richard Blanco assigned himself a writing prompt.

During the most divisive stretch of the presidential campaign, about six weeks before Election Day, the Miami-raised poet asked himself a simple question.

What if he, the immigrant son of Cuban parents, the first Latino and openly gay man asked to write a poem for a president’s inauguration four years ago, were asked to write a poem to read at Friday’s inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump?

And so he began to write.

Blanco turned down the noise from television, radio and the internet and turned up his inner monologue.

“You can’t help but put yourself back in those shoes and ask, ‘How would you approach a poem in this situation?’” Blanco said.

After months of wrestling with what started as an exercise, he will publish his new poem, “Declaration of Inter-Dependence” on Friday at the poetry site SplitThisRock.org. He shared an exclusive excerpt with the Miami Herald.

“We’re them. They’re you. You’re me ... . We’re a poem in progress,” his newest work opens.

More here.

Photo credit: Jose A. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald

January 18, 2017

Obama: Wet foot, dry foot 'was a carryover of an old way of thinking'


At his final White House news conference Wednesday, President Barack Obama made his first remarks about ending the special immigration policy for Cubans last week. Here is his answer in full, to a question about why he did away with wet foot/dry foot:

We underwent a monumental shift in our policy towards Cuba. My view was, after 50 years of the policy not working, it made sense for us to try to reopen diplomatic relations to engage the Cuban government, to be honest with them about the strong disagreements we have around political repression and treatment of dissenters and freedom of the press and freedom of religion. But to make progress for the Cuban people, our best shot was to suddenly have the Cuban people interacting with Americans, and seeing the incredibly  success of the Cuban-American community, and engaging in commerce and business and trade, and that it was through that process of opening up these bilateral relations that you would see over time serious and significant improvement.

Given that shift in the relationship, the policy that we had in place, which treated Cuban émigrés completely different from folks from El Salvador or Guatemala or Nicaragua or any other part of the world, one that made a distinction about whether you got here by land or by foot, that was a carryover of an old way of thinking that didn't make sense in this day and age, particularly as we're opening up travel between the two countries. And so we had very lengthy consultations with the Department of Homeland Security, we had some tough negotiations with the Cuban [government], but we arrived at a policy that we think is both fair and appropriate to the changing nature of the relationship between the two countries.

Photo credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Associated Press

University of Miami grad bids farewell to working 'dream job' in Obama White House


via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - The University of Miami was buzzing over hosting the first presidential debate between George W. Bush and John Kerry and for one undergrad, it was a career defining moment.

Kaelan Richards started out as an undeclared major then history, then political science. “I loved politics but didn’t necessarily know what that means in terms of a job,” she said.

Richards staffed the 2004 debate, taking tickets at the door. Then a coordinator said she and a group of other volunteers could go inside. “It was life changing,” recalled Richards, who grew up on Anna Maria Island.

“I was like, ‘I’ve got to do this. I don’t know how yet, but I have to do it.’

This week, Richards wrapped up her “dream job” in the White House press shop. “It’s an incredible honor to be here,” she said in an interview. “With anything ending, there’s a little bit of nostalgia and wistfulness.”

Richards' work kept her focused on Florida. She was a senior regional communications director interacting with reporters in the southeast, midwest and the west coast.

“While national outlets and broader media trends change, people still rely on their local news. That’s a really important job and I’m honored to do it,” she said.

She worked on Capitol Hill for Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and joined the White House team in April 2014.

One of her biggest moments was briefing President Obama for the first time in January 2016. The president was sitting down with regional news reporters to talk about the Affordable Care Act and Richards and others were tasked with filling him in on local issues.

“There’s really nothing that can match walking into the Oval Office for the first time to do your job,” Richards said. “It was a little bit nerve-racking but mostly exciting. This is dream job, a dream opportunity.”

The job ended Tuesday.

Richards walked out to see Press Secretary Josh Earnest give his final briefing to reporters. She took photos with colleagues from the North Lawn and turned in her badge.

She says she’ll take some time off, and maybe visit Florida, before deciding what to do next. “It’s a unique opportunity to get a little perspective and think about things.”

Earnest, who worked on Jim Davis' 2006 gubernatorial campaign against Charlie Crist, said Richards "has worked tirelessly and effectively to bring President Obama's message outside of the Washington beltway, directly to people living in communities across the country. She's done so with a level of integrity and enthusiasm that has earned her the admiration of journalists and colleagues alike."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Photo credit: Courtesy the White House

January 12, 2017

'Have you no shame, President Obama?' Florida politicians react to wet foot, dry foot repeal


President Barack Obama undid 20 years of U.S. immigration policy toward Cuba on Thursday, repealing the "wet foot, dry foot" position that allowed Cubans who reached U.S. soil to remain in the country without fear of deportation.

Reaction from Florida politicians, including Cuban-American hardline members of Congress, was swift.

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

The ‘wet foot, dry foot’ policy was put in place many years ago to help those who were fleeing Castro’s repressive regime. I believe changing this outdated policy in order to be fair to all and also to prevent people from abusing the system is the right thing to do.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida:

While I have acknowledged the need to reform the Cuban Adjustment Act for some time now, the Obama Administration’s characterization of this change as part of the ongoing normalization with the Castro regime is absurd. It is in fact President Obama's failed Cuba policy, combined with the Castro regime’s increased repression, that has led to a rise in Cuban migration since 2014.


The Cuban Adjustment Act has provided countless Cubans the opportunity to escape the Castro tyranny. However, in recent years it has also led to growing abuses. While some changes were needed, we must work to ensure that Cubans who arrive here to escape political persecution are not summarily returned to the regime, and they are given a fair opportunity to apply for and receive political asylum.


Furthermore, I am concerned by the decision to terminate the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program. For decades, the Castro regime has forced thousands of doctors to go abroad as a tool of its foreign policy. This is political repression, and I am optimistic that the incoming Trump Administration will reverse this part of the executive order and allow these doctors to seek asylum at U.S. embassies or consulates in other countries.


I had the opportunity to discuss this issue with Vice President-elect Pence this evening, and I am heartened by the fact that in a week we will have a new administration committed to discarding the failed Cuba policy of the last two years.”

 U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami:

President Obama's policy legitimizing the Castro dictatorship created a great deal of anxiety and uncertainty in Cuba and resulted in a mass exodus from the island. Since the President announced his deal with Castro at the end of 2014, almost 100,000 Cubans have reached our shores. Many others fled the island but never arrived, instead dying at sea or in the jungles of Central America.

For two years, I have demanded a solution to this crisis from the Administration. Instead, the Administration chose to wait until the last hour to act, and as usual collaborated directly with the Cuban dictatorship instead of consulting members of Congress. America’s policy toward Cuba should serve to advance U.S. interests, and it should never be coordinated with anti-American dictators.

Although our country's immigration policy toward Cuba has granted many of the dictatorship's victims refuge, it has also been grossly abused and exploited by many Cuban nationals, while also inadvertently bolstering the Cuban regime. A change to this policy was inevitable. I remain firmly committed to supporting the victims of persecution in Cuba while ending all abuses of America’s generosity.

With regards to the cancellation of the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program, which offered refuge to Cuban doctors who are in effect slaves of the regime assigned to countries around world, it is regrettable and a clear example of the Cuban regimes influence over the Obama Administration. I hope the incoming Administration will consider reinstating this program.

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami (in a statement titled, "Have You No Shame, President Obama?"):

With just eight days left in his administration, President Obama has found one more way to frustrate the democratic aspirations of the Cuban people and provide yet another shameful concession to the Castro regime.  Under President Obama's misguided view, after having removed the Castro regime from the state sponsor of terror list and granting diplomatic recognition, the next logical step is denying oppressed Cubans the presumption of political asylum. 

Since 1966, the Cuban Refugee Adjustment Act has provided a lifeline to generations of Cubans fleeing oppression.  Many made the treacherous journey to begin their lives anew in freedom, and others perished trying to escape.  In addition, the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program provided a way for doctors forced to work under inhumane conditions for paltry salaries in foreign lands to escape their servitude.

President Obama's policy toward the Castro regime has not improved human rights or increased liberty on the island.  To the contrary, documented political arrests reached close to 10,000 in 2016 as renowned activists such as Berta Soler, Danilo Maldonado Machado "El Sexto," and labor activists including Ivan Carrillo Hernandez suffered brutal arrests just in the past few weeks.  El Sexto remains in prison today and his American lawyer, Kim Motley, was harassed and interrogated while in Cuba simply for representing him.  Cubans are leaving the island in record numbers, and many of the 53 who were released as part of the Obama-Castro deal were subsequently rearrested.

President Obama's numerous concessions and extension of diplomatic recognition to the murderous Castro regime does not constitute an achievement.  To the contrary, his policy has been a succession of betrayals of America's longstanding commitment to human rights and freedom, and a betrayal of the Cuban people who have suffered under oppression for far too long.  This last act of diminishing lifelines to Cubans languishing in totalitarianism is one final despicable betrayal of a people who deserve better from an American president.

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

Castro uses refugees as pawns to get more concessions from Washington so there is no reason to do away with the Cuban medical doctor program, which is a foolhardy concession to a regime that sends its doctors to foreign nations in a modern-day indentured servitude. The repeal of the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program was done because that's what the Cuban dictatorship wanted and the White House caved to what Castro wants, instead of standing up for U.S. democratic values and seeking the return of fugitives from U.S. justice like Joanne Chesimard or seeking compensation for U.S. citizens for their confiscated properties. In another bad deal by the Obama administration, it has traded wet foot/dry foot for the elimination of an important program which was undermining the Castro regime by providing an outlet for Cuban doctors to seek freedom from forced labor which only benefits an oppressive regime.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa:

The end of the “wet foot/dry foot” policy should be followed by congressional action to lift the outdated economic embargo and improve economic conditions for everyday Cubans.  This is an important step in normalizing our relationship and America must do everything to lift small business entrepreneurs and create opportunities on both sides of the Florida Straits.  We must continue to leave the Cold War policies behind and build new bridges for jobs and economic opportunities for both nations.

I have witnessed how the “wet foot, dry foot” policy created an uneven playing field for immigrants from other Caribbean nations who are also seeking the opportunity to pursue the American dream.    I have also seen Cubans who try to come here for short term visits to see family members negatively affected by “wet foot/dry foot.”  The change in policy today will help ensure that we can have safer and more orderly migration with all of our Caribbean neighbors.

--with Alex Leary

Photo credit: Associated Press

Obama repeals wet foot, dry foot immigration policy for Cubans

via @HeraldMimi

The Obama administration said Thursday it is ending the controversial “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy — essentially turning the clock on decades of preferential treatment for Cuban refugees — and making those who arrive without visas subject to deportation.

The so-called “wet-foot” part of the policy was implemented following the 1994 rafter crisis that brought some 35,000 Cubans to U.S. shores.

The change, which took effect immediately, brought to a halt the practice that gave Cubans who arrive at U.S. borders without visas automatic entry to the United States — even if they had been smuggled in by human traffickers.

“Cuban nationals who attempt to enter the United States illegally and do not qualify for humanitarian relief will be subject to removal, consistent with U.S. law and enforcement priorities,” President Barack Obama said in a statement. “The Cuban government has agreed to accept the return of Cuban nationals who have been ordered removed, just as it has been accepting the return of migrants interdicted at sea.”

After outlining the policy, the White House held a call with Cuban Americans who support of the administration. They were told President-elect Donald Trump's transition team was briefed, one person on the call told the Miami Herald.

Immigration analysts say a change in U.S. immigration policy toward Cuba had to be immediate to prevent a wave of Cubans trying to reach U.S. shores by raft or boat or by crossing at the U.S. border with Mexico to beat a deadline.

More here.

Obama names Broward supporter to Holocaust council


via @adamsmithtimes

President Barack Obama today named Coral Springs trial lawyer Andrew Weinstein, a top Democratic fundraiser, a member of U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, a position he will continue to hold after Donald Trump becomes president on Jan. 20. The president in 2013 appointed Weinstein to the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

January 06, 2017

Tenured Miami Dade College professor tweets about impeaching Obama, 'the Kenyan'

EdCalleProfile0625 a epf (2)
via @KyraGurney

Ed Calle may not be a household name, but he is well-known in the music industry as a gifted saxophonist who has played alongside everyone from Celia Cruz and Gloria Estefan to pop stars Rihanna and Shakira. The Latin Grammy winner and five-time Grammy nominee is also a professor at Miami Dade College, where he teaches music business and production.

But on Sunday, a tweet from Calle struck a sour note, unleashing a Twitter storm and calls for MDC to fire the tenured professor.

In response to a tweet from a political activist about impeaching President-elect Donald Trump, Calle tweeted: “Yeah, right. Let’s work on impeaching the Kenyan first.”

Dozens of people expressed outrage at Calle’s suggestion that President Barack Obama was not from the United States, tweeting to Calle and MDC that he should be sacked. The thoroughly debunked allegation has been espoused by so-called “birthers,” including Trump himself until he finally dropped it during the presidential campaign in September.

Calle subsequently deleted his Twitter account, but he posted a letter on his website under the heading “Response to Twitter Mob” in which he defended his right to free speech and argued that Obama’s birth certificate was fake.

More here.

Photo credit: Patrick Farrell, Miami Herald staff