Republicans court Cuban-American votes

The World

LM �you have suggested that this election is going to define the future direction of the Cuban-American community and that traditional wisdom about Cuban-Americans doesn’t apply anymore. What do you mean by that?� LP �well it’s something that we have yet to see in terms of what will happen in the elections, both at the national and the local levels. The traditional wisdom is that Cuban-Americans are mostly easily swayed in their voting behavior by appeals towards a hard line towards the Cuban government. So even candidates who might otherwise have what might be called liberal views in terms of foreign policy, have generally been told or advised that for the Cuban-American votes in Florida, it’s important to essentially talk the talk towards the Cuban government. For example it’s not surprising that in years that end in even numbers, in other words in elections either for the presidency or for Congress, the US government has generally tended to enact measures that tighten the embargo. For example, the most noticeable case of that was in 2004 when facing reelection, George Bush was told that he hadn’t done enough about Cuba and he put into effect what is called a Power Report which essentially places further restrictions on contact with Cuba, even restricting fairly severely family travel which had been generally allowed, but now there are further restrictions on that. You can only travel once every three years, not even for humanitarian reasons. You can only send a limited amount of money every three months and then only to immediate family members in Cuba, you can’t send it to aunts or cousins or things like that.� LM �so suddenly the restrictions were much greater on that. So you’re saying in terms of how the traditional wisdom might be turned on its head, what’s changing?� LP �There are a couple of things that might be changing. One is that I think there’s been a kind of a fatigue towards the model of isolation and a hardline towards Cuba as a way of bringing about changing Cuba. Obviously the embargo and all of the travel restrictions, etc on Cuba have not had the result of bringing about a change in Cuba. Joined with the fact that there has been a reaction in the community and various polls show this against those recent restrictive legislation that restricts family travel and family contact and family remittances.� LM �What evidence do you see though that there are Cubans who are maybe thinking that a hardline policy isn’t working? And do you also see that reflected in the candidates themselves, because there are certainly some candidates including John McCain who think the embargo should remain as is on Cuba?� LP �I think most candidates, even Hillary Clinton has expressed the traditional wisdom on this. I think she’s been advised to pretty much say what every candidate has which is that she’s going to be hard on Fidel Castro. I think the only one that has explicitly departed from that is Barack Obama who has indicated that he may try a different light.� LM �so what would account for Cuban-Americans taking a softer line or even advocating a softer line against Cuba?� LP �there are several. I think as I mentioned there is an exhaustion of this rhetoric and policy that says what’s going to work to bring about change in Cuba is hostility and isolation. That’s one, and I think it was particularly manifest when Fidel Castro got ill. And sort of the wisdom in the Cuban community here is that once Fidel Castro is out of the picture and for all intents and purposes he is pretty much out of the picture in many ways that things will change in Cuba and it’ll be rapid change and everything will fall like a house of cards. Well Fidel is practically gone and nothing has happened. So some people are saying, what should happen now? we don’t have a policy in place that deals with this scenario.�

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