United States Cuba Policy & Business Blog

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Florida United States Senate Policy Forum on Cuba - Money, Money, Money

The Associated Press provides a detailed report on the fundraising event at:


I spoke with an individual who attended the event to learn that it was attended by about 300 persons paying $250 per plate for the lunch. In addition to the $5000 donation each candidate was vying for, lets not forget that this pro-embargo group has very deep pocket donors. This PAC has one of the highest concentrations of $5000 donations. Those same individuals can write a $2200 personal donation check for the candidate, and if the donor is married, the spouse can write one for $2200 as well. So some of the candidates could very well walk away with $50,000 in cumulative donations for a 10 minute speech that answered no substantive questions. No questions were allowed from the audience and it was basically an echo chamber of the same tired arguments to maintain our failed policy with Cuba. Not bad for a group of politicians whose ignorance on the subject of U.S. Cuba policy and basic diplomacy is only exceeded by the arrogance that our politicians can be bought and owned by a misguided minority. Heck, what do the candidates know about Cuba, really? None have visited the island. The only glimmer of hope for change was transmitted by Democratic candidate Maurice Ferrer, the former Mayor of Miami, who called for support for Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez, who herself is opposed to the embargo and U.S. travel restrictions.

The Glenn Beck/Bob Roberts [rent the DVD if you have not seen the movie] moment went to Republican candidate and favorite son Marco Rubio whose quote was: ""Do we still mean all men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights? Do we still mean it when we say no government has power except the power people allow it to have?" he asked. "(Or) have we come to a point in our history where we believe that selling rice and cattle to a tyranny is more important than standing by the principles that underlie our founding? Are we prepared to say some tourist package to Havana is more important than the very words that gave this nation birth?"
Hopefully, Mr. Rubio will get his answers in another political forum and debate.

The most ignorant moment goes to Democrat Rep. Kendrick Meek whose lack of understanding international relations and diplomacy shined so brightly and who referred to Senator Bob Menendez as his guiding example --
"In response to those in his own party who believe the U.S. should offer more olive branches to the Cuban government, Meek said: "We have made several moves as Americans toward the Cuban government and the Castro regime, but they have not moved not one inch toward democracy,
free elections or releasing political prisoners."

Meek noted that as a member of the Democratic majority in Congress, he would have the ear of the president on Cuba policy. He recalled how U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-NJ, the only Cuban-American in the Senate, held up major economic legislation earlier this year to protect the U.S. embargo of Cuba. "He has perspective about what is important, even if he may be misunderstood by those in his own party," Meek said to strong applause. "Well, I look forward to being misunderstood with him as your next United States Senator.""
Kendrick, did you know that Bob went to the floor of the Senate two weeks ago protesting the appropriations bill hemming and hawing about Cuba and insisting he would never support anymore appropriations bills with Cuba language? Well, he quietly voted for the bill in the end. Obviously, all the New Jersey earmarks for his constituents were more important than his protestations and defense for human rights in Cuba.

For all the efforts made in a political event, not one of these politicians told this audience that:

1) Our policy with a Cuba is a failure.

2) We have spent one billion taxpayer dollars thus far on U.S. Cuba policies with no results to show.

3) The travel ban is costing the U.S. economy over 1.1 billion dollars annually and all the jobs related to it.

4) The great economic stimulus package for Florida is ending the travel ban and lifting the embargo.

5) Our allowing
Cuban Americans unrestricted family travel and remittances is NOT a concession to the Cuban government, but a correction of an American injustice perpetrated by the Bush administration upon the Cuban American community with relatives in Cuba.

6) Allowing American telecommunications with Cuba is meaningless as long as Cuba remains on the state sponsor of terror list. [the rationale is explained in prior posts in Oct-Nov 09] Despite President Obama's permitting licensure for telecom to Cuba, it still costs a $1.00 a minute or more to call Cuba from the U.S.

7) International Relations and Diplomacy 101 teaches you that no party will sit with you and negotiate its own termination. Cuba has stated publicly its desire to negotiate with the United States; its desire to have respectful, progressive relations and discuss all issues with our country, except its own internal political system. We have the option to engage Cuba as it is and become a positive influence on the Cuban people or continue to be mired in policy failure; wasting taxpayer money; sacrificing our American rights; and endangering our own citizens for interfering in the internal affairs of a foreign nation.
Cuban Americans who continue to believe that the U.S. government and the U.S. taxpayer is going to change Cuba must recognize they are throwing away their real ability to have any meaningful influence on the Cuban people. Yes, the Cuban people want change. But our embargo and our travel restrictions do not help them or the cause of human rights. When will this community listen to the Cuban people?

8) Why can't we focus on our own problems in Florida - one of the highest home foreclosure states in the country; many
Floridians still have no or inadequate health insurance coverage -even with the so called health reform pending in Congress; corruption in state and local governments; and a host of other socioeconomic problems that our leaders need to focus on.
Welcome to the darkside of American politics ala Florida...