United States Cuba Policy & Business Blog

Friday, October 22, 2010

United States Cuba Relations: Its About the Politics Not The Policy!

More polls and articles continue to come out making excellent arguments why our policies with Cuba should change beginning with lifting the travel ban. Yet nothing has happened yet.

To all those who want to see the travel ban lifted and the embargo ended, what is it going to take for us to learn? We have won the policy argument. It is the politics that we continue to lose and seem unwilling to address. A recent encounter with President Obama revealed as much.

Recently, President Obama gave a ride to a few persons in the Presidential Limousine. A couple of persons respectfully raised, with the President, the issue of U.S. Cuba relations. More specifically, they informed the President that many were disappointed that The White House did not name the cities that would be getting direct flights to Cuba and loosening the restrictions for American non-tourist travel to Cuba, as was expected last May or June as a result of an agreement by all interested parties. The President was surprised to hear about this disappointment! The President informed his guests that several members of Congress "led by Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz strongly lobbied The White House not to do it before the November mid-term elections, because it would hurt them." All of us, of course knew that story, but what we did not know is what the President went on to say. He said “there was no pressure from the Congress or within his administration to make the announcement before the elections." Which brings us, again, to what Lyndon Johnson used to say, “Protect me from my friends, for I know how to handle my enemies." When are we going to learn it is our "friends" in the Congress who keep misleading us with all sorts of excuses as to why we cannot enhance US/Cuba relations? The excuses range from everything such as: we need more co-sponsors; we cannot act now because of more priority legislation; blah, blah, blah! The political reality is the pro-travel and anti-embargo side has lukewarm friends and a few leaders who are not being empowered to speak as passionately and forcefully as the other side does.

While it now appears according to what the President said, the White House will make the announcement regarding non-tourist travel to Cuba after the elections, do not be surprised if the Debbie Wasserman Schultz cabal comes up with another reason and attempt to delay the announcement. At that time, will “our "friends" like Howard Berman, et. al. give us more excuses as to why the announcement was delayed? Why haven't our friends made the same personal appeals to the President and the White House staff? It is particularly amazing in the case of Wasserman-Schultz. When you think about it, what does Debbie Wasserman-Schultz really know or understand about our policies with Cuba? She has never traveled there. But she does get more than a hundred thousand dollars in political donations from Cuban American hardliners and her Cuba policy marching orders from her buddies, the Diaz-Balarts. That is evidently enough to empower the next chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee when the next Congress convenes.

Finally, as painful as it might be for some of us to see the Republicans gain control of the House of Representatives this November, that might not be as bad a development as it appears. As it pertains to U.S. Cuba relations, this may actually be a good development. For example, many of the Republicans expected to be elected in November are primarily Libertarians, and therefore, on the issue of Cuba, they will not be as political and narrow minded as the Debbie Wasserman Schultz cabal and the current Cuban American congressional quintet. Liberty and freedom except for traveling to Cuba? Indeed, pro-travel leader Congressman Jeff Flake (R-Az) will more easily be able to put together a coalition of Democratic and Republican members to take on Ileana Ros-Lehtinen who will be the new House Foreign Affairs Chairperson. There is no question on her views or hesitation about this issue. We can successfully challenge an adversary who is at least clear and committed about her views. Unlike “our friends” that for the last four years, have given us nothing more than the "Washington Two-Step" and a constant run around.

Knowing all of the above, is it not time to hold “our friends” in the Congress accountable? Is it not time for us to politically organize, identify, and empower our allies in Congress on this issue once and for all? We are not going to argue away the travel ban or end the embargo with just good articles and polling numbers.

-Tony Martinez with thanks to Albert A. Fox Jr, who contributed to this article and opinion piece.


Jhon said...

We believe in maintaining the common position, since the release of more than forty prisoners does not mean that there is a change
conditions the bloc's relations with Cuba to democratic progress and human rights in the country.

Anonymous said...

Obama is conditional on the adoption of new steps closer to Cuba's government proves that the country is "seriously" and take measures to increase the "freedom." Have not fulfilled the promises of the Regina Castro
Cuba remains "an economy stuck in the past, when other economies in the world, from Vietnam to Russia, have adopted the market system and have been very successful
But with Castro in power and conditioning Obama's approach to the island, sees little improvement and achievement of lifting the embargo

Anonymous said...

in life we will not see the United States lifts the embargo