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Posted September 02, 2004 by publisher in Cuban Americans

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BY LESLEY CLARK | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Miami Herald

Democrats accelerate the push for Cuban-American voters, hiring Cuban American National Foundation executive director Joe Garcia to spread the Democratic agenda.

Joe Garcia, the public face of one of the most influential Cuban-American groups in the country, is stepping down as executive director of the Cuban American National Foundation to lead South Florida recruitment efforts for a Democratic organization.

The move comes as both parties step up their efforts to court the massive Cuban-American voting bloc that has the potential to sway a close election in Florida. President Bush is to share the stage tonight at the Republican National Convention with his former housing secretary, Mel Martinez, who, if elected, would be the first Cuban-American U.S. senator.

But Garcia and officials with the Washington, D.C.-based New Democrat Network, said his hiring underscores what polls show is an emerging political division in a community traditionally viewed as staunchly Republican.

The New Democrat Network is an independent group that raises money in support of moderate Democrats. In 2002 it launched a Hispanic outreach effort to boost the party’s standing among the fastest-growing group of voters.

Garcia, who starts immediately, will serve as a senior advisor to the group’s president, and will be responsible for developing a strategy to lure more Cuban American and other Hispanics to the Democratic ticket.

‘‘This is a symbol of how the Cuban-American community is changing. This is something that a few years ago no one would have thought possible,’’ New Democrat Network President Simon Rosenberg said. “We’re putting up competition for the Cuban vote.’‘

Garcia, executive director of CANF since 2000, is no stranger to politics. He lost a County Commission race to Miguel Diaz de la Portilla in 1993 and was appointed to the Public Service Commission by Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles.

He said Wednesday that the community needs to broaden its approach beyond the Republican Party.

PARTY `LISTENING’

‘‘We should advocate for a better long-term Cuba policy with anyone who will listen,’’ Garcia said. “The Democrats are listening.’‘

Garcia’s tenure at CANF included the defection of more than a dozen members who split to found the rival Cuban Liberty Council, an unabashed hard-line organization that the White House has sought to court.

But moderates say Garcia is credited with making the Foundation approachable to newer waves of Cuban exiles, who are at times at odds with the historic exile community.

FOUNDATION LEADER

Foundation chairman Jorge Mas Santos hailed the move, suggesting it would benefit Cubans to ensure they’re represented by the Democratic party.

‘‘We don’t want the extreme left of the Democratic Party to guide the Cuba policy or thinking on Cuba,’’ Mas Santos said. “It is important to keep all the bases covered because we don’t know who is going to win in November and we can’t be so irresponsible as to put Cuba’s fate in the hands of one person or one party.’‘

A poll released in June by the New Democrat Network suggests a widening gap and some moderation in a community long viewed as monolithic. According to the poll, Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry enjoyed a commanding lead over President Bush among Cuban Americans born in the United States and a decided edge among Cubans who arrived in the country after 1980.

LARGEST GROUP

The poll, though, showed Bush crushing Kerry among the largest—and most politically active and vocal—group of Cuban-American voters: those who arrived before the 1980 Mariel boatlift.

Those voters backed Bush by more than 80 percent and the president campaigned in Miami last week to shore up their support—his first visit to Miami since he sought to bolster his Cuban-American base by hardening the U.S. line against Castro amid complaints that he had failed to live up to his campaign promises.

TOUGHER APPROACH

Bush’s tougher approach on Cuba has endeared the president to hard-liners who had all but threatened to skip his reelection, but has triggered a backlash from more moderate Cuban Americans who want to be able to travel and support relatives in Cuba.

Garcia and other Cuban-American leaders have suggested that the new restrictions—which cut travel to Cuba back from yearly to once every three years—will only end up hurting families.

Those are the voters Garcia will likely pursue.

‘‘There is no question that our job is to make sure we have a credible agenda that speaks to Hispanics,’’ he said.

Republicans who pushed for the strict restrictions questioned how Garcia can sell Kerry, who has been accused of waffling on Cuba.

‘‘Joe Garcia is going to have a very tough time defending John Kerry’s terrible record on Cuba, particularly in comparison to President Bush’s proactive policies to hasten the regime’s change,’’ said Rep. David Rivera, a Miami Republican who recently proposed getting even tougher on people who travel to the island by taking away state benefits.

ANTI-CASTRO EFFORTS

Garcia said Bush hasn’t been particularly effective in helping to oust Castro.

‘‘I think what you’re going to find is that we embrace a policy that promotes civil society, that pushes for change,’’ he said.

Herald staff writer Elaine de Valle contributed to this report.

  1. Follow up post #1 added on September 02, 2004 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Sounds like the beginning of the end for President Bush re-election if he can’t carry the Cuban vote aka Florida.

    Also sounds like the end of any substantive meaning to Cuban American National Foundation.



    Cuba consulting services

  2. Follow up post #2 added on September 03, 2004 by I-taoist with 213 total posts

    I’m proud of Joe Garcia for making this move.  It demonstrates that he has the humanity and compassion to recognize and resist the cruel and heartless measures recently enacted by the Bush administration.  I wish him only luck and the success to defeat Mr. Bush in Florida.  When you separate families and impose harsh and unconstitutional restrictions on people’ human rights and freedoms, you don’t deserve to be re-elected, no matter what your stated rationale.
    .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


  3. Follow up post #3 added on September 03, 2004 by Dana Garrett with 252 total posts

    This move really surprises me.  I read that CANF was created at the suggestion of the Regan administration. 

    To have its director resign to work for Kerry certainly places a distance between CANF and the Republican Party.  This would have been unimaginable while Jorge Mas Canosa was alive.


  4. Follow up post #4 added on September 04, 2004 by Ralph

    I don’t want to talk about Garcia decision,that is pure poli-
    tical game,business as usual,but today I would like to see and
    did not in the Havana..Forum issues,the sadly event in Osetia
    of North,it will be compassionate to talk and condemn at least
    that tragic event which has left 250 death toll,the majority
    are kids.


  5. Follow up post #5 added on September 04, 2004 by Jesus Perez

    Mr. Garcia sounds like a realistic, open-minded man with vision, compare that to the statement by Mr. Rivera advocating to take away state benefits to those traveling to Cuba. This guy should have stayed in Cuba and run a CDR in his neighborhood.


  6. Follow up post #6 added on September 08, 2004 by Ralph


    Today is for me to venerate to our Madonna,Our Lady of the
    Charity or just our Cachita.So that affaire related to Joe
    Garcia is irrelevant for me today.I thougt put on line on
    your page some comments in respect to the set 8th,but the
    lack of registration,hampered my inicial intention,so,sorry,
    for robbering a little space to Mr. Garca issue and let me
    end to remind every cuban about not to forget lit a candle
    for Our Lady,Heminghway wasn’t a cuban and let as present to
    Cachita in the Cobre Church,his very Nobel Prize Medal,which
    he gained in 1954 for his superb short novel “The Old and the
    Sea”,a friend of my familiy and also good friend of Heminghway
    askek him at that time,why? and Papa told him,I was given much
    more by Her.For us Cuba is Cachita and viceversa,so Long live
    Cuba and its people and VIVA Our Cachita.-


  7. Follow up post #7 added on November 04, 2004 by Raul

    I admire Joe Garcia for his stance and for his efforts to bring about a positive change in our Cuban community. I am fed up with Republican Party abuse of our exile Cuban community by using our community for their political agenda, and every 4 years they come to our community with empty promises and always say Cuba Si, Castro No! and have done nothing to get rid of Castro. I was an Independent voter until this year, when I have recently switched to Democratic Party, who I believe care more for working class prreople like me.


  8. Follow up post #8 added on November 04, 2004 by Raul

    I admire Joe Garcia for his stance and for his efforts to bring about a positive change in our Cuban community. I am fed up with Republican Party abuse of our exile Cuban community by using our community for their political agenda, and every 4 years they come to our community with empty promises and always say Cuba Si, Castro No! and have done nothing to get rid of Castro. I was an Independent voter until this year, when I have recently switched to Democratic Party, who I believe care more for working class prreople like me.


  9. Follow up post #9 added on November 04, 2004 by Ralph

      Garcia moving was not for cubans purposes,just for his very
      political game and maybe he brought more disgraces to Kerry
      campaign,just look,my goodness me!!! about 4000000 votes more
      than Kerry in the very important Popular votes,very clear
      victory in the electoral votes.etc.It seems to me that Kerry
      no deserved advisor like Joe Garcia,He was a total disgrace.


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