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Posted November 10, 2012 by publisher in Cuban American Politics

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Publisher: This is a great summary of the current status of Cuban American thoughts about Cuba and the future of US Cuba relations written by Geoff Thale of the Washington Office on Latin America or WOLA. I copied and pasted the text of the article below but you may want to visit the original article at the Christian Science Monitor in order to appreciate all the links out from the article.

Cuban Americans voted for Obama in record numbers, signifying a shift in this constituency’s views on US policies in Cuba.

In Florida’s Cuban-American community, change is in the air. There have been signs of this change for several years. As we have pointed out in the past, recent polling shows shifting Cuban-American views on US Cuba policy, especially among recent arrivals and young Cuban Americans. Tuesday night, the changing opinions and changing demographics of the Cuban-American community made themselves heard at the polls. 

Advocates of change in US policy toward Cuba have long argued that the community is shifting: Newer immigrants and younger Cuban-American voters are less committed to continuing the US embargo of Cuba, and US policy toward Cuba is less of a priority issue for them than it was for the previous generation.

Defenders of hardline policies toward Cuba have always responded that Cuban-American voting gives the lie to this argument (see the post-election commentary by Capitol Hill Cubans, here). They point to the continuing support for hardline positions in Congress and in the Florida legislature, and they emphasize the modest support for presidential candidates who have more pro-engagement positions. “Where’s the beef?” has been their essential response.

In Tuesday’s election results in Florida, we can see exactly where it is.

As Anya Landau French pointed out ... in The Havana Note, and Phil Peters in the Cuban Triangle, Cuban Americans voted for Obama in record numbers. Recent reports suggest that Obama secured 48 percent of the Cuban-American vote, edged out only slightly by Romney. Obama, who liberalized people-to-people travel, dropped the Bush administration’s hostile rhetoric toward Cuba, and allowed Cuban-American families to visit Cuba as much as they want and send as much money to Cuba as they want, increased his percentage of the Cuban-American vote by ten points. The size of the shift is especially significant: Until this year, Bill Clinton’s 1996 campaign had held the position as most successful Democratic campaign ever in garnering Cuban-American votes.  On Tuesday, Obama surpassed Clinton’s numbers.

Also, on Tuesday night, the hardline bloc’s historical dominance of Cuban-American politics was finally broken: Rep. David Rivera was defeated by moderate Cuban-American Joe Garcia. Rivera introduced several pieces of harsh anti-Cuba legislation, including an amendment to turn back travel regulations to the George W. Bush era. After a bizarre election scandal, in which Rivera allegedly funneled thousands of dollars in cash to support a previously unknown primary challenger, Garcia defeated Rivera by ten points.

And, as William Vidal noted in On Two Shores, Democratic candidate for Florida State Legislature Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Cuban American who supports Obama’s liberalization of travel to Cuba, defeated the hardline incumbent Alex Diaz de Portilla in the district that includes little Havana.

Will these changes affect US policy?

In a second term, the Obama administration will almost certainly defend its family travel, religious, and student travel rules. Obama’s strong showing in the Cuban-American community is convincing evidence that the family travel policy is politically advantageous. It is not clear if they are ready to go much further.

If the administration decided to respond to changing political realities in South Florida, what could it do?

Potential areas for change include:

Taking Cuba off the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism (particularly since Cuba plays a visible role in encouraging the FARC in Colombia to participate in peace talks with the government and cooperates with the United States on drug interdiction).

Opening discussions with the Cuban government on a range of issues, including, but not limited to, the release of Alan Gross.

Relaxing the rules for non-tourist travel to Cuba.

Increasing cooperation on issues of mutual interest, including preparations for oil spill response, search and rescue, and drug interdiction efforts.

Relaxing Office of Foreign Asset Control enforcement of business dealings between Cuba and third countries.

There will be pressure from the remaining hardline Cuban-American members of Congress and their allies not to move US Cuba policy into the 21st century. There are still plenty of hardliners who are bent on doing everything they can to turn back the clock on US-Cuba relations. There is still plenty of passionate opposition to the Castro brothers and to Cuba’s Communist government. But the Cuban-American community is changing. The writing is on the wall.

– Geoff Thale is WOLA’s Program Director. Mr. Thale has studied Cuba issues since the mid-1990s and traveled to Cuba more than a dozen times, including organizing delegations of academics and members of Congress.

  1. Follow up post #1 added on November 13, 2012 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Tim Padget from TIME magazine just wrote an article that also talks about how Cuban Americans voted for Obama.

    “The idea that Florida Senator Marco Rubio would help Mitt Romney salvage some of the Latino electorate was always one of the Republican Party’s more half-baked strategies in 2012. Obama won 71% of the Hispanic vote; Romney got an abysmal 27%. Despite his best efforts, Rubio is a Cuban-American, which counts for a lot on his humid home turf of South Florida but muy poco in the arid Southwest. That’s where the lion’s share of U.S. Latinos reside and where groups like Mexican-Americans, the largest Hispanic bloc, often resent the preferential immigration treatment that Washington gives Cubans fleeing the Castro dictatorship.

    But now the GOP has to wonder how much long-term clout Rubio, a rising conservative star and a top prospect for the 2016 presidential nomination, has with even Cuban voters. Exit polling by the Miami-based Bendixen & Armandi International, a Democratic-leaning firm, shows Obama winning 48% of Florida’s Cuban-American electorate. That would be a record for a Democratic presidential candidate and a remarkable 13% jump for Obama, whose 35% share in 2008, which tied former President Bill Clinton’s 1996 take, was the most a Dem had ever pulled. Many conservatives in Miami’s Cuban community dispute Bendixen’s findings, but another reputable exit poll has Obama winning 49%.”

    Read more: http://swampland.time.com/2012/11/13/82250/#ixzz2C6hnuyxU

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  2. Follow up post #2 added on November 14, 2012 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    FANTASTIC summary of potential for US Cuba relations http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/11/14/obama-cuba-and-united-states/

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  3. Follow up post #3 added on November 17, 2012 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    “According to exit polls, Obama took 48 percent of the Cuban American vote in Florida this week, up from 35 percent in 2008. In 2000, Al Gore took only 25 percent of that vote.”



    “Bendixen & Amandi International, a polling firm that works for Democrats, found in its exit polls that 52 percent of Cuban-American voters cast ballots for Romney, while 48 percent went for Obama. That would be by far the greatest percentage of Cuban-American support for a Democratic presidential candidate in decades.”


    Floridas Cuban-Americans vote for the Democrat for the first time….....in FOREVER !!!

    “Barack Obama did not need Florida to win the election, but it chose him anyway.  What is significant from the point of view of Cuban-American relations is that a major part of the electorate who voted for him was a majority of Florida’s Cuban-American population.  Screw Marco Rubio’s fallacious pretense of being one of the “refugees”, forget all the traditions of the past that guaranteed a Republican majority, Obama stole it out from under the forces of the Miami Mafia, and boy are they pissed….......jejeje. “


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