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Posted July 27, 2004 by publisher in Cuban Americans

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By NBC 6 Reporter Hank Tester

There is a lot of talk about the Kerry presidential campaign making inroads with the Cuban Exile Community. The conventional wisdom is that if Kerry can peel away some of that 80 percent of the Cuban vote that went to George W. Bush in 2000 there is a chance the Massachusetts senator could carry Florida.

Armed with polls, Democratic operatives have spread the word they can capitalize on Cuban American dissatisfaction with Bush. The first target—those Cuban Americans who believe Bush has not done enough to bring down the Castro Regime. The second group in the Democratic crosshairs are those Cuban Americans who are unhappy with the recent restrictions imposed by the Bush administration, which affect travel, remittances, and products that can be taken to families in Cuba.

The New Democrat Network, a Democratic soft money group, has produced a series of Spanish-language TV spots hammering away at the Bush record in the White House. They purchased a hefty TV and cable schedule in the South Florida market.

Kerry has yet to make a pilgrimage to Little Havana, sip cafecitos with the locals, and lay out face-to-face, a plan on what he’d do about Cuba. We know that he supports continuing the economic embargo and believes that “face-to-face contacts” with educational and cultural exchanges are important.

Kerry has criticized the Bush travel policy saying that limiting travel for Cubans with family on the island to once every three years is “cynical, election-year policywhich would harm Cuban Americans with families on the Island while doing nothing to hasten the end of the Castro regime.”

The Kerry stance, still a bit hazy, is certainly opposed to that of the current administration. It is that contrast that keeps making the papers and TV reports and the Democratic spin masters have set Kerry up as the alternative on the issue.

The South Florida Kerry faithful, working the exile community, have created a lot of smoke. What they lack is fire.

The question is, who will stand up in Little Havana?

Who is the man or women who will call a press conference and say something to the effect that “it is time we Cubans vote Democratic, Kerry best serves our interest.” That person cannot be just anyone. They have to have stature and respect, someone that will get folks talking in the streets, on the Spanish language radio stations.

Thus far that person has not showed up on the South Florida political scene. Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez appears in some Kerry political TV commercials and fronted a pro-Kerry press conference. The populist mayor has plenty of visibility but also plenty of baggage

Our political reporter, Nick Bogert, produced a story naming Cuban Americans who are advising the Kerry team. They include Paul Cejas, a former Miami-Dade School Board member and former Ambassador to Belgium during the Clinton Era; Alfredo Duran, a lawyer, Bay of Pigs veteran, and proponent of dialogue with the Castro Regime; and a man by the name of Fernando Amandi, who Nick tells us is “a retired executive with Citibank and Motorola.” Amandi has put his money where his mouth is, according to Nick; he has contributed over $50,000 to Kerry and raised even more for the Kerry campaign.

The problem is none of the above are big names in the exile community. Amandi just moved into Coral Gable from Boca Raton. Duran is known but controversial due to his visits to Cuba in recent years. And Cejas is respected, but is not a household name.

Polls show that the Democrats have a shot at peeling off some Cuban American votes. The dissatisfaction is there. The task is how do you tip some of those voters into the Kerry column? The key is developing a focal point, someone who will lead the charge, give the speech, and carry the campaign to the streets. So far that person has not surfaced in Little Havana.


Hank Tester is a general assignment reporter for NBC 6. He often writes for the NBC 6 Web site and appears mornings on WFFG and WGMX-FM, Marathon, Fla. Tester often reports on the exile community.

E-mail him: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

  1. Follow up post #1 added on July 28, 2004 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Who will stand up among moderate Cuban Americans?

    This person would be an instant leader for the majority of Cuban Americans.

    Cuba consulting services

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