Havana Cuba Business Travel Culture and Politics

Havana Cuba News

Cuba Politics News

Posted November 08, 2004 by publisher in US Embargo

Email this article | Print this article | Search Havana Journal        

Vanessa Bauza | Sun Sentinel

As if to underscore the Cuban government’s apparent indifference over President Bush’s re-election, state-run television played his win deep inside their nightly newscast on Wednesday after stories about new cornea transplants and Brazil’s booths at an international trade fair in Havana.

Cuba’s government had long argued that the outcome of the U.S. election mattered little here. During a current-events TV show a government moderator echoed that sentiment, predicting that Bush’s victory would change nothing for Cubans, while for Americans it could bring “four more years of darkness and anxiety.”

How might Bush’s re-election affect Cuba policy?

Some analysts predict much of that will depend on pressure from the exile community and Cuban-American politicians, including newly elected Sen. Mel Martinez. In 2003, many exiles and Republican legislators from Florida complained that three-quarters of the way into Bush’s first term he had only talked—not acted—tough on Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Despite the Cuban-American community’s overwhelming support for Bush in 2000, his policies on Cuba differed little from former President Bill Clinton’s, they said.

Then, this spring, the Bush administration unveiled a 423-page report with wide-ranging initiatives meant to hasten a democratic transition in Cuba by tightening sanctions.

During a second term, Cuban-Americans will have to compete for attention from a president who does not depend on their support to get re-elected and has a crowded foreign and domestic agenda. “Will Cuban-Americans waste these four years or will they be a turning point? That’s really the question,” said Hans de Salas, a research associate at the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies. “The Cuban-American community must make a convincing argument that Cuba must be considered a priority in the administration’s foreign policy, specifically ... when it comes to ensuring national security.”

William LeoGrande, dean of the School of Public Affairs at American University and a Cuba expert, predicted Bush would again face amendments approved by the House and Senate to ease the ban on American travel to Cuba. In recent years farm-state Republicans have joined Democrats to try to lift some sanctions. However, the amendments have been stripped from final bills.

“My prediction would be that we’ll see a continuing of tough rhetoric, resisting the loosening of sanctions, but probably no dramatic new initiatives to toughen sanctions further,” LeoGrande said.

Analysts do not think Bush will curb U.S. food sales to Cuba. In the past three years, the Cuban government has signed cash-only contracts with agribusiness giants and other food brokers worth about $900 million, including banking and shipping fees. This has helped create an anti-embargo lobby in states where Cuba policy was once a non-issue.

At Havana’s International Trade Fair, where 124 U.S. firms—including 27 from Florida—vied for contracts last week, some executives said they cast absentee ballots for Sen. John Kerry in hopes he would weaken travel and other restrictions. Others supported Bush.

“For us it doesn’t matter either way. We’re here as American businessmen, helping our U.S. economy and our export deficit,” said Richard Waltzer, president of the Fort Lauderdale-based drink-mix company, Splash. “We operate based on what the law is today, not what it might have been.”

Many planned to stay the course, despite modest profits and bureaucratic red tape on both sides of the Florida Straits.

“We haven’t made anything from what we’ve put in,” said Bill Schroeder, president of Miami-based Purity products, which has sold condiments to Cuba. “It’s a long-term investment. We’re not here to make a quick buck. We’re here to establish a relationship down the road.”

Across Cuba, many had hoped Kerry would win and reduce bilateral tensions.

Bush is widely regarded as the most aggressive of the 10 U.S. presidents since Castro seized power. Despite statements from several Bush administration officials that they would not initiate a military campaign to bring about a transition in Cuba, Castro repeatedly has warned that an invasion could be in the cards.

“Remember, we are talking about an administration which said it had to act agilely and effectively to avoid a succession in Cuba. What does that tell you?” said Miguel Alvarez, an adviser to Parliament President Ricardo Alarcon. “I think it’s not only about feeling indebted [to Cuban-American voters] but his political philosophy of global domination which Cuba is a part of.”

Opposition leader Manuel Cuesta Morua, who belongs to a moderate coalition of dissidents that often criticizes U.S. policy on Cuba, was disheartened by Bush’s win.

“Bush feels he is on a mission to spread democratic values in corners of the world where they don’t exist,” Cuesta Morua said. “In the case of Cuba I fear he may try to drown the Cuban government further and, along the way, the Cuban people.

“The Cuban government is going to take advantage of all this to further repress [Cubans] socially, economically and politically.”

Other dissidents have been encouraged by Bush’s plan to increase financial support for civil society in Cuba, among other measures. At an election night party at the residence of James Cason, the top U.S. diplomat in Cuba, dissidents and wives of political prisoners wore Bush-Cheney buttons and voted for the president by an 83 percent margin in a mock election.

Ex-political prisoner Martha Beatriz Roque was one who supported Bush for tightening sanctions. “I think for the first time that we have felt the impact of the embargo,” Roque said. “It’s the only way we can obtain the transition to democracy.”

Vanessa Bauz can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

  1. Follow up post #1 added on November 09, 2004 by Dana Garrett

    Two odd statements:

    1. “Bush is widely regarded as the most aggressive of the 10 U.S. presidents since Castro seized power.”

    Bush is aggressive but more aggressive than Kennedy?  Itís seems to me that an outright invasion is about as aggressive as one nation can get with another.

    2. “Ex-political prisoner Martha Beatriz Roque was one who supported Bush for tightening sanctions. “I think for the first time that we have felt the impact of the embargo,” Roque said. “It’ the only way we can obtain the transition to democracy.”

    Now they feel the impact of the embargo more than in the 90s during the “special period?”  Unless something is happening in Cuba now economically I am unaware of, I find that statement incomprehensible. 

Would you like to add more information?

Only members can add more information. Please register or log in

  • Advertise at Havana Journal Inc
We recommend this AirBnB Food and Drink Experience... Cuban flavors: Food, Rum and Cigars
Images of Cuba
Custom engine in American classic car in Havana
Follow Havana Journal
SUBSCRIBE to our Cuba Watch newsletter
LIKE us on Facebook

FOLLOW us on Twitter

CONNECT with us on Linked In

Section Archive
Havana Journal, Inc. BBB Business Review

Member of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy