Once mighty, Miami’s political guard left out of conversation on Cuba


Patricia Mazzei reports on President Barack Obama’s historic trip to Cuba last month, which marked the culmination of a foreign policy he laid out eight years ago as a candidate, when he broke with his predecessors and advocated for change because doing otherwise seemed anachronistic and “ridiculous.” Mazzei’s article, which centers on how Miami’s most conservative Cuban-American “political guard” is reacting to feeling “left out” of the conversation on Cuba. She underlines that four of them hail from Miami, calling them the “new city exiles.” Supposedly, they claim not to care. Here are excerpts:

He did more than just meet with Raúl Castro. Obama, flexing his office’s extensive executive power over international affairs, dismantled almost every piece of the U.S.’s Cold War-era approach to Cuba. Left out of the conversation: anyone who disagreed, including the eight Cuban Americans — Republican and Democrat — in Congress 57 years after the Cuban revolution. Half of them — one senator and three representatives — hail from Miami, the new city exiles made in Havana’s old image.

For eight years, they’ve had zero input on the issue on which some of them built their political careers. And now they face the prospect of four or eight more years of the same, with a new White House tenant come January. Castro has promised to retire in 2018.

Miami’s Cuban-American political guard risks losing any influence it has left at a time when Cuba could undergo its most sweeping changes.

“There’s no doubt about it,” said Pepe Hernández, president of the Cuban American National Foundation, which supports the Cuba policy Obama unveiled 15 months ago. “Like they say in dominó, they have been shuffled off the table, quite substantially, in the past few years — but especially since Dec. 17, 2014. “But I don’t think, honestly, they care much.” They don’t.

“I’m not hurt at all — it frees up my day,” Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said of not talking to Obama. “He’s of no consequence to us.” But what about the next president?

Of the five presidential candidates left from both political parties, only Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a Cuban-American Republican whose father is from Matanzas, has adopted the traditional hardline position on Cuba and vowed to reverse Obama’s policy. Ohio Gov. John Kasich hasn’t gone as far, though he’s called the policy changes a “big mistake.” GOP front-runner Donald Trump, while critical of the White House’s negotiated terms with Cuba, has said Obama’s approach is “fine.”

On the other side, there’s deep commitment to Obama’s Cuba doctrine. Democrat Hillary Clinton came last year to Florida International University, the cradle of Cuban-American academia, to advocate lifting the embargo. Her opponent, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, has visited Cuba several times. Last month, standing on a Miami Dade College stage, he praised Cuban “advances” on healthcare and education. [. . .]

For full article, see http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/article70786987.html

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