Stating the Obvious — Obama says Cuba’s not a Terror State

April 17, 2015

Here at Cuba Central, the remarkable changes in U.S.-Cuba relations have inflicted collateral damage on two of our most cherished metaphors.

Once, we were fond of the phrase, “U.S.-Cuba policy is stuck in the amber of its own ineffectiveness.” But, after the 2009 and 2011 travel and remittance reforms, the policy started to be unstuck. So, we retired it.

Today, we sadly wave goodbye to our beloved comparison of Cuba policy to “the self-licking ice cream cone.”

The “self-licking ice cream cone,” a phrase invented by Brigadier General Simon P. Worden, describes a process “that offers few benefits and exists primarily to justify or perpetuate its own existence” — as in the case of Alan Gross.

Before Alan Gross was freed from prison as part of last December’s diplomatic breakthrough, hardliners declared that the Obama administration should not negotiate for his release or change a single word of U.S. sanctions policy until he was freed unconditionally.

Hardliners applied the same pretzel logic to Cuba’s false designation as a state sponsor of terror. So long as Cuba remained on the list, they could brandish the argument that Americans shouldn’t visit or spend money there, in order to defend pointless and self-defeating policies like the ban on travel, which amounts to an abridgement of our basic rights as Americans.

With the elegant simplicity of Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes’ 133-character tweet — “Put simply, POTUS is acting to remove #Cuba from the State Sponsor of Terrorism list because Cuba is not a State Sponsor of Terrorism” — the thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations caused the “self-licking ice cream cone” metaphor to melt in our hands.

To President Obama, the evidence spoke for itself.

Even the Miami Herald found this logic compelling. Its editorial board responded to the news of Cuba’s delisting by admitting that the designation no longer fit Cuba and no longer reflected the world as it had become:

“As politically unpalatable as it may seem, the Obama administration’s decision to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism is an inevitable bow to reality… Crossing Cuba off the list should not be deemed a reward but an acknowledgment of the change in behavior.”

But of course we can still count the Cold Warriors in Congress as unconvinced. They clutched the ice cream cone as if it hadn’t melted, as if the world hasn’t changed, as if the evidence and the powerful affirmation of the most influential historically pro-sanctions hometown newspaper meant nothing.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (FL- 25) said in a statement, “Today, the administration has jeopardized U.S. national security by choosing to absolve the Castro dictatorship of its dangerous anti-American terrorist activities across the globe.”

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, on his first day as a presidential candidate, declared, “Cuba is a state sponsor of terrorism,” and blasted the decision as a “chilling message to our enemies abroad that this White House is no longer serious about calling terrorism by its proper name.”

Dumfounding, to say the least.

Diaz-Balart’s stand might cost the Miami Herald a subscription or two, but CNN points out that Rubio’s absolute commitment to keeping sanctions on Cuba is likely to cost him Cuban American votes in his presidential campaign in Florida, as well as millennial votes across the country. He is on the wrong side of history and the generational divide.

As Latino Decisions wrote recently, Cuban American hardliners represent “a generation that is out-of-step with younger Cubans and the broader Latino electorate in Florida. Looking forward to the 2016 presidential election, U.S. relations with Cuba will not mobilize Cuban-American voters, and to the degree that it does, it will be in support of opening the island to American commerce and values.”

In other words, the choice between living in the past and the future has more than political ramifications.

Like denying the overwhelming scientific evidence of climate change and the economic and environmental damage it is already doing in Florida and elsewhere, denying that diplomacy offers a greater chance than sanctions at realizing the values that most Americans and Cubans share leaves the hardliners look locked in a bygone age.

Diplomats for Cuba and the U.S. have already met to hammer out a framework for discussing human rights. They will soon sit down to exchange views on the return of fugitives from justice currently enjoying refuge in Cuba and the U.S.

Differences on problems like human rights matter. Unless we give diplomacy the chance to work, we can never know if those differences can be reconciled — or resolved to the satisfaction of all — but this is the choice demanded by changing times.

So we must ask opponents of normalization: Do you live in the present or the past? Do you live in the world of sanctions or diplomacy? Do you live in the world, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, that’s busy being born or dying?

As the ground shifts beneath the feet of our leaders, those are the questions they must answer.

ANNOUNCEMENT:

The Center for Democracy in the Americas is offering a special opportunity to bring our supporters to Cuba and support CDA’s work to end the embargo.

Last December, President Obama announced sweeping reforms in U.S. policy toward Cuba. You are invited to be part of our people-to-people trip to celebrate this historic policy victory and to hear from the people that this change will benefit most — Cubans. We will meet with young entrepreneurs, students, and artists about their renewed optimism for the future now that President Obama has significantly eased sanctions and allowed for greater exchange and dialogue between our countries.

The trip will take place June 17-22. Space is limited, so please contact us if as soon as possible you are interested in joining us or if you would like more information.

You — our supporters — were part of this historic diplomatic opening. We sincerely hope you take this opportunity to celebrate with us.

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Surprisingly Substantive Summit

April 10, 2015

If the past inevitably was prologue, Western Hemisphere leaders attending the 7th Summit of the Americas in Panama could simply mail (or email) in the predictable results.

The U.S. President would brush aside criticisms of having ignored the region, yet again. He’d lecture the attendees on reducing deficits and trade barriers and raising democratic standards, and pose awkwardly with his counterparts, perhaps in a gaily decorated Guayabera, before rounding up the Secret Service and jumping aboard Air Force One.

This year the Summit is different. It’s not a complete departure from the past, but a welcome break with what has come before.

President Obama entered the Summit Friday morning having created a different context. The United States and Cuba are on the cusp of restoring diplomatic relations. He welcomed the chance to sit with Raul Castro at the table with the rest of our hemisphere’s leaders. His administration has deported two of the most notorious Salvadorans who can now face responsibility for heinous human rights violations during their country’s civil war. He drew the line last fall on Congressional inaction and used his executive authority to reform U.S. immigration policy, and followed up with a significant aid package for the region.

One misstep that should not be minimized is the administration’s decision to slap sanctions on seven Venezuelans, claiming that violations of human rights and the democratic process in their country threatened U.S. national security. At least it provided a useful reminder of the gap that still exists between the region’s adherence to the principle of sovereignty and our country’s belief in the universality of human rights and consequent self-assigned role of enforcer.

Cuba walks on the Summit stage for the first time, not as a sidekick in a unique set of negotiations, but as a regional actor in a complicated and nuanced place itself. Cuba is playing a central role in peace talks which hold the promise this year of settling the civil war between Colombia and the FARC. It joins a Summit largely united behind its greatest ally, Venezuela, and against the United States on the issue of sanctions. But it also finds itself in a region collectively hobbled by a slowing economy and declining prices for oil and natural resources.

For the moment, the Summit is a milestone for Cuba’s diplomacy and Raul Castro’s leadership. Looking forward, however, Cuba must find a place less defined by Cold War hostilities of the past, and more focused on how it can pass along a viable economy to a next generation that is committed to staying on the island and keeping its values relevant and alive. Fist fights on the streets of Panama City over competing definitions of “civil society” are not the way to the future.

There are real issues — compelling and important — on the conference table that need to be considered outside the Cuba-U.S. context. “Prosperity with equity, and the challenge of cooperation in the Americas,” may be a mediocre slogan, but it is a reasonably fair statement of what might bring the North and South together. Summits rarely end with decisive results, but this one could be heading in the right direction.

There is every indication that Cuba will finally come off the U.S. state sponsors of terror list. When this happens, the restoration of diplomatic relations will not be far behind. We can soon count the days before a Cuban raises his country’s flag above his nation’s embassy on 16th Street in Washington, and our country’s flag flutters in the breeze off the Malecón in Havana. These vivid images will illustrate how President Obama’s belief in engagement is being vindicated by results.

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Normalization becomes the new normal

April 3, 2015

We promise to say this in 450 words or less. It is, after all, a holiday. And for many, the prospect of a nuclear agreement with Iran is closer to the top of mind than Cuba.

But can’t we just start this weekend by considering — and celebrating — what’s happened these last seven days?

Cuban and U.S. diplomats sat at the same table for unprecedented framework talks on human rights. U.S. policymakers dropped hints that Cuba would soon be dropped from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. AirBnB started offering U.S. travelers the ability to make on-line reservations in Cuba. A new poll showed majority support among Cuban Americans for President Obama’s new policies. And American University released a fascinating series of papers: Implications of Normalization.

On December 16th, 2014, any one of these developments could have been sufficient to lead the news and instill us with a healthy measure of optimism.

Back then (by which we mean just 109 days ago) there were two constants in U.S.-Cuba policy: the United States had an unbreakable commitment to facilitating regime change on the island by isolating Cuba’s government and immiserating the Cuban people; and that policy, because it was owned by powerful Cuban American hardliners, would never be changed.

In that era of decades-long hostility, every hopeful moment that unexpectedly arose also evanesced quickly. It seemed inevitable that events would force one or both governments to regress to the mean.

Since December 17th, a new narrative — one that values normalcy over hostility — has taken hold.

We’re not saying everything is better. The embargo remains in place. The U.S. still seems unable to wash the regime change mentality completely out of our system. Cuba’s government continues to seek and exert control (50% Internet usage by 2020? Really?); although loyalists dissent publicly from those holding onto their “siege mentality.” Of course, both capitals still hold divergent views on human rights and foreign policy and express them unreservedly.

Yet, something fundamental is changing. The sharp disagreements that drove us apart for decades are now being mediated in a process that is designed to narrow and resolve our differences.

Today, Americans are engaged by the possibility they soon could use their MasterCard while staying in an Airbnb in Havana, or that further changes in public opinion will encourage U.S. policy makers to abolish all remaining limits on travel and lift the embargo once and for all.

Ultimately, we think these changes will build on one another and, perhaps faster than we imagine, normalization will be the new normal for U.S.-Cuba relations.

With that, we wish a happy weekend and happy holiday to you all.

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Walls and Doors — A Good Week for Diplomacy

March 30, 2015

Last December, when President Obama announced he had reached an agreement with President Raúl Castro to restore diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, you’d have thought it was a dark day for diplomacy given the reaction of some Senators on Capitol Hill.

“I think it stinks,” New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez said of the breakthrough, “It’s a reward that a totalitarian regime does not deserve.” He later added that “18 months of secret negotiations produced a bad deal, a bad deal for the Cuban people.”

Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Florida Senator Marco said “By conceding to the oppressors in the Castro regime, the president and his administration have let the Cuban people down.” He also called President Obama “the worst negotiator that we’ve had as President since at least Jimmy Carter, and maybe in the history of this country.”

Just a side note: It was thirty-eight years ago this week the U.S. and Cuba convened talks that led to the signing of provisional maritime boundary and fishing rights agreements. Although these pacts contributed to the peace that has prevailed in the Florida Strait ever since, we’re guessing Rubio never sent President Carter a card wishing him a happy anniversary.

Were they right? Are these really dark days for diplomacy? We can think of four things that happened this week that show they are not:

1) Although Rubio and Menendez fought the Obama Administration’s support for Cuba attending the 7th Summit of the Americas meeting in Panama next month, Cuban dissidents Manuel Cuesta Morúa, Guillermo Fariñas, and Berta Soler will be taking part in civil society events, the Miami Herald reported. Cuba is unhappy about them being there, but they will arrive alongside a contingent of civil society activists attending with Havana’s blessing. Perhaps all can watch Presidents Obama and Castro shake hands again.

2) Pedro Luis Pedroso Cuesta, deputy director of Cuba’s foreign ministry, announced Thursday that a delegation of Cuban diplomats will be in Washington next week for human rights talks with a U.S. team led by Tom Malinowski, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State. While next week’s meeting is to discuss a framework for “future human rights talks,” and both countries criticize each other for their respective human rights records, “observers say even the start of a dialogue is an indication of progress in the countries’ broader move to normalize relations,” the Associated Press reported.

3) Although not a product of U.S. diplomacy, negotiations between Cuba and the European Union are also continuing talks on human rights as part of an accelerated commitment to normalize relations between Brussels and Havana. John Caulfield, who served in Cuba as head of the U.S. Interests Section until last year, linked the parallel negotiations in human rights, telling the Associated Press, “The very fact, I think, that Cuba is in a formal process where they agreed to talk about human rights to the European Union and the United States makes it more difficult for them to do the heavy-handed stuff they’ve done in the past.”

4) This week, a delegation of U.S. diplomats sat down in Havana with Cuban counterparts to discuss increasing Internet connectivity and access to information for the Cuban people. In a symbol of just how much has changed in a relationship that was forged during the Cold War era of the Teletype machine, Conrad Tribble, a U.S. diplomat stationed in Havana, tweeted about the talks here.

Although Cuba, in much of our country’s political discourse, will get no credit for fulfilling its side of the diplomatic bargain struck last December, what transpired this week could not have happened without Cuba’s government holding up its end. Carlos Varela, the Cuban singer-songwriter, writes in “Muros y Puertas, “there are those who build walls there are those who open doors.” In this week’s diplomacy, the doors swung open in both directions.

In his essay, Rubio Truly Hates Diplomacy, Daniel Larison, a senior editor at The American Conservative, lit into Senator Rubio for his instant condemnation of President Obama’s new Cuba policy. Larison acknowledged that diplomacy was not guaranteed to succeed, but said “Rubio wants to deny the U.S. and Cuba the possibility that engagement offers in order to cling to a confrontational policy that has yielded nothing but bitterness and poverty.”

Rubio said President Obama’s diplomacy “let the Cuban people down.” But, Yoani Sanchez, who will be covering the Summit of the Americas in Panama as a journalist, begs to differ.

“The truth is that on December 17 — St. Lazarus Day — diplomacy, chance and even the venerated saint of miracles addressed the country’s wounds,” she wrote. “Nothing is resolved yet, and the whole process for the truce is precarious and slow, but on that December 17th the ceasefire arrived for millions of Cubans who had only known the trenches.”

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Cuba: On Drugs

March 20, 2015

On Wednesday, Cuba got the results of its annual drug test. It passed. If we had to guess, no one on the island was sweating out the wait for the 2015 edition of the U.S. State Department narcotics control strategy report. But several pro-sanctions hardliners had to be disappointed by the results.

As required under laws passed by the U.S. Congress, the State Department monitors the performance of countries around the world on their efforts to control illegal drugs and chemical precursors, as well as how they enforce laws and meet global standards on money laundering and financial crimes.

Countries with low marks get branded as “major illicit drug transit or illicit drug producing” or “major money laundering” countries, and risk losing certain forms of U.S. foreign aid. Low marks or high, many nations question why the United States, a wealthy market for illegal drugs, should judge the internal law enforcement policies of others. Cuba, which is effective at counter-narcotics enforcement, resents such reports as intrusions on its sovereignty, and pays little heed to the threat of being penalized, since it receives no government aid from the U.S.

We’re shining a light on the report now because its findings are relevant to the domestic debate in the United States on President Obama’s decision to seek the resumption of diplomatic relations. The report’s findings support the notion that reversing Cuba’s diplomatic isolation and increasing bilateral cooperation on issues like counter-narcotics is in both countries’ self-interest.

Volume One of the report makes clear that Cuba is a high achiever on narcotics control. It gets good grades on measures like domestic law enforcement, prevention, and education programs; for devoting its scarce resources to interdiction, and for its bilateral agreements on counterdrug cooperation and policing with dozens of other nations.

In Volume Two, which identifies the major money laundering countries of 2014, Cuba gets good grades on so many measures it is placed in the least worrisome category of “Other Countries/Jurisdictions Monitored,” with nations like close U.S. allies Sweden, Norway, and New Zealand. This means that Cuba earned higher marks than Canada, Chile, China, Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Vatican, and the United States itself.

In its country-specific report, the State Department makes special mention of Cuba’s cooperation with the U.S. Coast Guard Drug Interdiction Specialist at the U.S. Interests Section, the sharing of tactical intelligence about suspected traffickers with the U.S., and its demonstrated willingness to apprehend and turn over U.S. fugitives involved in drug cases.

These findings align with the views of Randy Beardsworth, a former Acting-Undersecretary for Homeland Security, who also served as a Director for Defense Policy on the National Security Council Staff for two administrations, and is a retired Coast Guard Captain.

In an email written to Cuba Central staff, Beardsworth said, “Over the past 15 years the strongest and most professional functional relationship the U.S. has had with Cuba has been between the U.S. Coast Guard and the Cuban TGF (Coast Guard) — and this relationship has been primarily based on maritime counter drug cooperation.”

Expanding diplomatic relations and opening embassies, in his view, offer the prospect of building on the relationship and expanding the effectiveness of both countries’ counter-narcotics strategy.

Beardsworth told us, “As the two countries normalize relations we will need both broader and deeper functional relationships in the counter drug arena. Neither country has a deep understanding of the other country’s agencies, laws, and processes. We need to learn how best to cooperate and we need to build on the trust and goodwill between the U.S. Coast Guard and the TGF. As a practical matter this means more functional liaisons and educational programs between relevant agencies.”

The Cubans are apparently ready to do this and more. Cuba has previously proposed intensifying the cooperation that now occurs on a case by case basis, by negotiating a formal agreement to fight drug trafficking. The Prensa Latina news agency reported that Cuba’s chief negotiator, Josefina Vidal, sees the diplomatic breakthrough giving new impetus to formal talks on this issue.

If diplomatic relations helps the U.S. and Cuba to expand cooperation and make more progress in their counter-narcotics programs, this will eliminate a familiar “drug of choice” talking point against President Obama’s policy. In just the last few months, hardliners have argued (here, here, and here) against diplomacy with Cuba, or removing it from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, for its alleged complicity with drug trafficking networks.

Of course, the State Department report demolishes such charges, and instead concludes that “enhanced communication and cooperation between Cuba and the United States… would likely lead to increased interdictions and disruptions of illegal drug trafficking.”

This is another good reason for full diplomatic relations, and could make the critics who are pressing so hard to derail the President’s diplomacy with Cuba vulnerable to the label “soft on drugs.”

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If Eight Polls Run Against You, You Run Against Conan

March 13, 2015

Since December 17, 2014, eight public opinion polls have been released that all show strong public support for President Obama’s decision to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba and his call to end the embargo.

That’s got to bother the hardliners who have devoted their careers to punishing Cuba with U.S. sanctions.

A year ago, when The Atlantic Council survey showed 56% of all Americans, and 63% of Floridians, in support of normalizing relations, it clearly got under the skin of Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25).

When Rep. Diaz-Balart interpreted the results for the New York Times, he called them “an absolute lie.”

In fact, the Atlantic Council’s findings that there is widespread support for a modern Cuba policy — across the country and in Rep. Diaz-Balart’s backyard — were beyond dispute.

Today, we’re sharing the results of the surveys released in the last ten weeks that all show huge national support for the President’s reforms.

In its December 17-21, 2014 survey, the Washington Post found 64% support and just 31% opposition for establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba.

CBS News reported 54% support, 28% disapproval, and 18% “don’t know” for reestablishing relations in its poll on December 22, 2014.

Pew Research found 63% support and 28% disapproval of reestablishing relations on January 11, 2015.

The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll reported 60% approving and 30% disapproving restoring diplomatic ties with Cuba on January 17, 2015.

Florida Atlantic University in its January 2015 survey of Hispanic Attitudes found 73% of its respondents favoring and just 12% opposing diplomatic ties with Cuba.

The Associated Press found 45% approval, 15% disapproval, with 37% having no opinion, of the U.S. government restoring diplomatic ties in its survey conducted January 29-February 2, 2015.

The Gallup Poll reported that 59% favored and 30% opposed reestablishing relations in its survey conducted February 14-15, 2015.

This is to say nothing of the bipartisan majority, found in the Beyond the Beltway survey released this week, which sees diplomatic relations as a key part of advancing human rights. That poll reported that 64% of voters — including 51% of Republicans — favor ditching the embargo against thirty-six percent who favor keeping it in place.

Wow, eight polls in ten weeks — that’s not just a trend, it’s a tidal wave. So, where does that leave the hardliners now?

Frustrated, we’d guess. Rather than attacking public opinion, they’ve pointed the muzzles of their guns at a most unlikely target, Conan O’Brien.

After the broadcast of “Conan In Cuba” last week, which captured the late-night comedian’s drunken visit to the rum museum, dance lessons, his effort to learn the Clave, and his short-of-heroic attempt to master Spanish, a few critics went nutty.

One critic called the show an “80-minute infomercial for the Western hemisphere’s longest running and bloodiest dictatorship” and dismissed Conan as a “propagandist.” Another likened him to the “useful idiots,” a term used by the Soviets (hello, they went out of business in 1991) for those “who unwittingly promoted their greatness and turned a blind eye to their flaws.”

Of course, Orlando Luis Pardo (infamous for his “Let him Rot” comment about Alan Gross) suggested that Conan “Get a Castro’s rationing card and apply for Cuban citizenship, where you could never broadcast one of your shows!”

Given this unmoored response, you’d think Conan had hand-wrapped Top Secret information at the cigar factory and passed it to the enemy in a humidor.

On the other hand, what alternative do the hardliners have when the tide of public opinion is running so decidedly against them? They run against Conan. Good luck with that.

It seems fitting to close with a dog story, since Conan barked a lot when he was in Cuba.

During World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt brought his Scottish terrier, Fala, to meetings with Winston Churchill, and even let the dog tour defense plants on his own, a cheerful sight for a war-weary America.

During his 1944 reelection campaign, following a rumor he’d left the dog behind in the Aleutian Islands, FDR was attacked for allegedly spending $20 million to rescue Fala.

Now, that was an absolute lie.

Roosevelt defended Fala in a speech. “He half-jokingly declared,” says one account, “that his critics sullied the reputation of a defenseless dog just to distract Americans from more pressing issues facing the country. Addressing the attacks, FDR said, “of course, I don’t resent attacks, and my family doesn’t resent attacks, but Fala does resent them.”

Weighed against the massive public support for getting rid of our country’s failed Cuba policy, these red-baiting attacks on a red-haired comedian by members of the Cold War Commentariat really don’t amount to much.

So, we don’t resent them, and we hope Conan doesn’t either, although we’re not all that worried about him. As this footage shows, Conan is pretty good at defending himself.

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Breaking News: Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) Facing Federal Corruption Charges

March 6, 2015

Senator Bob Menendez, shown here on Twitter celebrating National Pancake Day earlier this week, has something a little more serious on his plate this afternoon.

CNN is reporting that Menendez, New Jersey’s senior Senator, and the former Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will face federal criminal corruption charges for allegedly using his Senate office to promote the business interests of Dr. Salomon Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist.

Under a headline reading, “Menendez Expected to Face Federal Corruption Charges,” the New York Times indicates that federal prosecutors are focused on gifts Mr. Menendez received from Dr. Melgen in exchange for official acts.

Charges could be filed within a matter of weeks.

Evidence of his problems surfaced in 2013 when Menendez had to pay back $58,000 for free trips to the Dominican Republic he’d taken on Melgen’s plane.  Later, there were charges of impropriety after the Senator defended Melgen against Medicare’s accusations that he had overbilled for services in his eye care practice, and helped Melgen who sought a port screening security contract in the Dominican Republic.

“In the past,” as the National Journal reported this afternoon, “Menendez has denied any wrongdoing.” On occasions, he has blamed Cuban intelligence agents for pushing the allegations against him, and called the Justice Department probe a part of their smear campaign, as The Daily News remembered today.

But, the New Jersey Advance reported last week, “a current aide and a former counsel” to Senator Menendez filed an appeal to a federal district court order that they testify before a grand jury looking into the Senator’s conduct.  This afternoon, a spokeswoman for Menendez said in a statement carried by the Washington Post, “we believe all of the Senator’s actions have been appropriate and lawful and the facts will ultimately confirm that.”

Senate seats in New Jersey are not without controversy.  On May 1, 1981, the late Senator Harrison “Pete” Williams was convicted on nine counts of bribery and conspiracy for promising to use his office to further a business venture, as the New York Times reported.

Two decades later, Senator Bob Torricelli, also a New Jersey Democrat, withdrew from his 2002 reelection campaign after being “severely admonished” by the Senate Ethics Committee for accepting gifts from a donor in exchange for having intervened on his behalf in overseas business deals (earlier, a yearlong Justice Department investigation ended without charges being filed).

Torricelli was the primary author of the 1992 Cuban Democracy Act, which codified and strengthened sanctions against Cuba, barred ships that dock in Cuba from landing at U.S. ports for six months, and prohibited foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies from trading with Cuba.

Menendez has been a fierce critic of U.S. policy toward Cuba under President Obama.  In response to the deal struck between the two countries to resume diplomatic relations, he said Obama had “vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government” and would “invite further belligerence” toward human rights and democracy advocates.”

Writing for the editorial page of New Jersey’s Star-Ledger newspaper, Tom Moran observed, “Menendez has been a thorn in President Obama’s side of late, opposing him on Iran and Cuba.  Now, it seems, he will be busy for a while defending his own neck.”

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