Heaping Helpings of Cuba News and Gratitude

U.S. Cuba Relations

Views of GOP Pollster and Senator Rubio Diverge on U.S.-Cuba Relations

Continuing a debate he started last week with the release of the Atlantic Council Heartland survey, Glen Bolger, one of the Republican Party’s leading political strategists, is telling his party’s presidential candidates in a Miami Herald op-ed that they’ve missed an important foreign policy trend; “voters’ support,” he writes, “for the administration’s Cuba policy crosses the political spectrum.”

Bolger, a partner in Public Opinion Strategies, who did the polling for the successful Senate campaigns of Thom Tillis in North Carolina and Mike Rounds in South Dakota, conducted the Atlantic Council survey of voters’ opinion in Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, and Tennessee.  The results showed big majorities in these four Midwestern states in support of reestablishing diplomatic relations, ending the ban on legal travel, and lifting the trade embargo.

In addition to encouraging his party’s candidates to pay heed to these opinions, Bolger singled out “a small group of elected officials who have made a career advocating for this [Cold War] policy.  This dogmatic approach,” he says, “is no longer reflective of the American voter, even among Cuban Americans.”

With the exceptions of Donald Trump and U.S. Senator Rand Paul (KY), Republican candidates for the presidency have strongly criticized President Obama’s decision to restore relations with Cuba.  Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, for example, called the new policy a “foreign policy misstep by this President,” and “an ill-advised move” whose only beneficiaries are “The Castro Brothers.”  Texas Senator Ted Cruz described the policy as being “unconditional surrender” to Cuba.

But, as the presidential race has developed, few candidates have spoken more on Cuba than Republican Senator Marco Rubio. The Presidential hopeful has Cuban roots and has made a long career of working with Cuban-American constituents as Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives and as Senator. In an interview with The Associated Press, Rubio discussed his position on Cuba leading with the promise to downgrade the status of the U.S. Embassy in Havana to an Interest Section on Day One of his Presidency.

Bolger believes the stances taken by candidates who support the embargo represent bad politics for his political party.  Rubio, however, disagrees.  In his words, “People think it’s because we’re being stubborn or holding on to old policies. I’m prepared to change strategies toward Cuba, but it has to be one that yields results.”

In Cuba

Cuba’s Septeto Santiaguero Wins Latin Grammy Award

Cuba’s own Septeto Santiaguero, together with his Dominican collaborator, José Alberto “El Canario” won the Latin Grammy last Thursday for Best Traditional Tropical Album. Their album, “Tributo a Los Compadres. No quiero llanto,” is a tribute to the much-acclaimed Cuban duet Los Compadres.  The band dedicated their victory to the 500th anniversary of Santiago de Cuba. Fernando Dewar, director of the Santiaguero Septet noted, “Cuban traditional music has won, and now that the Buena Vista Social Club is no longer in the international arena, replacement is guaranteed.”

Cuba’s Foreign Relations


Update: Cuban migration strains regional relations, migrants guided by smart phones

Last Thursday, Cuba’s Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodrí­guez Parrilla visited both Ecuador and Nicaragua to discuss pressing migration concerns. Ecuador has become the most popular point of departure for Cubans hoping to migrate to the U.S. An estimated 45,000 Cubans are expected to migrate through South and Central American counties to Texan and Californian borders this year.

The route Cubans travel has become more organized, dictated by information from previous travelers over social media through smartphones, reports the Associated Press . “Those who’ve arrived have gotten in touch with their acquaintances, their friends, and tell them how the route is. That means that no one needs a coyote,” said Lideisy Hernandez, a 32-year-old psychologist. “You go making friends along the way. I myself have 70, 80-something friends on Facebook who’ve already gotten to the United States.” Cubans use a widely connected group of family and friends to make their journey to the United States relatively safe, avoiding many of the perils faced by other northward moving migrants.

Cuba’s government does not respond to 90 percent of inquiries regarding people with Cuban passports but no visas, meaning many countries along the route to the U.S. allow Cubans free passage. When Cubans reach the U.S. border they can approach an established point of entry, declare their nationality, and qualify for permanent residency under the Cuban Adjustment Act.

As we reported last week, Nicaragua’s border closure with Costa Rica to prevent Cuban migrants from passing through Nicaragua on the way to the U.S triggered international responses to the urgent and visible rise in Cuban migration to the United States.

The Cuban Adjustment Act (or CAA) is an oft-cited impetus for Cuban migration, with many Cubans fearing that normalization will also mean the end of their special immigration status. The CAA was enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1966 to grant legal protections to political refugees arriving from Cuba.  Cubans who reach the U.S border are given automatic entry, a status no other refugee enjoys, and then qualify for benefits, integration into U.S. society, and eligibility for citizenship.

Cuba becomes 173rd state to submit UN climate plan for COP21

Cuba has recently become the 173rd state to submit a national climate plan to the United Nations.

The plan is part of an international effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and thus decrease the effects of global warming.

Member states have been submitting plans in the build up to the UN Climate Change Conference being held in Paris from November 30 to December 11.

The overall Paris plan will take effect in 2020 and would allow states to take action on climate change and take advantage of a “low carbon” economy.

Recommended Reading:

Cuba Policy: Time to Double Down!, Richard E. Feinberg, Latin America Goes Global

Professor Richard E. Feinberg encourages the Obama Administration to take more steps toward greater American investment in Cuba through executive action.

M.L.B. Picks Tampa Bay Rays to Play Possible Exhibition in Cuba, Michael S. Schmidt, The New York Times

Update on previous story regarding MLB interest in holding exhibition games in Cuba. The MLB has chosen the Tampa Bay Rays to play against the Cuban National Team, pending government approval.

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