Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Clinton, Trump, Cuba and the 2016 Election

Trumps words and actions versus Clinton's words and actions on Cuba, the rule of law and the 2016 election

The Cuba embargo has become an issue in the 2016 election
In June of 2014 the New York Post reported on Hillary Clinton’s address to the Council of Foreign Relations while promoting her book, “Hard Choices” where she declared “The embargo is Castro’s best friend,” and that the regime was using it as an excuse” to blames all of its problems on the United States.  

In a previous book, Living History, she describes an exchange with Raul Castro’s wife in 1995 on pages 314-315 offered a different perspective: “I climbed aboard the bus and spotted an empty seat next to an amiable-looking lady with white hair. She looked familiar but I couldn’t remember who she was. Probing for clues, I asked her how long it had taken her to reach Paraguay (which would give me an idea of her country’s geographical location) and how things were going in her homeland:  “Fine,” she said stone-faced. “Except for the embargo.” I had managed to seat myself next to Vilma Espin, Fidel Castro’s sister-in-law who was representing him at the Conference.”

The dictatorship viscerally wants all sanctions eliminated in order to be completely legitimized internationally and to obtain additional financial credits. The claim that the Castro regime wants the embargo to continue is an absurdity when one considers that all the spies for the Cuban dictatorship uncovered by U.S. counter-intelligence were pushing an anti-embargo agenda within the U.S. government, academy and media.

Secretary Clinton might want to ask herself why her brother in law Roger Clinton was paid $30,000 by Cuba Travel Services in 2000 to lobby his brother, President Clinton to loosen government restrictions on travel to Cuba. Roger Clinton may have violated the law when he failed to register as a lobbyist in this matter.

A close Clinton ally, Terry McAuliffe, in 2010 traveled to Cuba to do business with the dictatorship, but could not produce the paperwork with the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to obtain a license to travel to Cuba, saying they no longer had copies. At the time when journalists requested copies of the paperwork from OFAC they were told by an OFAC spokesman that "the office does not comment on specific licenses."  Apparently an exception was made with Donald Trump.

When Secretary Clinton on July 31, 2015 went to Florida International University to make a speech in which she called for the lifting of the embargo on the Castro regime stating “Engagement is not a gift to the Castros – it’s a threat to the Castros. An American embassy in Havana isn’t a concession – it’s a beacon. Lifting the embargo doesn’t set back the advance of freedom – it advances freedom where it is most desperately needed,” she failed to make a simple gesture. A few hundred yards from where the former Secretary of State spoke there was a monument to the thousands of victims of the Castro regime, but she did not visit it.

History contradicts her analysis. The only time the Castro regime permitted the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit Cuban prisons, and Amnesty International to visit Cuba was in the late 1980s after Ronald Reagan took a hard line on human rights violations in Cuba at the United Nations, rolled back the Carter Administration’s 1977 opening of the travel embargo in 1982, toughened economic sanctions, and began broadcasting uncensored news to Cuba over Radio Marti.  

The Clinton Administration engaged in unilateral concessions to the Castro regime and ended up with a mass exodus in 1994, a worsening human rights situation in Cuba, four young humanitarians murdered in an act of state terrorism over international airspace ordered by Fidel and Raul Castro on February 24, 1996. Despite all of this Bill Clinton refused to enforce the law tightening sanctions in 1996 in response to the shoot down, shook hands with Fidel Castro in 2000 and opened up trade with the Castro regime. In 2015 former President Clinton warmly greeted and met with Raul Castro despite his role in the murder of American citizens.

Some of what Newsweek missed in their Cuba reporting and the 2016 election
Meanwhile the Obama policy that Hillary Clinton championed in 2014 and 2015 has not had the desired results.  Human rights violations are at record levels in Cuba, there is a mass exodus of Cubans fleeing the island not seeing a future there  with the U.S. legitimizing the regime and assisting in a generational succession, and the U.S. is more isolated than ever in Latin America with its embrace of the Castro regime alienating it from democrats. The Colombian peace initiative, backed by the Obama administration, mediated by Raul Castro in Havana was rejected by the Colombian people in a national vote. The situation in Venezuela has descended into crisis as Nicaragua slides into dictatorship.

Not to mention that what Secretary Clinton and the Obama administration call “engagement” and advancing freedom” in practice has meant American companies such as Starwood trafficking in stolen properties, and Cuban Americans discriminated against by American corporations such as Carnival and American Airlines to satisfy the whims of the Castro dictatorship. Unfortunately opening up business with the Castro dictatorship has been a long term objective of Hillary Clinton most likely pushed on her by her donors. 

These positions have had consequences in the 2016 election in Florida after Mr. Trump switched positions on Cuba policy, abandoning his previous support of the Obama administration in this area.

Young millennials at Florida International University in Miami were outside picketing against Secretary Clinton protesting her anti-embargo speech on July 31, 2015 and harassed by the police, who did not want the youthful protesters to be visible, and tried unsuccessfully to corral them in a designated protest zone. Nevertheless an FIU poll appeared on September 14, 2016 claiming that a majority of Cuban Americans no longer supported the embargo.

Two days later on September 16, 2016 Donald Trump announced that he would roll back the unilateral concessions made by the Obama administration and tighten the economic embargo if the human rights situation didn’t dramatically improve and all political prisoners freed. Havana rejected the offer. Polls began to tighten in Florida and crowds of Cuban Americans met with candidate Trump in Little Havana chanting his name. It was a good start after spending more than a year on the same page as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on Cuba policy.

One sided hit piece on Trump ignored Clinton's Castro connections
This appears to have led the Clinton campaign to mount an offensive to block what inroads Mr. Trump could make in the Cuban community that could make the difference in a tight race in Florida.

Less than two weeks later on September 29th Newsweek broke a story that Trump may have violated the embargo in 1998 and Hillary Clinton began attacking him with radio advertisements, without mentioning her own anti-embargo position. Nor did she mention that Trump enterprises in 1998 like many businesses today hired a consulting firm to explore opportunities in Cuba because the Clinton administration was encouraging it at the time. Mr. Trump began to lose ground in Florida to Secretary Clinton when he did not provide context to the events of 1998 in a sustained manner. Meanwhile staunch Cuba embargo supporter Senator Marco Rubio is doing much better in the polls.

All of this may explain why many Cuban exile leaders have not taken the red meat dished out by the Clinton Campaign. At the same time Cuban Americans maintain a healthy dose of skepticism with both campaigns, but unlike Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton has a track record not just of words but also actions that could impact her support among Cuban Americans, but this would require a Trump campaign in Florida that could seize the initiative and so far that has not happened. Meanwhile the members of the Latin American Builders Association have endorsed Secretary Clinton despite the above facts.

However, this obvious manipulation by the Clinton campaign can be quickly neutralized by the Trump campaign by a sustained advertising campaign highlighting on Spanish radio and TV in the South Florida market the contrast between him and Secretary Clinton on this issue. This would place Secretary Clinton in the unenviable position of either continuing to support the Obama administration Cuba policy's many failures or distancing herself from it with a pledge to empower Cubans and not the Castro dictatorship as the current policy does. 

In the post-mortem of this election the Cuban American vote in South Florida will be worthy of study and analysis.

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