Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Watch the Cuban Vote in Florida

John McAuliff writes for the Huffington Post

A factor in President Obama's potential victory in Florida are Cuban Americans who wish to maintain the normal liberty to travel and send remittances/investments. More than 25 percent of the Cuban community returned last year and an even larger percentage presumably provide assistance to their family, and their own future stake in Cuba.

Although not all have become citizens and voted, enough have that Obama can expect to increase his percentage above the 5 percent gain over Kerry in 2008. In addition Cuba's migratory reforms have significantly broadened the group who can benefit from freedom of travel. In particular, the second phase announcement allowing return of previously excluded categories of illegal emigres affect people who have lived in the U.S. longer. With little hope of visiting Cuba, they likely have been more inclined to citizenship. Will they want to give up the opportunity suddenly afforded them to return?

All these folks know that a Romney/Rubio/Diaz-Balart/Ros-Lehtinen victory will slam the door shut to at least the Bush-era level of restriction of travel once every three years and very limited remittances.

Romney's campaign has run a scurrilous Spanish language ad in south Florida linking Obama to Presidents Chavez and Castro. Havana's denunciation of the semi-embassy U.S. Interests Section for meddling in domestic politics is a way to say publicly that it does not have a dog in the US race.

Even though, of course it does. For more than 200 years Cuba's fate has been intertwined with the U.S.

Only the hard-liners in Cuba welcome a hard line victory in the U.S. The government and party recognize that an Obama victory at least keeps the door open to Cuban Americans and purposeful visitors who are affecting public and elite opinion in the U.S. and in the case of the former, providing much needed grassroots investment. There are few American visitors who depart believing embargo and isolation make any sense, regardless of their conclusions about Cuba's political and economic system.

Moreover, a second Obama term offers the potential of deeper change in the bilateral relationship. The denunciation of USINT also signals that Havana will continue to maintain firewalls until Washington is prepared to grant the same respect for Cuba's sovereign independence as it does to Vietnam and China.

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