President Obama’s attempts at détente with Florida’s southern neighbor Cuba have been well-received throughout the nation and by many in Florida. Approval for the policy change has been wide-ranging and controversy at a minimum. That is unless a zealot has power in some capacity, as Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart currently has in the US House.
Diaz-Balart has placed a rider on on Appropriations Bill that is moving through the subcommittee on transportation, housing and urban development appropriations per the Miami Herald. The measure would limit travel and trade with Cuba, effectively gutting President Obama’s proposed changes to policy.
GOP lawmakers have used riders on appropriations bills liberally in recent years to try and enact ideological policy changes. Diaz-Balart as one of the “College of Cardinals” who chairs an appropriations subcommittee has a remarkable amount of power to impact changes within the House.
Diaz-Balart is swimming against public opinion and the tide of history. Regardless of your views of the Castro regime and economic sanctions in general it takes either a brave person or someone blinded by ideology to actually claim the Cuban embargo enacted in 1961 unilaterally by the United States has been successful. All it has served to do is allow the Castro brothers to use the United States as the bogeyman in their country for all that goes wrong and all the inadequacies of the communist dictatorship.
Many Cuban-Americans in Miami love Ronald Reagan but his policies produced the same results as Democrats they disliked such as Jimmy Carter and John Kennedy. No change in Castro’s policies, though Castro himself helped Reagan get elected by releasing pressure on his economy in the form of the mariel boatlift.
The US sanctions against Cuba have been long viewed as a joke in western Europe, and arguably have done little over a half century to modify the behavior of the Cuban regime. Since President Clinton signed the embarrassingly onerous Helms-Burton law in 1996 which among other things aggressively sought an international embargo against Cuba, trade between Western Europe and the Communist regime in Havana has more than doubled according to the Financial Times.
Now it is time for the United States and Florida in particular to benefit from the growing economic influence of Cuba. I firmly believe most Republicans in Florida if they are intellectually honest about their views on economic growth and free trade would embrace President Obama’s policy changes if not for the pressure coming from an increasingly isolated faction in Miami-Dade County.
How this all plays out will be one of the fascinating subplots of Florida politics in 2015 and 2016.