Vested Special Interests Willing To Spend Big Bucks To Prevent Change In U.S.-Cuba Relations
Earlier today we looked at some of the ways Obama's agenda for change is bumping heads with entrenched vested interests that have powerful and lucrative stakes in the status quo-- and congressional shills who will stand with them in return for the immense sums in legalized bribes funneled into their careers. This week the push towards normalizing relations with Cuba is meeting just this kind of resistance.
One Political Action Committee, the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, a right wing throwback to the days of knee-jerk Republican catering to anti-Castro fanatics in Florida, is on the warpath because members of the Congressional Black Caucus had the temerity to travel to Cuba, meet with Castro and called for a new policy. Anti-Castro extremists at the US-Cuba Democracy PAC, who would prefer another Bay of Pigs to an unthawing of relations, short-circuited today and attacked the CBC members who visited Cuba. They blasted Barbara Lee (D-CA), Mel Watt (D-NC), Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Mike Honda (D-CA), Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Laura Richardson (D-CA), calling them "a fringe" and "an embarrassment.," claiming the trip "gives a bad name to the Congressional Black Caucus."
The Cuba Democracy PAC has given hundreds of thousands in political contributions to Democrats and Republicans in Congress as part of an effort to maintain stringent trade and travel restrictions with Cuba. The group in recent years has focused on outreach efforts to the Democratic freshman classes of 2004, 2006 and 2008.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) has been the PAC's point person in the House and has helped funnel huge sums of money to newer members of Congress who she has mobilized to vote against any and all attempts to modernize relations with Cuba. Wasserman-Schultz was one of only eleven House members in 2008 who received the maximum $10,000 contribution the PAC handed out. They lavished over $630,000 on House members in the last election cycle. The big recipients ($10,000 each + the amount bolded given to them from Wasserman-Schultz directly):
Melissa Bean (Blue Dog-IL) + $7,000
John Boehner (R-OH)
GK Butterfield (D-NC)
Jim Clyburn (D-SC)
Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL)
Ron Klein (D-FL) + $10,000
Tim Mahoney (defeated Blue Dog-FL) + $10,000
Patrick Murphy (Blue Dog-PA) + $6,000
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL)
Albio Sires (D-NJ)
Chris Smith (R-NJ)
Other major recipients of the payoffs from Wasserman-Schultz and the US-Cuba Democracy PAC, totally over $10,000 each, included Jason Altmire (Blue Dog-PA- $13,000), John Barrow (Blue Dog-GA- $13,500), Chris Carney (Blue Dog-PA- $14,500), Kirsten Gillibrand (Blue Dog-NY- $12,000), Heath Shuler (Blue Dog-NC- $12,000)... detecting any pattern?
This is what President Obama will have to face when he tries dragging America's Cuban policies into the new century-- obstructionist Republicans plus well-paid Democrats who are happy to cross the aisle for bucks whenever they need to. Most Americans, on the other hand, as you can see from this L.A. Times poll think that the outdated and counterproductive reactionary policies towards Cuba have overstayed their welcome.
The current issue of the Economist suggests that this issue is far more important to the rest of Latin America than it is to Americans. Obama will be meeting with the heads of 34 nations of this hemisphere between April 17-19 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.
[T]he region’s political landscape has changed. Most obviously, the United States now has in Barack Obama a president who is as widely admired in Latin America as Mr Bush was disliked... The most divisive issue concerns the one country that is not invited. Latin America is now united in wanting to end the diplomatic isolation of Cuba, and many would like the United States to lift its long-standing economic embargo against the island.
That is because a transition of sorts is under way in Cuba, with Raúl Castro replacing his brother Fidel as president, even if there are no signs that this change will be matched by democracy supplanting communism. It is also because Latin America’s many left-of-centre governments, to varying degrees, see friendship with Cuba as an issue of symbolic importance.
But for the United States, Cuba is a matter of domestic politics (as are nearly all the other issues that matter to Latin Americans, such as drugs and immigration). Mr Obama was poised to announce, ahead of the summit, the scrapping of curbs imposed by Mr Bush on visits and remittances to the island by Cuban-Americans. He may also allow American companies to sell Cuba communications gear, such as an undersea fibre-optic cable, according to an administration official.
Many Americans would like him to go further. Bills introduced last month in both houses of the United States Congress with strong bipartisan support would allow all Americans to travel to Cuba. Another would ease food sales to Cuba, already allowed under cumbersome conditions. But most supporters of these bills stop short of wanting to scrap the embargo altogether while Cuba still lacks political and economic freedoms. And an influential minority in the Democratic party opposes any change in policy.
Most of the nations, if not all, plan to call on Obama to agree to readmit Cuba to the Organisation of American States. Meanwhile, Obama is being held hostage to corrupt members of Congress, like Wasserman Schultz and Democratic Senate candidate Kendrick Meek, who love the taste of right-wing Cuban-American money that has been flowing to Democrats as well as to Republicans lately.
Unhappy with greedy special interests determining U.S. policies? Do something about it; join the donor strike.
UPDATE: Wingers More And More Isolated With Their Odd Cold War Rhetoric
Even the Cuban American National Foundation, the #1 Cuban exile organization with an historically anti-Castro posture, is changing course, "breaking from the past" and "charting a new direction," as they put it themselves today.
“For 50 years we have been trying to change the Cuban government, the Cuban regime,” said the foundation’s president, Francisco J. Hernandez, a veteran of the Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961. “At the present time, what we have to do is change the emphasis to the Cuban people — because they are going to be the ones who change things in Cuba.”
Kind of leaves the lunatic fringe and their congressional handmaidens look like a bunch of out of touch kooks.