Saturday, June 17, 2017

Trump And Cuba-- And How The DCCC Is Making Sure Diaz-Balart Keeps His FL-25 House Seat


Writing for The Atlantic this morning, Ben Rhodes, the architect of Obama’s Cuba opening—dug down into why Trump’s ill-thought out Cuba policy will fail. Short version: tossing political bones to the reactionary Marco Rubio and Mario Diaz-Balart and their elderly supporters isn’t “policy.” It’s a pointless mistake. Rhodes pointed out that one of the most depressing things about Trump’s decision to partially roll back parts of the Cuba opening is how predictable it was. “A Republican candidate for president makes last-minute campaign promises to a hard-line Cuban American audience in South Florida. Senator Marco Rubio and Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart hold him to those promises. The U.S. government announces changes that will hurt ordinary Cubans, harm the image of the United States, and make it harder for Americans to do business and travel somewhere they want to go.”
While President Obama raised the hopes of Americans and Cubans alike with a forward-looking opening in diplomatic, commercial and people-to-people ties, President Trump is turning back the clock to a tragically failed Cold War mindset by reimposing restrictions on those activities. While not a full reversal of the Obama opening, Trump’s actions have put relations between the United States and Cuba back into the prison of the past—setting back the prospects for reform inside of Cuba, and ignoring the voices of the Cuban people and a majority of Americans just so that he can reward a small and dwindling political constituency.

It didn’t have to be this way, and it won’t stay this way.

…Last month, President Trump travelled to Saudi Arabia-- a country ruled by a family, where people are beheaded and women can’t drive. He announced tens of billions of dollars in arms sales, and said: “We are not here to lecture. We are not here to tell other people how to live.” Can anyone credibly argue that Trump’s Cuba policy is motivated by a commitment to promote human rights around the world? No. Moreover, as a democracy-promotion vehicle, the embargo has been a failure. For more than 50 years, it has been in place; for more than 50 years, a Castro has governed Cuba. If anything, the embargo has provided a justification for the Cuban government to suppress political dissent in the name of protecting Cuban sovereignty.

By breaking with this past, the Obama administration improved the lives of the Cuban people, and brought hope to people who had learned to live without it. The nascent Cuban private sector-- shops, restaurants, taxis-- grew dramatically, fueled by unlimited remittances from the United States. Over a quarter of Cubans today work in the private sector. This represents both an improvement in their quality of life, and in their human rights, as they are no longer reliant on the state for their livelihoods.

…[Trump’s actions] represent a step backwards. By restricting engagement with large swaths of the Cuban economy controlled by the military, Trump is simultaneously demanding that Cuba embrace capitalism while making it harder for them to do so. Cuba will be exposed to less engagement from American companies and less incentives from American revenue. U.S. businesses can only press for reforms in how Cuba structures its economy-- like allowing foreign companies to hire Cubans directly-- if they can actually do business in Cuba. Meanwhile, the Cuban government is not going to let go of their holdings because the U.S tells them to; they’re far more likely to turn to Russia and China. By removing America from the equation, Trump delivered a better deal for Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.

While Trump did not take dramatic steps to restrict travel, he made it more difficult. U.S. travelers now have to go through the absurd process of figuring out if a hotel they’re staying at is owned by the Cuban military, which applies to most of Old Havana. Ominous language about requiring Americans to document their activities, and warning that they could be audited, will have a chilling effect. Despite rhetoric about supporting Cuban entrepreneurs, any reduction in travel is going to hit them-- common sense suggests that someone who stays at a military-owned hotel will also ride in taxis, eat in restaurants, and shop at stores owned by ordinary Cubans. Those are the Cubans that Trump is hurting--not hotel owners who will still welcome tourists other countries.

So what is gained by these actions? Trump will say he is promoting democracy, but the opposite is true. Cuba is going through its own leadership transition, with Raul Castro set to step aside later this year. What could have been an opportunity for the United States to support an evolution in Cuba’s system through engagement has now become an opportunity for hard-liners to tighten their grip on power. Meanwhile, there is no evidence that the Cuban government is about to collapse and give way to a democratic movement. On the contrary, the Cuban government is comfortable containing the dissidents that the United States supports.

…The instinct for isolation that Trump embraced will fail. Ironically, the hard-liners who pressed Trump to make these changes are only condemning themselves to future irrelevance. Polls show that over 70 percent of Americans-- including a majority of Republicans--support lifting the embargo. Younger Cuban Americans are far more likely to support lifting the embargo than their parents and grandparents. Fifty-five senators have co-sponsored a bill to lift the travel ban, and Republicans from states that depend on agriculture want to promote business in Cuba. Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported that a poll showed 97 percent of the Cuban people supporting normalization with the United States.

Donald Trump is delivering his remarks on Cuba at the Manuel Artime Theater, named for a leader of the Bay of Pigs Invasion. He couldn’t have found a better symbol for the past. But ultimately, the past must give way to the wishes of the people. Fidel Castro is dead. A new generation, in Cuba and the United States, doesn’t want to be defined by quarrels that pre-date their birth. The embargo should--and will-- be discarded. Engagement should-- and will-- prevail. That is why Trump’s announcement should be seen for what it is: not as a step forward for democracy, but as the last illogical gasp of a strain of American politics with a 50-year track record of failure; one that wrongly presumes we can control what happens in Cuba. The future of Cuba will be determined by the Cuban people, and those Americans who want to help them, not hurt them.
In return for the bones Trump threw him, Mario Diaz-Balart, agreed to vote for TrumpCare, a bill that will devastate the healthcare system in South Florida and take away real access to healthcare from tens of thousands of Diaz-Balart’s own constituents. Last year, a year that saw Hillary win overwhelmingly in Miami-Dade (two to one) and come within 2 points of winning FL-25, the DCCC ignored the Democratic candidate, Dr. Alina Valdes running for the seat. “Too progressive,” “too independent-minded,” and “too grassroots” is how the establishment powerbrokers saw her. She’s running again in 2018… but the DCCC has other ideas about how to deal with Diaz-Balart, a close crony of corrupt South Florida political boss Debbie Wassermann Schultz’s, someone whose seat she has endeavored to protect in past election cycles. The DCCC and the Wassermann Schultz establishment are working to insert the man Al Gore famously described as “the single most treacherous and dishonest person I dealt with” in the 2000 election-- Alex Penelas-- as the party’s nominee. Penelas, a corrupt conservative Democrat, has been trying to get back into politics for years and sees a weakened Diaz-Balart as his ticket.

Alina Valdes showed the DCCC and Florida Democrats that defeating Diaz-Balart is within grasp so… leave it too them to turn to a loathed and reviled figure who can’t galvanize energy or support and who can’t win instead of getting behind Valdes’ campaign. Her new campaign website lays out her agenda and the issues motivating her run.

Last year Valdes described Debbie Wasserman Schultz as "hateful and vindictive" towards her candidacy and told me that the then-DNC chair, since forced out after being caught trying to rig elections, was doing all she could behind the scenes to bolster Diaz-Balart. "When I first started this race over a year and a half ago," Valdes told me 11 months ago, "I did not know that I would be maligned by the DNC chair. I naively thought that she would be happy to have a Democrat challenging a career Republican who doesn't do much to help his district. What I have found out since then has been indeed eye opening. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, from what I keep hearing, has blacklisted me so I do not get the support of organizations and unions in order to support her friend Mario Diaz-Balart. How could a DNC chair, tasked with electing Democrats up and down the ticket, as she keeps saying every time she gets interviewed, do something like this? Democrats in South Florida are afraid of her and the amount of damage she could inflict on them by not supporting them. Mario Diaz-Balart has not been challenged by a Democrat in 8 years and I dared do the unthinkable.”

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At 10:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is an example of why I have no belief in the Democratic Party winning back the House in 2018. The game couldn't be rigged without them, and they have come to like getting money to lose.

At 12:52 AM, Blogger Cirze said...

And the pay is obviously quite high.

At 5:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How many millions did Hillary get to not raise a fuss about the Electoral College and let Trump have the job?

I don't think she'd have been all that much better, just more secretive about her corruption. Just look at Obama's Big Pay Day! HER! works in a similar manner, one which he probably learned from HER! in the first place.

We voters need to stop electing these assholes, for they only screw us as our rewared for our votes.

At 7:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yet another DWT offering that proves my thesis.

DWT, you know it in your heart don't you.


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