N.Y. Post: Obama’s Cuba ‘Legacy’ Drive Lost Florida for Clinton

Saturday, November 12, 2016
By Mike Gonzalez in The New York Post:

Obama’s ‘legacy’ drive lost Florida for Clinton

‘Pride goeth before destruction,” Proverbs 16:18 reminds us, and so it was in this election.

The evidence is mounting that President Obama’s overzealous defense of his “opening Cuba” gambit cost Hillary Clinton the state of Florida. That misstep could end up wiping out most of the president’s carefully curated “legacy” achievements.

For the president and his young Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, the establishment of diplomatic relations with one of the world’s last communist dictatorships became something they weirdly defended from any criticism. Even the smallest amendment that watered down coddling the Castros drew fulminating threats of vetoes from the White House.

Then in late October, President Obama went for broke and decided to stick a bigger needle in his opponents’ eye.

He lifted limits on the import of cigars and rum, and then ordered our ambassador to the United Nations to abstain from a vote condemning the US economic embargo on Cuba.

That UN directive was especially galling. President Obama was, in fact, venting his frustration with Congress for not lifting the embargo upon his command — which Congress has the right to refuse to do — by letting the world body mock US law unopposed.

The Cuban-American community in Miami was irritated enough to give a second look to Donald Trump, who quickly reacted by shifting from his earlier tepid support for Obama’s Cuba policy to a promise that he would end relations unless Raul Castro began democratic reforms.

A New York Times-Siena poll, headlined “Cubans Come Home to Trump,” confirmed that all this was enough to add almost 20 percentage points to Trump’s support among Cuban-Americans.

Trump voters in this group shot from 33 percent in September to 52 percent just a few days before the election, according to the poll. And there is evidence they may have voted even in larger numbers for Trump.

Various exit polls put Cuban-Americans as supporting Trump over Clinton by a 53-41 percent clip, while analyses of Cuban-American precincts puts the support closer to 60-40.

Clinton ended up losing the election to Trump by the razor-thin margin of 125,000 votes out of more than 9 million cast, in a state where Cuban-Americans number more than a million.

As of today, Trump won the presidency with 290 electoral college votes, which means that Florida with its 29 votes was decisive in putting him over the top.

Why did the president feel he could take such steps without endangering Clinton’s chances in Florida? He misinterpreted a poll by Florida International University which showed strong support for his policies among Cuban-Americans.

The poll included such findings as “sixty-three percent of respondents oppose the continuation of the embargo” and “most respondents favor expanding economic relations between companies in the United States and the island.”

The problem was, when you broke down those responses by the wave in which exiles entered the US — 1960-1980, 1980-1994, or 1994-2016 — the results varied greatly. The first two waves, especially the 1960s crowd, are staunch anti-communists; on principle, they did not want to deal with the Castros. The latter wave, more likely to be economic migrants with no fixed political philosophy, are eager to deal with the government of the country they just left.

Only 36 percent of the first group want to expand business relations with Cuba’s government, for instance, while twice as many — 73 percent — of the latter group do.

There is another difference among these groups: 98 percent of the first wave are American citizens, and 97 percent are registered to vote.

The equivalent figures for the 1994-2016 wave are 53 percent and 43 percent. In addition, the older wave tends to be single issue voters — and the issue is relations with Cuba.

President Obama seems not to have realized these differences existed, or if he did, he may have thought that personal charisma or force of personality would preclude paying an electoral penalty.

Andres Oppenheimer, the Miami Herald’s top columnist, wrote wryly: “I wonder what Obama was thinking when he signed the Cuban rum and cigars order — a largely symbolic measure — and when he voted to abstain on the embargo at the UN, just a few weeks before the US elections. What was the rush to press the normalization pedal just now?”

Hubris goeth before the fall.

In My Humble Opinion: Trump's Cuba Policy Mandate

Excerpt from The Miami Herald:

Donald Trump’s election as the next president of the United States has cast a shadow over the Obama administration policy of warming relations with Cuba [...]

Cuba watchers agree that he probably will make some gesture to fulfill his campaign promises and acknowledge the support of Cuban Americans whose votes might have helped him to win Florida.

Mauricio Claver-Carone, director of the pro-embargo U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC in Washington, agreed.

“As for President-elect Trump, his Cuban-American supporters will surely hold him to his commitment to reverse Obama’s executive orders,” he said. “Moreover, his election and the huge win of the Cuban-American Congressional delegation give Trump the clear mandate to do so.”

Sen. Marco Rubio and Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Díaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo — all Cuban Americans from South Florida who oppose Obama’s policies on Cuba — were reelected Tuesday. And Republicans retained control of both chambers of Congress.

Lawmakers have submitted bills to ease or strengthen U.S. sanctions on Cuba in recent years, but neither side has prevailed.

Supporters of the sanctions say the election of Trump and a Republican Congress has put an end to any possibility of lifting the embargo in the next two years.

“There was minimal chance that a new Congress would ease or remove [embargo] sanctions,” Claver-Carone said, “and those slim chances are now down to zero.”

Must-Watch Video: Cuban Dissident Dragged Away for Protest

The video below -- shot last week -- shows how a Cuban dissident is dragged away for yelling "Down with Raul", "Down with Fidel," "Down with Communism."

Note that all of the human rights violators in this video clip are eligible for sanctions relief under Obama's absurd regulations.

Click below (or here) to watch:

Obama's Cuba Policy Lost Florida for Hillary

Wednesday, November 9, 2016
Yesterday, a column in The Wall Street Journal asked, "Will Obama's Cuba Policy Lose Florida for Clinton?"

We now have the answer: Yes.

Donald Trump has defeated Hillary Clinton in the state of Florida thanks to strong support from Cuban-Americans.

We can't stress this enough: No candidate has ever won statewide in Florida while running on an anti-embargo platform.

Moreover, Congress' biggest opponents of Obama's Cuba policy have all won handily.

Senator Marco Rubio easily defeated Patrick Murphy, who campaigned supporting Obama's Cuba policy.

Moreover, Congressman Carlos Curbelo defeated a prominent Obama policy cheerleader, Joe Garcia, by an 11-point margin.

Rounding out the night, Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart also won re-election.

The lessons?

First, candidates should stop taking advice from a handful of greedy businessmen who are clueless as regards the real pulse of the Cuban-American community.

Second, issue polls are meaningless.

But third, and most importantly, as concluded by yesterday's The Wall Street Journal column:

"No matter who wins on Tuesday, the next president will have to clean up this Cuba mess. Decent Cuban-Americans on both sides of the aisle want answers."

AP Exit Polls: Trump, Rubio Overwhelmingly Win Cuban-American Vote

Verbatim from the AP's exit polls analysis in Florida:

"There was a significant divide between Cuban voters and non-Cuban Hispanics in Florida, the state with the nation's third-largest Hispanic population. Trump led with Cuban voters, but more almost three-quarters of non-Cuban Hispanics preferred Clinton. Trump's anti-immigration rhetoric has turned off many Hispanics, but Trump appealed to Cuban voters in September by saying he would reverse the deal Democratic President Barack Obama made with Cuba to reopen diplomatic relations - unless Cuba expands political freedoms."

As for Senator Marco Rubio:

"Rubio was the overwhelming favorite of white voters, while 4 in every 5 African-American voters preferred Murphy. The candidates split the Hispanic vote, although two-thirds of Cubans preferred Rubio, whose parents are from Cuba."

In other words, Rubio got over 67% of the Cuban-American vote.

Considering how exit polls undercount early and absentee ballots, it means Rubio easily received more than 70% of the Cuban-American vote.

NBC: How Cuban-Americans Helped Trump in Florida

From NBC's Nightly News with Lester Holt (click below or here):

WSJ: The Cost of Obama’s Cuba Policy

Monday, November 7, 2016
By Mary Anastasia O'Grady in The Wall Street Journal:

The Cost of Obama’s Cuba Policy

Exiles who oppose normalization could give Trump Florida’s 29 electoral votes.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are in a statistical dead heat in Florida, where the state’s 29 electoral votes will be pivotal in Tuesday’s presidential election. One surprise for Democrats is that President Obama’s December 2014 decision to liberalize U.S. Cuba policy is not helping their nominee as the White House expected it to. Instead, it has become a liability.

Mr. Obama and Democrats bet big on the hypothesis that the traditional hard-line approach to dealing with the Castro regime, which encouraged the Cuban diaspora of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, is passe. And that new generations of Cuban-Americans, either U.S. born or more-recently arrived, favor economic and political engagement with the regime.

By spinning the president’s more-liberal travel policy to the island as an opportunity for investors to get in on the ground floor of Cuban change, the administration also hoped to gin up enthusiasm in Miami for his kinder, gentler attitude toward the communist military dictatorship. Mr. Obama’s detente with Cuba was supposed to be a political winner.

Just 23 months later that theory is being tested.

Cuban-Americans who initially supported Mr. Obama’s outreach are increasingly disillusioned with an administration strategy that helps the Castros but leaves out the Cuban people. This could affect turnout among left-of-center voters who care about human rights.

The Obama policy also seems to be energizing greater numbers of conservative and independent Cuban-Americans to rally behind the Republican candidate. A New York Times Upshot/Siena College poll released on Oct. 30 had the New York real-estate developer leading Mrs. Clinton 52% to 42% among Cuban-Americans. Some read this as a result of recent Trump efforts in south Florida to make himself a champion of Cuban exiles. But it is more likely a rise in the protest vote.

The U.S. trade embargo, which dates to 1962, was codified into U.S. law in 1996. Lifting it requires congressional approval. But Mr. Obama has normalized relations with Havana, a step aimed at lending legitimacy to the gangster government. He also has used an executive order to liberalize U.S. travel to Cuba and has licensed some U.S. hotels to operate on the island.

The administration’s public explanation for the change was that economic engagement with Cuba would hasten the fall of the dictatorship.

A less charitable reading of Mr. Obama’s motivations suggests that he harbors ideological sympathy for the Cuban Revolution and believes that the Castros would treat Cubans humanely if only the U.S. would demonstrate tolerance for tropical totalitarianism.

Regardless of which narrative you prefer, the president badly miscalculated. Even his supporters have noticed.

A July 1 column in the Miami Herald by Cuban-born Fabiola Santiago, who described herself as having been a supporter “of the president’s policy of engagement with the goal of improving the lives of the Cuban people,” captured the disillusionment. Ms. Santiago was particularly peeved about the opening of the Four Points Sheraton Havana, “brought to you, American traveler, by the people who repress Cubans.”

The columnist explained that the Obama opening was sold as a path that would allow American companies to partner in joint ventures with Cuban entrepreneurs. Instead, she wrote, referring to Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, which owns Sheraton, “the American hospitality giant is in business with the Cuban military, which owns the hotel.” As she observed, that changes nothing. “We’re only shifting from the Castro brothers and family personally enriching themselves through totalitarian rule to the repressive military now doing exactly the same thing.”

Ms. Santiago quoted the similar sentiments of Richard Blanco, the Cuban-American poet who was tapped to read at the reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana in August 2015: “How will [the goal of bringing prosperity to the Cuban people] be realized if basically they are doing what other foreign investors have done, namely, strike a deal with the government that leaves the ordinary Cubans in the same situation? How is this any better, simply because it’s the U.S.?”

If this is how supporters are assessing Mr. Obama’s Cuba project, it’s not hard to picture Cuban-Americans who either took a wait-and-see approach, or oppose the Obama policy, viewing this election as a chance to vote against it in order to aid their Cuban brethren. By pledging to stick with the policy, Mrs. Clinton has made herself a target.

The Cuban economy is in tatters and the regime is backtracking on promises of reform. Human-rights groups say that beatings and detentions of dissidents have soared since the U.S. extended the olive branch. Yet Mr. Obama keeps making concessions to the Castros, as he did on Oct. 14 when he authorized further sanctions relief.

No matter who wins on Tuesday, the next president will have to clean up this Cuba mess. Decent Cuban-Americans on both sides of the aisle want answers.

Obama's Cuba Legacy: Record Number of Political Arrests

Sunday, November 6, 2016
The Cuban Commission for Human Rights (CCHR) has documented 620 political arrests by the Castro regime during the month of October 2016.

With two months to go in 2016, there have already been a record-shattering 9,125 political arrests in Cuba throughout the year.

This represents -- by far -- the highest number of political arrests in decades.

It already surpasses last year's year-long tally of 8,616 political arrests and nearly quintuples the tally of political arrests (2,074) throughout all of 2010, as Obama began his presidency.

And these are only political arrests that have been thoroughly documented. Many more are suspected.

Thus, despite the Obama Administration's engagement with the Castro dictatorship and increased travel to the island, repression on the island is dramatically rising.

Why? Because the Castro regime keeps getting a pass (more business, tourists and other concessions) for its repressive acts.

With Obama's policy, it pays to repress. Impunity rules.

Caught on Film: Crackdown on Cuban 'Cuentapropistas' Intensifies

The Obama Administration's silence in the face of increased political repression is now (sadly) par for the course.

But its silence amid Castro's crackdown on "self-employed" Cubans ("cuentapropistas"), which the Obama Administration purported to champion, is downright cynical.

As Cubanet reported, this past Friday, Castro's agents launched a raid against "cuentapropistas" in Old Havana.

In a store called "Lindo Amanecer", over 15 "cuentapropistas" were arrested, their storefronts severely damaged and all of the merchandise confiscated.

Click below (or here) to watch video footage of this operation (official theft):

Meet Raul Castro: Predator of Press Freedom

The Paris-based NGO, Reporters Without Borders, has released its latest "Predators Gallery".

Of the 35 press predators featured, only three are from the Western Hemisphere.

They are General Raul Castro, Mexico's Los Zetas cartel and Cuban-puppet Nicolas Maduro.

Here's the poster of General Castro:

Cuba and Syria Sign MOU to Deepen Ties

Surely, for the benefit of the Cuban and Syrian "people" (and Iran, Hezbollah, et al.):

From Assad's state media:

Syria, Cuba sign MOU for wide economic cooperation

The Federation of Syrian Chambers of Commerce signed with the Cuban Chamber of Commerce a memo of understanding between the two countries with the aim of boosting bilateral economic and trade relations.

The MOU includes mechanisms of exchanging information and opinion on the means of improving the trade activity between the two countries, in addition to arranging visits of businessmen, trade delegations and missions of the two sides as well as providing opportunities for businessmen of the two countries for finding joint cooperation mechanisms.

It also stipulates for encouraging holding exhibitions, forums, conferences and other activities in both countries with the aim of expanding the trade exchange and arranging meetings and forums for introducing businessmen on the investment opportunities and projects that could possibly be achieved as a step forwards for establishing a Syrian-Cuban workers’ committee as soon as possible.

Deputy Minister of Economy and Foreign Trade Samer al-Khalil said in a statement following the signing of the MOU in Havana that this step constitutes an additional motive for upgrading the mechanism of the joint work between Syria and Cuba, as it also represents a step forwards toward the cooperation process that extends for years.