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Cuban Americans Don’t Want This

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Regarding a recent attempt by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL 21st) to restrict Cuban-American family travel to Cuba, it is reported that Rep. Diaz-Balart maintains that an overwhelming 90% of the Cuban-American community supports his amendment.

Mr. Diaz-Balart’s constituency resides in the greater suburbs of the heavily hardline-influenced, Cuban-American Miami, which is a community with an historic anti-Castro and anti-Cuba voting pattern. But that was during the 1960s. This is just a reminder: we are currently living in the year 2011. To make matters worse, Mr. Diaz-Balart is not even speaking solely for his own voter base. He is incredibly claiming the “entire” community of Cuban Americans. Poll after poll has shown that a majority of Cuban Americans want to see an opening in travel to Cuba. A 2009 Bendixen poll of Cuban Americans showed that 69% of Cuban Americans that arrived after 1980 support travel between the United States and Cuba, while only 23% opposed. Even among the first generation Cuban Americans that arrived before 1980, 48% support open travel and 36% oppose. The significance of these wonky percentages is that neither reflects the alleged “90%” that Mr. Diaz-Balart has reportedly argued. 

Moreover, post passage of the Diaz-Balart amendment, several members of the Florida Cuban-American community expressed great dissatisfaction with their elected representative’s views. 

From el Nuevo Herald, a Spanish-language newspaper from Miami, José Vargas says, “No creo que el congresista se haya detenido a pensar en el daño tan grande que conllevaría su propuesta de ley. No al régimen castrista, que pasa la miseria a la población, sino a los que allá llevan medio siglo sometidos a un régimen cruel y dictatorial difícil de imaginar a alguien que no lo haya vivido. Como no lo ha vivido Mario Díaz-Balart.” 

English translation: I don’t believe that the congressman has stopped to think about just how much damage his proposed amendment would cause. It doesn’t affect the Castro regime that causes misery for its people, but it affects the Cuban people who have been subjected to a cruel and dictatorial regime for half a century—a  life that is difficult to understand for someone who hasn’t lived it. As Mario Díaz-Balart has not lived it. 

In this opinion piece, Vargas also rebuts Mr. Diaz-Balart’s attempt to distinguish this as an issue of human rights. “Evidentemente el congresista ignora la Declaración Universal de los Derechos Humanos, que claramente expresa que toda persona tiene el derecho de salir y entrar a su país.” 

English translation: Evidently the congressman ignores the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that clearly states that everyone has the right to exit and enter his/her country.

Vargas is aiming at the point that this amendment is hypocritical (one could even aim a little further to say that overall Cuba policy is hypocritical). Rightfully so, the U.S. government criticizes the restriction of movement for the Cuban people. But if the United States is an open and free democracy, why would we mimic a policy promoted by the Castros?  

José Candelaria says in another opinion piece, “Cancelarles el derecho humano de mantener los vínculos de familia por sobre toda ideología partidista es una flagrante violación. ¿No se ha dado cuenta nuestro legislador que estas generaciones de cubanos no le deben nada ni a los Castro de allá ni a los Castro de aquí? ¿Por qué el castigo al pueblo de Cuba y sus núcleos familiares?”

English translation: To cancel our human right to maintain our family ties for, above all, a partisan ideology is a flagrant violation. Haven’t our legislators realized that this that this generation of Cubans owes nothing to neither the Castros from there or the Castros from here?  Why this punishment for the Cuban people and their nuclear families?

Even dissidents on the island are calling upon the exile community to fight the amendment. “Opositores cubanos llamaron hoy al exilio en EE.UU. a combatir las enmiendas promovidas en el Congreso de ese país con el fin de revertir las medidas para relajar los viajes y el envío de remesas a Cuba, porque, a su juicio, perjudican más al pueblo que al Gobierno de la isla.” 

English translation: Today Cuban opposition called on the exile community in the United States to combat the promoted amendments in Congress that aim to reverse the measures taken to relax travel restrictions and remittances to Cuba, because, in their opinion, these measures are more damaging to the people than to the government of the island. 

If the Diaz-Balart amendment passes through Congress, is signed by the President, and becomes law, it will overwhelmingly affect Cuban Americans across this country and definitely their family members in Cuba.If the goal of our policy is to help the people of Cuba, the passage of this amendment moves us in the opposite direction, as our policy of 50 plus years still shows. Both the slight and the significant changes that President Obama has made in terms of travel is movement in the right direction that Cuban Americans and Cubans both applaud—the Diaz-Balart amendment is what they don’t want.