Friday, October 24, 2003

Viva La Cuba! reports that the Senate has voted to end the forty-year-old travel ban to Cuba. The White House has threatened to veto. None of this is surprising, really: if polled, I think that most Americans would support ending the travel ban - and possibly ending the embargo as well. It obviously hasn't worked to starve Castro out, and the fact that we removed the travel ban and embargo against Vietnam first only encourages the view that we continue our Cuban policy not out of any logical reason, but out of tradition.

Or does it?

Actually, there is a perfectly logical reason for the White House's threatened veto and the continued policy of embargo against Castro (who is nearly the worlds longest-reigning leader). The reason is the Cuban vote. Florida, especially southern Florida, has a lot of Cubans packed in it. While some folks may not understand the difference between a Spaniard, a Brazilian, a Cuban, a Dominican, or a Mexican, I can guarantee you that Jeb and George Bush do. A lot has been made of the Democratic party pandering to the Latino (or Latina) vote, and when the term pandering is coupled with the term Latino vote, it invariably means "illegal Mexican immigrants." But Florida is full of Latin American immigrants as well - Cubans - most of whom are here because they fled Cuba when the communists took over. Why? Because they happened to be the very wealthy Cubans who exploited children in sweatshops for fun and profit. OK, mostly profit.

But these Cubans are an extraordinarily large voting force, especially in Florida, where most of them still reside. And the Bushes know this, as does the Republican party. That's why Florida, a fairly liberal state with two major universities, large amounts of American Indian land in the southern part of the state, and several urban areas continues to elect conservative leaders. True, the Cuban vote is just one influential factor in the larger equation, but it is an influential factor nontheless, and as the 2000 presidential election indicated, Florida is a state where every vote counts.

I'm not blaming the Cubans for this - I mean, most of them came here seeking asylum because they very well could have been killed otherwise. But the continued embargo against Cuba is contrary to what I suspect is the majority of public sentiment (not to mention reason), and the Bush brothers' relationship with Cuban expatriates is probably a solid factor in their support of it. If the Democrats thought of it first, they probably would be doing the same thing, but the Republicans caught on early and they've held the Cuban vote because of it.

Savvy politics? Cloaked racism? Using people as a means to an end? Or just smart campaigning? A little of each, methinks.

What I'm reading: A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin.
What I'm listening to: A Murder of One - Counting Crows
What I'll watch tonight: Another Indiana Jones

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