Sunday, April 14, 2013

The "H" in Marco Rubio Doesn't Stand For "Hero" Or "Hunk"

Is Marco Rubio really serious?

Serious about running for President, no doubt- but about Cuban-American policy, not necessarily.  ABC News reports

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio this morning slammed Jay-Z over his recent trip to Cuba, saying on “This Week” that the rapper needed to “get informed” and that he missed an opportunity to meet the politically oppressed people that live on the island nation south of Florida.

“I think Jay-Z needs to get informed.  One of his heroes is Che Guevara.  Che Guevara was a racist.  Che Guevara was a racist that wrote extensively about the superiority of white Europeans over people of African descent, so he should inform himself on the guy that he’s propping up,” Rubio said during an interview with ABC News’ Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl.

“Secondly, I think if Jay-Z was truly interested in the true state of affairs in Cuba, he would have met people that are being oppressed, including a hip-hop artist in Cuba who is right now being oppressed and persecuted and is undergoing a hunger strike because of his political lyrics,” Rubio added. “And I think he missed an opportunity.  But that’s Jay-Z’s issue.”

After returning from Cuba last week, Jay-Z produced a new rap entitled “Open Letter,” in which he criticized politicians for questioning his trip with his wife BeyoncĂ© to the communist nation. The trip was authorized by the Treasury Department under a licensed program that encourages “meaningful contacts” with the Cuban people.

Rubio, who is of Cuban descent, criticized current U.S. travel policy to the island, which he said was being running by a “tyrannical regime.”

“The bigger point is the travel policies.  The travel policies need to be tightened because they are being abused,” Rubio said. “These are tourist trips, and they are – what they’re doing is providing hard currency and funding so that a tyrannical regime can maintain its grip on the island of Cuba, and I think that’s wrong.”

Che Guevara was no democrat.   And it's hard to imagine that the cause of freedom in Cuba is enhanced by a visit from Jay-Z and Beyonce.  More likely, they were granted visas because they're, well, Jay-Z and Beyonce, major celebrities.   The latter also is a favorite of the First Lady, which would be a lousy reason to grant an authorization to travel.

But if Rubio is unhappy because the "tourist traps" are "providing hard currency and funding so that a tyrannical regime can maintain its grip on the island of Cuba, he need look no further than some of his constituents.  Saul Landau and Nelson P. Valdes a few months ago explained

Cuban-Americans, particularly from south Florida, now export goods and remittances to relatives and friends while importing profits from sales made to fellow Cubans in Cuba, giving them an advantage denied to the rest of the country.

Washington pundits attribute superhuman strength to the anti-Castro lobby; thus no President would attempt to lift the trade and travel embargoes on the island. Yet Cuban-Americans trade with and travel to Cuba freely on a daily basis. The "embargo" applies to everyone except Cuban-Americans.

This growing international trade, disguised as sending goods to needy family members in Cuba, now includes filling the hulls on 10 or more daily charter flights from U.S. cities to Cuba. Cuban Americans send goods, often with "mules," to provide family members in Cuba, needing supplies for their businesses. The "mules" return with cash, derived from sales of these goods. Some of the new Cuban stores and restaurants supplied by Miami-based Cubans make substantial profits, some of which get spent in Cuba, and ends up in Cuba's central bank.

Miami, the United States' poorest large city, derives income because it provides jobs involved in buying and selling the goods sent to Cuba. Jobs also arise from routine tasks created around the daily charter flights to and from Cuba, and the fees collected from take offs and landings. Add to this, the work for accountants, bookkeepers and others.

Some unemployed Cuban-Americans get jobs as mules transporting the goods and money from one country to the other. Miami banks also benefit.

Shorter Landau/Valdes:  Cuban-Americans, primarily from the southern portion of the state represented in the U.S. Senate by Rubio, are propping up the government in Havana.   This is the same regime condemned by the Florida senator as "tyrannical" and which he, and most Cuban-Americans in Florida, would like to see overturned.   The embargo, ostensibly maintained to force abdication by the regime (or overthrow by the masses), has been maintained for decades as a sop to the Cuban-American community in one of the two most important states in electoral politics.

It would be fine if Marco Rubio wanted to lift the embargo, though he clearly does not.  But if he truly wants to put as much pressure as possible on the regime, criticism- probably justified on its merits- of a trip to Cuba by two members of America's privileged class will accomplish nothing.   Landau/Valdes argued

Camouflaged by ubiquitous anti-Castro rhetoric, the Cuban-American entrepreneurs have manufactured a lucrative business with the island, regulated by the very government they pretend to hate. The rightwing congressional representatives pretend to fight for every law to punish the "Castro regime" while in practice turn a dead eye to the growing trade that helps Florida's and Cuba's economy. Preserve the embargo, but make an exception for Cuban Americans.

If the Senator is dedicated to nothing more than a democratic state in the Caribbean, he can start by telling some hard truths to his most impassioned supporters, which is as likely as snow this month in south Florida.

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