Sunday, July 13, 2008

"Cuban-American glasnost"

David Rieff’s article in the New York Times Magazine, “Will Little Havana Go Blue?,” sketches the politics of the Cuba issue in Miami this year. As an example of what he calls the “Cuban-American glasnost,” he includes this quote from Giancarlo Sopo, a Democratic campaign staffer:

“My father was a Bay of Pigs veteran. He was in one of the first infiltration teams to go into Cuba before the landing. Later, he was Jorge Mas’s right-hand man at the foundation, a Ronald Reagan supporter to his core. My father died in 1999. He died frustrated because his dreams of returning to Cuba never came true. But I don’t believe my father died so that my generation could make the same mistakes. There has to be another way.”

But this quote from Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, where he discusses the Bush Administration’s 2004 restrictions on Cuban American family visits, really caught my eye:

“First of all, in 2004, we had realized that unrestricted remittances had become a cash cow for the Castro regime. As for the travel limitations, I would never criticize anyone for visiting family members. But that wasn’t the problem. What you had was a situation where people would come to Miami from Cuba, stay for a year and a day and then go back. And what this was doing was threatening the sustainability of the Cuban Adjustment Act itself, the U.S. law that gives Cubans who come to this country a special status as political exiles rather than immigrants.

“What makes Cubans different from Haitians who come here or anyone else,” Rubio went on, “if they go back and forth, that is to say, if they’re not exiles at all? In that case, why should Cubans be any different? The whole structure would have unraveled had something not been done.”

I get Mr. Rubio’s point, but I have to say that the only threat that I have seen to that “structure” of immigration policies – the Cuban Adjustment Act, the policy of admitting Cubans who arrive with no visa and no claim to asylum, the government benefits given to Cuban immigrants – was in the Senate twelve years ago, and it went nowhere.

To Mr. Rubio, if Cubans come to America and exercise their freedom to travel back to Cuba, that is a problem. Not because, as the Administration argues, it results in excessive flows of hard currency to Cuba.

The real problem is that it puts in question whether Cubans are “exiles” to begin with, and it threatens “the whole structure” of immigration policies toward Cubans. So rather than accept that some Cuban Americans view themselves as exiles and others as immigrants, and rather than contemplate a (highly unlikely) debate over those immigration policies, Mr. Rubio opts for limiting the freedom of Cuban Americans in order to force conformity.

Of course, it’s a false conformity, as anyone who has seen the Cuban American traffic in the Cancun and Nassau airports can attest.

The message seems to be, “I won’t criticize you for visiting your family, but I will use the law to stop you from doing so, because we’re exiles and we all have to act that way.”

[Photo of people waiting for arriving passengers at Havana’s Terminal 2]


Mambi_Watch said...

I agree with your point Phil.

Cuban exiles who are hard-liners on policy seem to be prepared to favor incredibly strict and aggressive methods for a free Cuba, which can lead to deleterious policies like the Cuban family travel restrictions.

I believe in November we will see consequences to such tactics.

But, Rubio surely understands the "real problem" you stated. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart has made it clear he does on Radio Mambi. Last December, I posted about what Diaz-Balart referred to the "responsibility to act like a political exile." (audio available).

Rubio's and Diaz-Balart's actions in favor of hard-line Cuban policy are connected to preserving the homogeneous exile image through coercion and force.

The main motivation behind this may be rooted in the commemoration of past militant Cuban heroes, from Maceo to Bay of Pigs.

Militancy allows and give justification to acts of force and coercion upon a community. But, hopefully this November, the community will decide if those methods are still justified.

I already sense frustration with exile intransigent militancy among the community.

Anonymous said...

Mock it all you want Peters but to some people honor, duty, and responsibility are more than just words. The U.S. opened its arms to thousands of Cubans fleeing Castroism by instituting special immigration privileges it grants to no one else. A great many exiles believe they have a duty and responsibility to return the favor by not undermining the very rationale for those special privileges.

Anonymous said...

I have been a Foundation watcher for many years and never heard of anyone named Sopo. What a joke.

Phil Peters said...

Anon, I’m not mocking anything. The idea is to block family visits in order to maintain an “exile” identity in a community that doesn’t unanimously see itself that way. If that’s not forced conformity, then what is?

Anon #2, I’m afraid I don’t see what the joke is. Do you not believe the guy’s description of his late father? (One Edgar I. Sopo Granda appears in the lists of Brigade 2506 combatants.) Or is it a joke that someone might see things differently?

Anonymous said...


you are seriously warped and have fetishized the words "duty honor"

I am cuban american, came to this country NOT on the "special priviledges"..there are many like me.

We want to see our family!! we want to share life with them. You and hard liners have blocked me from my god given right. Thanks.

Castro is bad, .. but miami mafia restricts freedom in other wayss. just as bad.