Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Obama forgot to read the Castro memo

    Posted on Sunday, 05.27.12

    Obama forgot to read the Castro memo
    By Marc Caputo
    mcaputo@MiamiHerald.com

    Of the simple rules in Florida elections, few stand out like this one:
    Don't look wobbly over Castro — especially in an election year.

    President Barack Obama's administration didn't seem to get the memo.

    The administration granted the niece of Fidel Castro a visa to speak at
    a gay-rights summit in California last week. Mariela Castro repaid the
    kindness by engaging in the same type of Orwellian and hypocritical
    doubletalk as her uncle and father, Cuban President Raul Castro.

    Then she made sure to bang in the final public-relations coffin nail.

    "I would vote for President Obama," she said, according to Agence
    France-Presse. "I think he's sincere and speaks from the heart."

    Count that de facto endorsement of Obama as an independent expenditure
    for his challenger, Mitt Romney. The Republican's campaign made sure to
    denounce the Castro clan at every turn.

    AFP noted that Castro's trip has been denounced by "opposition
    Republicans." But it utterly failed to mention that Democratic National
    Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Broward congresswoman,
    and Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (the only statewide elected Democrat) also
    opposed the granting of her visa.

    Nelson specifically raised the issue of a wrongfully jailed American in
    Cuba.

    "Allowing Raul's daughter to come to the U.S. when the regime still
    holds Alan Gross makes no sense," Nelson said.

    Privately, some of Obama's biggest Florida supporters agree. They just
    can't fathom this. It's not as if Castro is some wayward child. She's a
    face and mouthpiece of the dictatorship.

    Obama's defenders are quick to counter with two points: 1) During
    President George W. Bush's term, Castro was allowed to travel three
    times to the United States and 2) Cuban-hardliners who opposed the visa
    opposed Obama anyway. So it was a wash.

    Wrong.

    The president doesn't need more bad headlines. Despite the unemployment
    rate shrinking, the pool of the unemployed remains staggeringly high.
    His attacks on Romney's business background backfired when a campaign
    surrogate dissed the criticisms. And then Nelson and his DNC chair split
    with him over Cuba.

    Cluelessness over Cuba can be bipartisan, though.

    President Bush's administration allowed Castro in 2001 and 2002. But she
    wasn't as much a face of the regime then. It wasn't a presidential
    election year. And there were precious few blogs and no Twitter to stoke
    the opposition.

    Earlier this month, Gov. Rick Scott came to Miami, signed a Cuba
    crackdown bill favored by the exile community and then undermined it by
    calling the bill unenforceable. Then he flip-flopped as Cuban-American
    Republican politicians beat him up on radio.

    If Scott were on the ballot this November, his move would cost him
    dearly. Cuban voters are overwhelmingly Republican, favoring GOP
    candidates by 15-17 percentage points depending on the presidential
    election, according to a September 2011 study "The Political
    Incorporation of Cuban Americans: Why Won't Little Havana Turn Blue?"

    Co-authored by University of Miami political science professor Casey
    Klofstad, the groundbreaking study showed that the Cuban community's
    vote remains largely Republican despite the influx of so-called
    "economic refugees," many of whom came during and after the 1980 Mariel
    boatlift and tend to lean left.

    But they don't really vote in the same high proportions as the
    right-leaning pre-Mariel voters. Still, as popular sentiment continued
    to shift against Republicans in 2008, more Cuban voters started to
    identify more with the Democratic Party.

    The study showed the pre-Mariel voters are more attuned to the Cuban
    embargo and Cuba-travel restrictions — support for which has plummeted
    in the Cuban community overall between 1991 and 2008. In the community,
    strengthening the embargo has more support (45 percent) than continuing
    the travel ban (34 percent), according to Florida International
    University polls.

    Mariela Castro decried the embargo and travel restrictions.

    "It's not fair," she said, "you can't allow a small group of delinquents
    to continue to manipulate and make it difficult for the U.S. and Cuba to
    have a relationship."

    Apparently, Castro has a short memory. Her uncle Fidel expelled a number
    of homosexuals — labeled as "undesirables" by the Cuban regime — during
    the 980 Mariel boatlift. He also rounded up gays during the AIDS crisis
    and had them sequestered in sanitariums.

    Oh, the irony. His niece, a sexologist, now comes to the United States
    and lectures for an end to "our patriarchal and homophobic culture."

    "We will establish relationships on the basis of social justice and
    social equality," she said. "It seems like a Utopia, but we can change it."

    Perhaps.

    Too bad the one talking about change last week was Mariela Castro and
    not Obama.

    http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/05/27/2819980/obama-forgot-to-read-the-castro.html