News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Democratic countermove with Cuba?

In what seems an unexpected move, the White House has just announced it will ease some restrictions on travel and aid to Cuba. However, as you will see later in this article, this could be a calculated move by Democrats to counter recent GOP efforts to woo Latino voters. Let’s begin with the significant details:

“The President has directed the Secretaries of State, Treasury and Commerce to carry out the actions necessary to lift all restrictions on the ability of individuals to visit family members in Cuba, and to send them remittances.  He’s further directed that steps be taken to enable the freer flow of information among the Cuban people and between those in Cuba and the rest of the world, as well as to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian items directly to the Cuban people.”

So why is the White House doing this now?

As noted in my previous post, it seems clear the GOP is making a concerted effort to woo Latino voters. This White House announcement could be a subtle yet effective counter stroke. Here’s why:

The Cuban exile community has always been solidly in the GOP camp. The reaction to Obama’s gesture toward Cuba from the Miami exiles is already pouring and it is predictably negative. At the same time, sympathy for Fidel Castro is much more common among other Hispanic groups. In fact, some Latinos idolize Castro and Che. By offering an olive branch to Castro, the Democrats will be seen as sympathetic to Latinos. But the greater significance of this move is what it does to Republicans.

The GOP has now been painted into a corner. If Republicans side with their staunch Cuban supporters on the White House move, the GOP risks damaging their outreach efforts to other Latinos who are likely sympathetic to Castro. So what will the GOP do?  My guess is that most Republicans will stay mum about the White House initiative or give very measured responses.

Let’s wait and see how this develops.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez