The recent announcement of a modest softening in Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign to pressure Cuba and Venezuela has many analysts wondering if the Biden administration has given up on Florida, accepting that it is now a Republican state.
“In case you had any doubts that Florida is no longer a priority state for DemocratsFernand Amandi, a pollster and strategist for the Democratic campaigns based in Miami, wrote on Twitter after the news of the policy towards Cuba and Venezuela broke.
After months of silence on Cuba and Venezuela, the White House issued in quick succession some policy changes left by Trump. But the measures were met with a barrage of protest from Republicans and only lukewarm praise from some Democrats, threatening to further undermine Democrats in South Florida where Cuba and Venezuela politics play an outsized role. In the elections.
” Everyone criticizes his policy towards Venezuela and no one is in favor of what he is doingsaid Ramón Muchacho, an exiled former Venezuelan mayor who now works as a political and financial analyst in Miami. It has totally alienated all sectors,” he added.
In both the Cuba and Venezuela cases, there were elements of the policy changes that some might agree with, but these were overridden by the inclusion of other changes that found little support in South Florida and left some scratching their heads for an explanation.
The pros and cons of Biden’s policies on Cuba and Venezuela
As for CubaBiden advisers announced that the White House was reinforcing the consular section of the US embassy in Havana to be able to process more visas for Cubans to reunite with their close relatives in the United States.
As for Venezuelathe administration noted some relaxation of sanctions on the oil sector to allow the US company Chevron to continue operating there, as long as President Nicolás Maduro agrees to dialogue with the opposition. Among the concessions to Caracas is the removal of Carlos Erik Malpica-Flores, a former high-ranking PDVSA official and nephew of Venezuela’s first lady, from the list of Venezuelans sanctioned by the Treasury.
The separation of families and the lack of visas in Cuba cause a new migration crisis
“Cuba policy is best carried out with a scalpel, not a machete,” Manny Diaz, chairman of the Florida Democratic Party, said in a statement.
Díaz focused on the issue of family reunification, highlighting how many families were separated by the past administration’s draconian policy of virtually canceling immigration agreements and eliminating the ability to obtain visas in Cuba.
“The separation of Cuban families has been the most tragic result of the Cuban dictatorship and this step will help ease the burden of thousands of Cubans,” he added.
He added that the new policy would also reduce the illegal migration of Cubans who embark on unseaworthy rafts to cross the Straits of Florida, or undertake the almost equally dangerous journey through Central America and Mexico “which can lead to innumerable tragedies.”
But the remittances and group travel are seen by many in the exile community as a gift to the Cuban regime. Group travel is also seen by many as a gift to wealthy liberals who like to travel to exotic cultural locales, many of whom are donors to Democratic candidates.
Biden’s “ambiguous” tactic tries to please everyone, but does not satisfy anyone
Although a policy that seeks to make concessions to all parties may seem noble, even wise, in the polarized politics of Cuba and Venezuela it ends up appearing ambiguous and unconvincing, Muchacho said. “The language that the White House uses is so ambiguous that what it is really showing us is that there is no policy towards Venezuela,” he said.
“It’s not that it has a good policy or a bad policy, it’s that it doesn’t have a policy. One day it goes ahead, one day it goes backwards. One day it will dismantle the sanctions, but another day it will not dismantle the sanctions,” he added.
But upon taking office, Biden did nothing, to the frustration of some Democrats.
The Biden administration announced a sweeping review of the policy, appearing to backtrack on its promise to ease sanctions.
Republicans lashed out at Biden, unsurprisingly. Cuban-American senator from Florida, Marco Rubio, said Biden had “completely ignored the challenges and threats posed by evil and corrupt regimes in our own backyard.”
“It’s giving a prize to tyranny”: criticism of Biden increases for easing economic sanctions on Cuba and Venezuela
Some human rights groups backed the announcement of Biden’s Cuba policy. “We celebrate this decision by the Biden administration,” said Juan Pappier of Human Rights Watch. “The policy of isolation has failed to improve the human rights of the Cuban people,” he added.
Some US diplomats also say they would like to see a return to Obama’s policies of reaching out to Cubans on the island. ” It’s time for the Biden administration to abandon its timidity regarding Cuba,” Scott Hamilton, former deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in Havana from 2015 to 2017, wrote in an article.
“It is time to renew a constructive policy … and stop punishing the Cuban people for the sins of an elite over which they have no control,” added Hamilton, who retired from the State Department in April.
Democrats are divided on Biden’s Cuba and Venezuela policy
The two main Democratic contenders challenging Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Charlie Crist and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, supported Biden’s measures.
But others were less sure.
Joe Garcia, a former Democratic congressman from South Florida, said he supported Biden’s policy changes but criticized the way they were executed. ” I’m glad they did, but I wish they had done it sooner. It is the correct policy“, he said. “It is what he promised and what we asked for,” he added.
As much as he loathes Trump, Garcia credited him with visiting Miami and engaging with community leaders, something the Biden administration has not done. “You have to make the people part of the solution and maintain the town square. You have to show the people that they are connected to the decisions, to the power.”
Some Democrats, especially two candidates in key races in November, openly expressed their frustration.
“Relieving sanctions on Venezuela only empowers Maduro and his cronies,” tweeted Val Demings, who is challenging Sen. Marco Rubio for his seat. “We do not support the Venezuelan people who are fighting for freedom and democracy by appeasing their murderous regime. We should focus on lowering the cost of gasoline for Florida families without comforting dictators.”
Annette Taddeo, candidate for Governor tweeted “The administration cannot give credibility to tyrants like Maduro and then wonder why Hispanic voters are leaving our party in record numbers. The Biden Administration must back down immediately.”
Democrats lose electoral support in South Florida
Biden underperformed in the state in 2020, losing to Trump by nearly 400,000 votes, or 3.5 percentage points. He only won Miami-Dade County by seven percentage points, compared to Hillary Clinton’s 30-point margin over Trump in 2016. Miami, and South Florida in general, has one of the highest Hispanic populations in the country. , with 70% in Miami-Dade County, made up of exiles who fled leftist violence or dictatorships in Colombia, Cuba, Venezuela or Central America, as well as thousands of Brazilians and Argentines who despise socialism.
The latest polls show that Biden is losing support among Hispanics. The president’s valuation fell 21 percentage points among Hispanics in his first year in office, according to a March Univision poll, although this was largely due to inflation and his management of the economy and not to his policy towards Latin America. .
Administration officials have proudly asserted that their foreign policy is based on what is in the national interest of the United States, not what might sway elections in a key state. Skeptics might have called such political rhetoric designed to mislead, but some say recent policy changes make it more credible.
Democratic Party leaders don’t like to announce it, but they no longer see Florida as essential to winning the White Housepreferring to focus on other battleground states like Georgia, Pennsylvania and Arizona, which were key to winning in 2020.
“The Band-Aid on Cuba and Venezuela has been ripped off,” said a Democratic activist who asked not to be identified. “It’s not just about South Florida. They’ve written off the entire state,” he added.
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