Breaking the status quo

Hardliners made a whole lot of hullabaloo a few weeks ago when Charlie Crist unequivocally came out against the embargo. “Political suicide!” they hollered. Yet the numbers paint a drastically different picture. From Marc Caputo’s Sunday story on Florida’s gubernatorial race for The Miami Herald:

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But many of Scott’s fellow Republicans were paying attention to a different set of numbers: a raft of poll data-points that make the GOP queasy because it shows Democrat Charlie Crist has broad support across Florida right now. The highlights:

• 34 percentage points — the margin Crist beats Scott by in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, according to one business interest’s statewide survey. This margin is 12 points greater than Democrat Alex Sink’s in the 2010 governor’s race. If she had earned Crist’s poll numbers in just these two counties, Sink would have won.

• 10 percentage points — the margin Crist beats Scott by in another business interest’s statewide poll.

• 8 percentage points — the margin Crist beats Scott by in two other business interests’ statewide polls.

• 7 percentage points — the margin Crist beats Scott by in a fourth business interest’s statewide poll.

• 6 percentage points — the margin Crist beats Scott by in a poll of Republican-controlled state House districts across Florida.

• 4 percentage points — the margin Crist beats Scott by in North Florida, a Republican stronghold. The number is well within the poll’s error margin. But it’s a cumulative 17-point shift in favor of Democrats compared to 2010, and Sink would have won the governor’s race with this North Florida margin.

• 2 percentage points — the margin Scott beats Crist by in a poll of Republican-controlled state Senate districts in North Florida. Again, it’s within the error margin. But again: If Sink had had this margin, she probably would have won the governor’s race.

• 1 percentage point — the margin Crist beats Scott by overall in that poll of Republican-controlled state Senate districts. The poll was paid for by the Republican Party of Florida.

Crist also has a better image than Scott overall, with 48 percent having a favorable impression of the Democrat and 39 percent an unfavorable impression in these Republican-held seats.

Put another way: Crist has a favorability index of +9.

Scott’s index: only +1.

36 flippin’ percentage points in Miami-Dade!  If this doesn’t shatter the myth that the embargo is the third rail of Florida politics, nothing can.

The recent NYT article about entrepreneurship in Cuba continues levantando ronchas. First it was Little Brother, now it’s our old friend Mauricio’s turn.

In an article full of paranoid factoids –”look, there’s a general’s son! and a car with MININT plates!”– Mauricio tries to convince us that the private businesses in Cuba are a mirage. Nothing, nada, but the same old regime, hiding behind a pretense of economic reforms but pulling the strings of every paladar and timbiriche in Havana. (Which, first of all, why would they need the subterfuge?) But Mauricio is not Ninoska. He knows stridency and made-up assertions don’t play well outside the hardliner hive, and so he coats his diatribes with a varnish of semi-truths.

So yes, some of the paladares and private businesses belong to people with links to the regime. Family members, retired officers, apparatchicks and functionaries. That’s to be expected, of course. The people in power always benefit first, because they have the contacts, the know how and the protection. It was the same everywhere in post soviet bloc countries. It’s not the best scenario or the way it should be in the future. But if the best scenarios had become true in Cuba, we would not be having this discussion.

What is a stretch is to say a business is owned by the Cuban government because they have to get a license or pay taxes. It’s even more ludicrous coming from somebody who should be a fervent believer in the transformational power of capitalism.

The best answer to all these innuendos and half truths is a resounding “so what?”

If the sons of generals are embracing capitalism nowadays and opening private businesses instead of going to Camilitos schools and becoming the next generation of regime strongmen, that’s a great development. If the government is moving from owning every business to collecting taxes, that’s a step in the right direction. Because both those things create a class of people interested in pushing forward the reforms for their own benefit, instead of stalling them. And as any capitalist worth its salt knows, self interest is the best motivator to achieve more.

Mauricio knows this, but he still pretends not to see the forest for the trees. What’s even sadder is that the article is a wide swipe at a program –Cuba Emprende– that has done more to create a class of Cubans who are economically independent of the regime than the embargo has in five decades of failures. Good thing his readership is about one hundred thousandth percent that of The New York Times.

I don’t really need to comment much on this one. Check out Mario Diaz-Balart’s bravura — and entirely unconvincing — performance defending the embargo in an interview with the New York Times. Lil’ bro gets stuck in a sad and inarticulately endless loop of “Hurt the regime/help the dissidents” that reveals just how bankrupt and out of touch he is on Cuba policy.

It is highly recommended reading. You might be tempted to shrug it off as more of the same ol’ tired B.S. from the Diaz-Balarts (and it is), but you’ve never seen one of them come completely unhinged in such a spectacular fashion.



In a rousing speech on the Senate floor yesterday, Rubio argued that embargoes against repressive societies are futile and that targeted sanctions may hold more promise. Too bad he wasn’t talking about Cuba.

On embargoes:

“We don’t have an embargo against Venezuela,” he said. “They have a shortage of toilet paper and tooth paste. Why? Because they are incompetent. Because communism doesn’t work. They look more and more like Cuba economically and politically every single day.”

On targeted sanctions:

Over the next few days, Rubio said, he’d propose sanctions “we should be pursuing against the individuals responsible for these atrocities [in Venezuela].”

And then he went on to defend the Cuban embargo.

If only the Senator could explain why his policy views apply to Venezuela but not Cuba?

Ileana and Menendez:
Protests in Venezuela? SANCTIONS
Protests in Ukraine? SANCTIONS!
Cuba has sanctions? MORE SANCTIONS!!!
I stubbed my toe against a stupid table. SANCTIONS! SANCTIONS! WE LIVE FOR SANCTIONS!!!!
At least with Ukraine they finally learned that targeted sanctions make more sense. So that’s progress for ya’, America.
Speaking of targeted sanctions, it looks like that’s what the UN will use as punishment against individuals and enterprises in Cuba and North Korea for violating its weapons embargo on the Asian country.

This guy. Yesterday, pro-embargo lobbyist Mauricio Claver Carone threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Atlantic Council poll – ”its a push poll, they polled the wrong people, its biased, its ‘sloppy and shameless’, it was conducted by ignoramuses, it gets everything wrong” — that is of course, until he finds one morsel of data he likey and now trumps it as CONCLUSIVE PROOF that Americans still support current US policy to Cuba. That’s it! I’m done! Make sure to tip your waitress!

See our comments after Maury’s revelation.

What the Media Ignored: Americans Support Cuba Policy

at 9:36 AM Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Scouring through news stories about the Arsht Center’s Flake-Leahypoll, not a single media organization mentioned a key take-away:That Americans support U.S. policy toward Cuba.U.S. policy toward Cuba, as codified into law by the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act (LIBERTAD), sets forth a host of democratic and human rights preconditions for the lifting of sanctions and the normalization of relations.Despite the pollster’s targeting low-information individuals and manipulating samples from the general population, when informed about the Castro regime’s human rights abuses, Americans favored keeping current U.S. policy — and reject further engagement — by a 50-43 margin.

In other words, no matter how hard pollsters push, when Americans are informed about the democratic and human rights conditions in U.S. law, they clearly favor current U.S. policy toward Cuba.The more Americans learn about Castro’s human rights abuses, the more they favor current U.S. policy.

OTS Comment: as we mentioned in our takedown yesterday of Mauricio’s desperate jihad against the Atlantic Council’s Cuba poll:

Mauricio’s claim that support for engagement declines is not accurate.  When the question about human rights abuses is asked in a vacuum by itself, a majority of respondents do regard the regime’s human rights record as reason to keep the current policy in place.  However, after hearing all statements both in support and against changing U.S. policy towards Cuba, there is no decline in the original proportion of Americans who favor normalizing or engaging with Cuba: 55 percent

Again Mauricio, Americans get the Castro’s are bad people. You know this because last week you posted a link to a recent CNN poll that found that “Fidel Castro is the most disliked foreign tyrant among Americans.”  They just disagree with you on how the US should respond to the Castros’ rule over Cuba. The entire world disagrees with you.

This is why hardliners try so hard to silence other voices. They were attacking this poll a two weeks before the results were even published. They attack Adrienne Arsht, Fanjul, Crist and anyone else who offered a position different from their own. And they do so because they know that once Americans receive the full picture — one they’ve heard all arguments pro and against normalization — they still support normalization with Cuba. It’s the same reason why they don’t want people to travel to the island. Because they know that once people see the reality of Cuba with their own eyes, they return convinced that the embargo has done nothing to to end the Castro regime or help the Cuban people.

Thanks for playing “Spinopoly”. Please try again.

Last year we ripped apart Jaime Suchlicki’s entire argument for why the US should not lift the travel ban or embargo on Cuba, and it it is still our most popular post ever. Let’s see if we can break that record by dissecting Mauricio’s critique of the Atlantic Council’s poll (if you haven’t read the poll yet, check it out here. It’s a scorcher).

This one is a little more technical, since the poll itself was so well prepared that Mauricio has to jump all kinds of hoops to find fault with it.

Mauricio’s post is in regular type and our comments are in bold.

What You Won’t Read About Arsht’s Cuba Push-Poll

at 12:09 AM Tuesday, February 11, 2014
The anticipated push-poll by The Atlantic Council‘s Adrienne Arsht Center will be released this morning.Here’s what you probably won’t read in most news stories about its results.

First, the entire release is biased and agenda-driven.  No dissenting voices have been invited to participate. As we noted earlier, U.S. Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Congress’ biggest supporters of unconditionally engaging the Castro regime, worked hand-in-hand with the pollsters and organizers. To the point that Flake-Leahy wrote a Miami Herald oped — citing figures from the poll — that was published the day before its official release.

OTS Comment: CLAIM # 1, “the entire release is biased and agenda-driven”

  • The “biased” push-poll was conducted by three-time winner of the “Republican Pollster of the Year” award from the American Association of Political Consultants, Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies along with Democratic pollster Paul Maslin of FM3. (See Page 7 of the report). 
  • Moreover, one of the panelists, Republican strategist Alex Castellanos said time and again that though he doubted it was the right time to engage with Cuba due to its human rights situation, he believed the time had come for America to have a serious debate on its policy toward the island. 
  • But no, Mauricio says the poll is biased so it’s biased.

It is not a poll of voters. It’s a general population poll, in which they could have polled Honey-Boo-Boo and it would have been reflected in the results.

OTS: CLAIM #2, “It’s a general population poll”

  • Are there national polls that don’t target the general population? Over 90% of respondents in this poll are registered voters. According to the polls findings, if you take out the less than 10% of non-registered voters, favorability for normalization actually increases. Though had they polled Honey-Boo-Boo, I’m sure she would have sided with the hardliners. They both have a simplistic view of the world that’s unhinged from reality.

The push-poll’s “big news” is that 56% of Americans purportedly support “normalizing relations or engaging directly” with Castro. Note how broad that is. Moreover, they don’t ask about the “embargo” specifically — for they know there’s no support in Congress for lifting the embargo. This push-poll is aimed at the Obama Administration. Yet, based on the results, more Americans support repealing Obamacare than engaging with Castro. And we know the Obamacare numbers don’t influence the President.

OTS: CLAIM #3, “big news’” is that 56% of American purportedly support ‘normalizing relations or engaging directly’ with Castro”.

  • While it is big news that 56% of American support normalization nationally, the really news is that only 35% oppose it, and of that percentage only 22% strongly oppose (versus 30% who strongly support). This shows much higher voter intensity for normalization than for maintaining the status quo. Of course, the real news is in Florida, where those numbers rise up to 62%.

CLAIM #4: “they don’t ask about the embargo”

  • The second question in the poll after demographic info is: “Since 1961 the United States has had no diplomatic relations with Cuba and restricts trade and travel with Cuba for the vast majority of American citizens and American businesses. Would you favor or oppose normalization/engagement?” I guess Mauricio expects the surveyor to read the entire Helms-Burton Act, plus another 16 laws to each respondent while on the phone. (See Question #9 in the poll)

Since the 56% isn’t particularly moving, they ridiculously claim Floridians favor engagement by an even greater number — 63%. Of course, there’s no sampling structure or breakdown of how they polled Florida. We’d note that neither of the pollsters have any experience in Florida politics, let alone the Senators from Arizona and Vermont. Anyone that has actually won a race in the State of Florida, including the Obama Administration, knows that is silliness.

OTS: CLAIM #5 (one of our favorites), “neither pollsters have any experience in Florida politics”

  • Glen Bolger (Republican Pollster): has completed 828 research projects in Florida since 1991, interviewing 352,084 Floridians since the 1991. He has polled 21 of the 27 Congressional Districts in the state and over four dozen State legislative districts. His clients include: Congressman Vern Buchanan, Congressman Jeff Miller, Attorney General Pam Bondi, State Sen. Anitere Flores, Miami Dade County Commissioner Juan Zapata, the Florida Republican Party, the Florida Republican Senate Caucus, Former Gov. Jeb Bush, Former Gov. Charlie Crist (until he switched), Former Congressman Ric Keller, Former Congresswoman Sandy Adams, Former Congressman Joe Scarborough and Former Congressman Allen West, and that’s just to name a few for sweet Honey Boo-Boo.
  • Paul Maslin (Democratic Pollster): I suppose that Mauricio’s heard of one or his clients, former Senator Bob Graham? Hello? Bueller? Bueller?
  • This is a good opportunity to mention that Mauricio was born in Spain, raised in Orlando, lives in DC, and has never worked on a campaign anywhere, much less in Miami or anywhere else in Florida. But who are we to question his authority?

Interestingly enough, even in a push-poll, when an explanation of the human rights abuses by the Castro regime preceded the question, the number of Americans that support engagement went down from 56% to 43%. Even their Florida numbers went down from 63% to 43%. This wide swing shows that those polled knew little about Cuba, particularly those in Florida. Odd right? Not really, that’s exactly who the pollsters were targeting. It’s laughable to think Floridians are less aware of human rights abuses in Cuba than non-Floridians. It also shows why Castro’s U.S. advocates are constantly trying to “white-wash” the regime’s abuses.

*Note that the question that most accurately reflects the human rights and democratic conditions codified in U.S. law — as prerequisites for lifting sanctions — is the one that throws off their “engagement” narrative.

OTS: CLAIM #6, “when an explanation of the human rights abuses by the Castro regime preceded the question, the number of American that support engagement went down from 56% to 43%”

  • Mauricio’s claim that support for engagement declines is not accurate.  When asked in a vacuum by itself, a majority of respondents do regard the regime’s human rights record as reason to keep the current policy in place.  However, after hearing statements both in support and opposed to changing U.S. policy towards Cuba there is no decline in the original proportion of Americans who favor normalizing or engaging with Cuba: 55 percent. 

The poll purports that 64% of Miami-Dade County supports “normalization” with Castro. Once again, no breakdown of who was polled in Miami-Dade County. Yet, the fact remains every single Cuban-American elected official — in any position — in Miami-Dade County supports the embargo. So the facts speak for themselves.

OTS: CLAIM #7, “no breakdown of who was polled in Miami-Dade County”

  • I suppose Mauricio is just hoping to get a lists of names he can add to his hit list of attacks, because the very first line on Page 7 of the report titled “Methodology and About the [evil, commie, biased] Pollsters” states that, “The survey was conducted in English and Spanish from January 7 to 22, 2014, with a nationwide margin of error of +/- 2.1 percent (Florida +/- 4.0 percent and latinos +/- 4.4 percent) at the 95 percent confidence interval. Respondents were interviewed on landlines and cell phones. In addition to a benchmark sample of 1,024 randomly-selected US adults age 18 and over, the survey includes additional over-samples with notable results from the 617 Florida residents and the 525 Latinos interviewed.”
  • See buddy, that is how three-time Republican Pollster of the Year award recipients conduct a poll!
  • It’s worth noting that Cuban-American Rep. Joe Garcia is in favor of the Obama Administration’s policy of family and people to people travel and remittances, and has stated that the administration should open travel and remittance support even further.
  • Also worth noting, local Republican politicians in Miami are quickly flipping sides to Democrat, and with that you can expect them to embrace their gubernatorial candidate’s message to some degree, along with local Dems already in office. I’ll bet Mauricio a New York Strip at Bulla that he’ll have to swallow that statement come election night.

Of course, with the push-poll aimed at the Obama Administration, they asked about the “state-sponsors of terrorism” list and were surprised that it was originally split. So they claim that after more “information” (literally telling respondents “Cuba poses no threat”), the numbers of those wanting Cuba off the list went up to 61%. This was the neatest jedi trick since Obi Wan Kenobi at the Star Wars Cantina. Needless to say, they didn’t “inform” about arms-trafficking to North Korea, the harboring of U.S. Most Wanted Terrorists, the support provided to Treasury-designated terrorist groups, money laundering concerns, subverting democracy in the Western Hemisphere, etc.

OTS: CLAIM #8: “They asked about the ‘state sponsors of terrorism” list and were surprised it was originally split. So they claim that after more “information” (literally telling respondents “Cuba poses no threat), the number of those wanting Cuba off the list went up to 61%”

  • Just because you write checks for candidates doesn’t mean you’ve worked a campaign. If you had, you would know that you don’t pay for a poll, read the results and then go back into the field with follow-up questions. So let’s just look at the “originally split” numbers on the terrorism designation: nationally, 52% say Cuba doesn’t belong on the list versus 40% and in Florida, 61% say Cuba doesn’t belong versus 31%. I guess it’s a good thing Mauricio doesn’t work campaigns, because he doesn’t even understand the meaning of “split.”
  • And the name of the Cantina is Chalmun’s, not Star Wars. Gawd can you get anything right?!

Sloppy and shameless.

OTS: Something here is sloppy and shameless alright, and it sure ain’t the poll. Smells like sulfur, too.

Read what happens when Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera get casually pressed by a reporter to explain how the Cuban embargo has worked.

The exchange kinda went like this:

Reporter: “So why does the embargo work?

Scott and Lopez-Cantera: “Well because Alan Gross, and Ladies and White, and because oppression, oh and solidarity!, and because it works, and HEY LOOK A SQUIRREL!”

Ok, I kid, but it’s close. Read the partial transcript below, courtesy of Naked Politics. Their papelazo speaks for itself.

Gov. Scott and CLC bash Crist over Cuba embargo


Officially the event today at a car dealership in Lighthouse Point was for Gov. Rick Scott and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera to yet again talk up Scott’s proposal to cut $500 million — largely by reducing auto registration fees.

But during the presser after the event, the hot topic was about formerGov. Charlie Crist’s statement Friday night that he no longer supports the Cuba embargo.

The acoustics during the press conference — outside a Sheehan dealership along noisy U.S. 1 — were lousy, but here’s a partial transcript:

Scott: “The suggestion that the Cuban people should be stood up against is insulting. … We stand for them. America is built on freedom and democracy. Cuba is not free or Democratic. The embargo that’s in place is part of standing up for the Cuban individuals, Cuban families’ freedom. So we need to continue the embargo.”

Lopez-Cantera: “Charlie Crist’s comments just show his ignorance on the issue of what is going on in Cuba.  As a Cuban American I was insulted by it. He should get a little smarter on what’s actually happening….”

Q: “What evidence is there that the embargo works?”

Lopez-Cantera: “The evidence you have down there, the Damas de Blanco, the Ladies in White, constantly rounded up and arrested and harassed. You have Alan Gross who is still in prison. Things like that that are still happening there. Those are the things that need to be getting attention and not this political stuff…”

Q: “So what does the embargo achieve?”

Lopez-Cantera: “The embargo represents this country’s solidarity with the people who are suffering on the island.”

Asked again about Crist’s statement, Scott replied “What he said about the embargo is insulting to the Cuban population. ….”

Q: “Is there evidence though that the Cuban-American population in Florida still supports the embargo?”

Scott: “Absolutely.”

After his one-word answer, Scott was asked about signing a bill cracking down businesses that do businesses with Cuba and then writing a letter saying it wasn’t feasible to enforce it.

Scott: “I signed that bill because it stands with the Cuban population to fight the oppression oc Cuba…”

(There was then some back and forth with a reporter that is not clearly audible on my recording but it got testy as a reporter said something about the reporter asking the questions.)

Scott: “I’m going give you the question but you can wait. I signed the bill because I stood with the Cuba population. Cuba has an oppressive government, there is no freedom down there. So the embargo is part of Americans standing with the Cuban population for freedom.”

Scott ended the press conference but as Lopez-Cantera was whisked to his car by a press aide, reporters tried to illicit some more answers. When asked if he supported in-state tuition for Dreamers, Lopez-Cantera replied: “The governor said he will consider it.”

Lopez-Cantera didn’t respond to follow-up questions asking for his opinion on it. A press aide then said “thank you so much” about seven times trying to cut off reporters as he got into the car.

Poor guys caved in faster than an Italian Army.


Forget Rick and Carlos. LOOK AT ME!

So the hardliners and Republican establishment have been ganging up on Crist since he announced that he now supports lifting the US embargo on Cuba on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, which aired last night.

Their primary line of attack is the cheap and easy one: Charlie flip-flopped on the embargo. He was for it before he was against it. 

Get it? Crist changed parties during the 2010 Senate race because his own party was hijacked by lunatics who’d never vote for a guy who hugged Blackie McBlackman, so he’s a flip-flopper. Ha ha!

Forget about attacking him on the merits of his position, since they know most Cuban-Americans think the embargo is a failure. Instead they went for what’s perceived as Crist’s biggest weak spot.

It took The Miami Herald almost an entire day since the news broke to publish a story. No doubt the were receiving threat-free calls from Ileana and Friends, politely urging them to mind their angle and tone.

When they finally published a few minutes ago, here’s the headline chosen by the Executive Editor to our local Newspaper of Record, Mindy Marques:

What a spineless joke of a paper.

Many Cuban-Americans have also evolved in their position on the Embargo in recent years. Is the Miami Herald calling them flip-floppers as well?

Correction: an earlier version of this post identified Myriam Marquez as the Editor of the Herald. She’s moved on to El Nuevo. Our mistake. We sometimes get our Mindys and Myriams confused.

Sens. Marco Rubio and Bob Menendez questioned the competence of Noah Mamet to serve a US Ambassador to Argentina because he’s never been to the country.

Seriously. Rubio (who’s never been to Cuba) and Menendez (who hasn’t returned to the island in half a century), both of whom hold themselves out as the authorities on US-Cuba policy in the Senate, questioned Mamet’s competence to serve as Ambassador to Argentina simply because he’s never been there.

Ay que tener cara dura.