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What do the Cuban Embargo and Gun Control debates have in common?

February 27th, 2013 | Posted by William Vidal in Hard-line hijinks

Answer: Factual arguments, common sense, and public support for a change in policy have little impact on policy.

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This debate page on Debate.org is a good example. The debate question posed is “If the U.S. ended sanctions in Cuba, would U.S. businesses benefit?“. 90% of respondents say YES, only 10% say NO. Of the 21 people who have contributed to the debate, 20 are for lifting the embargo and only one is against. Not exactly a scientific poll, but indicative of the general mood on this issue. If you don’t believe me, ask 10 non-Cuban-Americans you know how they feel about trading with Cuba and see what they say. Heck, ask 10 Cuban-Americans, and I guarantee you that at least 6 of them are in favor of opening trade and/or travel with Cuba. For further proof, take look at FIU’s Cuba polls since 2008 to see just how wide is the disconnect between current Cuba policy and Cuban-American attitudes on this issue.

So Why hasn’t our policy toward Cuba changed in 55 years?

Because, like gun control, the only thing that moves the Cuba debate in Capitol Hill is money.

Why?

Because there is one organization that, like the National Rifle Association, devotes itself entirely to paying off the right people in the right Congressional committees to ensure that any effort to relax the Embargo gets no where. That organization is the U.S. Cuba-Democracy PAC.

Why?

Because a Cuban businessman/idelogue named Leopolodo Fernandez Pujals (recently dubbed the “hardliner of the hardliners” by Diario De Cuba), who isn’t even a resident of the United States, decided to start this PAC and has been paying a salary, through a non-profit foundation named Cuba Democracy Advocates, to the PAC’s lobbyist director, Mauricio Claver-Carone to run its day-to-day operations. Pujals is supported locally by Gus Machado of Gus Machado Ford and Remedios Diaz-Oliver, President of All American Containers, Inc. Together they helped raise close to $500,000 for the PAC last election cycle, which for a non-priority issue like Cuba, is enough to torpedo any challenges to the status quo.

Why?

Apparently, Pujals wants to be the next president of Cuba, but doesn’t think he has a shot until the Castros are out of power. Machado and Diaz-Oliver are both true believers who seem to think that the embargo is hurting the Cuban regime (it’s not, the Castros are still there, they’re still rich beyond belief, and by all measures it looks like the old bastards will live out their twilight years in peace). Machado and Diaz-Oliver also relish being regarded by their collegues as players in Miami’s political scene.

Why?

Power. They provide a steady source of campaign cash to people like Senators Marco Rubio and Bob Menendez, both of whom have fully exploited the Embargo as a reliable fundraising tool in Miami, and are unlikely to budge on their positions as long as they can use it to squeeze another dollar or vote from the Cuban-American exile community.

Like I said, nothing to do with factual arguments, common sense, or public support; everything to do with a small special interest group that is incredibly adept at gaming our political system.

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