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#CubaNow Briefing: The Fall and Rise of Great Powers

David Gomez

#CubaNow Briefing

Mar 18, 2016


This week might have been one of the most defining moments yet for the future of U.S.-Cuba relations. Less than a week before President Obama is scheduled to travel down to Cuba, one of the staunchest opponents of normalization saw his run for the White House end in, of all places, Florida. Hardline scion Sen. Marco Rubio, who had long vowed to reverse every last aspect of rapprochement between the U.S. and Cuba, dropped out of the race after losing overwhelmingly in his home state to businessman Donald Trump. Trump, on the other hand, had openly agreed for months on the need to restore ties to Cuba—although he characteristically hedged that he would secure a “better deal” once in office.

With a candidate as controversial and inflammatory as Trump, it would be disingenuous to assert that his victory in Florida—or Rubio’s sole win in Miami-Dade County—hinged on his position on Cuba. But what we can take away from Tuesday night’s results is that the embargo has lost its potency in what hardliners have long referred to as “the only poll that matters.” The days of campaigning on this failed isolationist policy are over. And with Rubio poised to leave the Senate at the end of his term, leaders in Congress no longer have any justifiable incentive to defer to his stance. There is no impending “Rubio Administration” waiting to once again sever ties with Cuba. And as such, there is no reason to hold up the work of ending the embargo.

This is not to say that the Cuban-American community has lost its influence over Cuba policy. If anything, it has never been more important. Their contributions and guidance have been invaluable in this entire process from the start, and the White House has been wise to continue reaching out for input and dialogue on how to best move forward in helping the 11 million Cubans on the Island. With the continued expansion of trade and travel regulations, the community has a greater opportunity than ever to help in building a 21st century Cuba.

That vision is one President Obama will seek to lay out next week when he travels down to Cuba. He’ll directly address the Cuban people, meet with dissidents, and is scheduled to hold a summit with Cuban President Raúl Castro, with whom he’s promised to discuss human rights conditions on the Island. The expectations are high—as they should be—but the resounding defeat of the embargo’s most high-profile supporter is a good reason to believe that the most politicized days of shaping U.S. Cuba policy are behind us.

Thank you for your support,

David Gomez
Political Director, #CubaNow

Previewing President Obama’s Trip To Cuba

The Economist: U.S. Engagement Can Accelerate The Political Reforms In Cuba’s Future. “Officially, Mr Castro’s reforms are an ‘updating of socialism’, not an embrace of capitalism, let alone democracy. Mr Obama’s critics conclude that he has given the Castros a free pass. Yet Cuba was never about to become a democracy overnight. Because the regime remains entrenched, political change is more likely to come gradually and from within. In 2018 Mr Castro intends to stand down as president. His likely successor, Miguel Díaz-Canel, was born after the Castros’ revolution in 1959. Cubans will judge him on his ability to improve their lives, which will require more economic reforms. The hope must be that, as Cuba becomes more prosperous and connected, political liberalisation will follow. Engagement can accelerate this process. Mr Obama is a powerful symbol among the many Afro-Cubans of the opportunities offered by freedom. Contact between two close and related nations through commerce, tourism and the reconnection of families will only feed the desire for change.” [The Economist, “Cubama,” 3/16/16]

Obama’s Speech To The Cuban People Will Call For More Freedom But Stress The U.S. Is No Longer Looking To “Dictate Outcomes.” “Barack Obama will make a historic address to the Cuban people, calling for more freedom but stressing that the US is no longer seeking regime change on the island, according to the White House. This first speech on Cuban soil by a US president in almost 90 years will be the highlight of a three-day trip that also includes a bilateral summit with Raúl Castro, a joint news conference, a private meeting with dissidents, a baseball game and a moment to pay homage to the Catholic church for helping broker talks that led to the opening of relations in September…Obama will not be seeking to ‘dictate outcomes’ however, said the White House, acknowledging that past calls for democracy had sounding like attempts at ‘regime change’. ‘We believe that by opening up space we can help empower the Cuban people to live better lives.’” [The Guardian, “Obama’s address to Cuban people will be highlight of historic visit,” 3/16/16]

Obama Will Lay Wreath At José Martí Memorial, Ironically Where Castro Brothers Had Often Blasted U.S. Over Imperialism. “Obama will also lay a wreath at the José Martí Memorial, erected in honor of the country's national hero who helped liberate the island from Spanish rule. That moment will create an interesting scene, as the memorial serves as the centerpiece of Revolution Plaza, where the Castro brothers, surrounded by massive sculptures of communist icons like Che Guevara, have given countless speeches assailing the imperialist United States.” [USA Today, “Obama to visit dissidents and entrepreneurs in Cuba,” 3/16/16]

Obama Tells Dissidents He’ll Raise Human Rights Issues With Castro. “U.S. President Barack Obama promised one of Cuba's most prominent dissident groups he would raise the issues of freedom of speech and assembly with Cuban President Raul Castro during his March 20-22 visit to the Caribbean island. In a letter dated March 10, Obama praised the work of the Ladies in White, which marches weekly to protest Cuba's Communist government, and defended his policy of seeking to normalize relations with Cuba as good for its people…‘We take seriously the concerns you have raised,’ said Obama's letter, which group leader Berta Soler read to about two dozen Ladies in White and other supporters gathered in a Havana park. ‘I will raise these issues directly with President Castro,’ said Obama, who called the Ladies ‘an inspiration to human rights movements around the world.’” [Reuters, “Obama tells Cuban dissidents he will discuss rights with Castro,” 3/13/16]

Obama Will Meet With Dissidents In Cuba On Tuesday, Including Members Of UNPACU And Arco Progresista. “Another event on the president’s agenda that will be closely watched in Miami is his Tuesday civil society meeting, which will include prominent dissidents. The White House did not release their names, but several dissidents confirmed they were invited to the event at the U.S. Embassy in Havana. José Daniel Ferrer, general coordinator of the dissident group Unión Patriótica de Cuba, said he would be taking part. Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White, and Antonio Rodiles, director of Estado de Sats, said they had been invited but haven’t yet decided whether they will attend. The invitation list appears to include dissidents and activists with various points of view on the Obama policy of engagement. While the president has said he wants to work with Congress to lift the embargo, both Soler and Rodiles think it should remain in place. Manuel Cuesta Morúa, leader of Arco Progresista, a social democratic party; Convivencia magazine director Dagoberto Valdés; blogger Yoani Sánchez; and activist Guillermo Fariñas also were among the invitees, according to Ferrer.” [Miami Herald, “Castro, speech, dissidents, baseball, and business to highlight Obama’s Cuba trip,” 3/16/16]

Brookings’ Ted Piccone and Richard Feinberg: Obama’s Trip “Should Be Judged By Its Ability To Expand Constituencies In Both Countries Who Want A More Open And Prosperous Cuba.” “[T]his trip should be judged by its ability to expand constituencies in both countries who want a more open and prosperous Cuba. To that end, Obama should draw on his extraordinary rhetorical skills to paint a vision for both Cubans and Americans of a future attractive enough to persuade the island's citizens, especially its ambitious and talented millennials to remain on the island and for the resourceful Cuban American diaspora to invest in that vision. This promise of a Cuban renaissance should include one where citizens freely exercise their chosen professions, engage directly with a transparent and accountable government, have access to the global internet, and travel abroad routinely for family and business purposes. To help shape such a future, the U.S. delegation should engage not only with Cuba's historic revolutionaries but also with its next generations of public and private leaders from across Cuban society. The White House can also use the visit to leverage Obama's immense popularity on the island to speak directly to the Cuban people about their aspirations for a brighter future.” [The World Post, “In Cuba, Obama Looks to the Post-Castro Era,” 3/16/16]

Minnesota’s Klobuchar And Emmer To Join Obama In Trip To Cuba. “Republican Rep. Tom Emmer and Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar will be joining President Obama on his historic trip to Cuba next weekend…Emmer and Klobuchar became active on the issue for different reasons. Emmer, who was first elected to Congress less than two years ago, said a trip to the island with fellow lawmakers where he spoke with Cubans and small business owners inspired him to take up the cause. He said the embargo was hurting regular people there who wanted to get ahead. Klobuchar said the chance for open trade with Cuba opens up massive opportunities for Minnesota businesses and agribusinesses. She says if a trade embargo isn’t lifted, the Cuban economy and its burgeoning tourism industry will continue to flourish, benefiting Asian and European companies.” [Star-Tribune, “Klobuchar, Emmer to join Obama’s historic trip to Cuba,” 3/13/16]

What’s Changed In Cuba?

#CubaNow, EngageCuba, And Other Cuba Organizations Highlight Progress In Cuba. “While not as fast as many would like to see, change is happening in Cuba. Here we catalogue some of the most important ways that these changes are affecting the daily lives of more and more Cubans. More and faster change is needed to spur the economy and improve the lives of millions of Cubans. Increasingly, more Cubans are driving their own history and building a better life for their families. One thing is undeniable: 50 years of an isolationist embargo policy failed to create change in Cuba. A new U.S. policy of engagement offers more opportunities for supporting the Cuban people as they seek a better future.” [#CubaNow, “Fact Sheet: Changes In Cuba,” 3/17/16]

Cuba Announces Plans To Lift 10% Penalty On Exchanging Dollars. “Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez says the country will do away with a 10 percent penalty on dollars exchanged at banks and money-exchange centers in Cuba if new U.S. measures allowing Cuba access to the international banking system prove to work. The measure would make it much easier for U.S. visitors to Cuba to change dollars during their trip. Rodriguez told reporters Thursday that Cuba will try to make a series of international financial transactions in coming days. If they work, it will get rid of the 10 percent penalty.” [AP, “Cuba plans to life penalty on changing dollars,” 3/17/16]

Obama Administration Expands Trade And Travel Regulations Ahead Of The President’s Visit

Obama Administration Expands Individual Travel To Cuba, Financial Regulations. “Before Tuesday’s announcement, Americans could travel to Cuba, but the trips were mostly restricted to large educational groups and journalists. Now, the new rules allow for ‘people-to-people educational travel,’ meaning that anyone with a ‘full-time schedule of educational exchange activities intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities’ can go. Tuesday’s announcement also allows Cubans working in the U.S. on visas, who were previously restricted to compensation for basic living expenses, to earn a salary. It also allows Cubans to use the U.S. dollar in financial transactions with U.S. banks, and opens the U.S. up to Cuban exports on a case-by-case basis.” [The Atlantic, “The Opening of Personal Travel to Cuba,” 3/15/16]

Former U.S. Mission Chief John Caulfield: Regulation Changes Will Allow Americans To See Cuba With Less Government Interference. “John Caulfield, who served as the chief of the United States mission in Cuba from 2011 to 2014, said the change would expose Americans to a more authentic experience in Cuba than they have been able to get on organized tours. Many of the existing tours have evolved into a formulaic itinerary which Cuban state-run companies largely control, involving a relatively closed circle of architects, performers, economists and organic farmers who cycle through American tour groups, often receiving money for the visits. “In our diligence to make sure people were doing people-to-people, we allowed them to fall into the trap of the Cuban propaganda machine,” Mr. Caulfield said in an interview. ‘Basically it was the Potemkin tour of Cuba, where the Cubans could exert control.’ He added, ‘This allows a lot more flexibility for the travelers.’” [New York Times, “White House Eases More Restrictions on Travel to Cuba,” 3/15/16]

Sen. Jeff Flake: More Americans Traveling To The Island Will Boost Cuban Entrepreneurs’ Independence. “Removing these barriers ‘is recognition that the Cuban people, particularly the growing number of Cubans who run their own small businesses, benefit when Americans travel to the island,’ said Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, who supports lifting the embargo and will make the trip with Mr. Obama. ‘Increased travel by Americans will lead to more Cuban entrepreneurs who are less dependent on the Cuban government. This is a great thing.’” [New York Times, “White House Eases More Restrictions on Travel to Cuba,” 3/15/16]

Former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez: Only Fully Getting Rid Of The Embargo Will Assure Banks About Operating In Cuba. “As part of the action on Tuesday, the Treasury Department, which enforces the embargo through its Office of Foreign Assets Control, said it would allow so-called U-turn transactions, in which money from Cuba or a Cuban citizen can be cleared through a United States bank and transferred back in dollars. They would also allow American banks to process dollar-denominated transactions from Cuba, and to open accounts for Cubans that they could use to receive payment in the United States and send money back to Cuba. But United States banks may still worry about being penalized, now or in the future, for touching such transactions, said Carlos M. Gutierrez, the Havana-born secretary of commerce under President George W. Bush, who is a convert to Mr. Obama’s policy change and will make the trip next week. ‘These are regulations — these are done by executive authority, so they can be undone by executive authority,’ said Mr. Gutierrez, now chairman of the Albright Stonebridge Group and the U.S.-Cuba Business Council. ‘We have to get rid of the embargo for this to actually take hold.’” [New York Times, “White House Eases More Restrictions on Travel to Cuba,” 3/15/16]

What Rubio’s Exit From The 2016 Race Means For U.S. Cuba Policy

Rubio’s Loss In Florida Takes “A Big, Big Chunk Of The Wind” Out Of Efforts To Rollback Obama’s Cuba Policy. “If Donald Trump ends Marco Rubio’s presidential aspirations in Florida, his triumph would eliminate the biggest threat to President Barack Obama’s efforts to end a half-century of hostility toward Cuba. Rubio – the most prominent critic of Obama’s Cuba policy – is now fighting to stay in the presidential race. To do so, most experts say, he must win his home-state primary Tuesday, where he now trails Trump in the polls. Losing Florida would end not only Rubio’s 2016 presidential hopes, but also his plans – and those of many South Florida Cuban Americans – to reverse a series of unilateral steps taken by the Obama administration. Obama is trying to maneuver around the U.S. embargo with Cuba in order to boost trade with the island nation. ‘Rubio is the icon on rollback. So if he loses on Tuesday, a big, big chunk of the wind goes out of that thrust,’ said Pedro A. Freyre, a Miami attorney who specializes in Cuban business deals. ‘That leaves (Ted) Cruz as the standard-bearer of that ultra-conservative hardline.’” [McClatchy, “A Rubio loss in Florida clears path for closer ties to Cuba,” 3/14/16]

#CubaNow’s David Gomez: Rubio’s Cuba Rhetoric Was Aimed At Younger Cuban-Americans That Don’t Share His Views. “With his campaign now on life support, nowhere are Rubio's struggles to connect with the youth more evident than in his hometown of Miami, where his opposition to Obama's policy on Cuba stands in stark contrast to the views of younger Cuban-Americans who live here. This younger generation is, by and large, the cohort most likely to oppose continuing the embargo and most supportive of opening relations with the Communist regime -- a position that also garners increasing support from Cuban-Americans on the whole. ‘He's marketing himself as the candidate of the 21st century and all of this talk about moving to the future,’ said David Gomez, the political director for CubaNow, which advocates for expanded trade and travel with Cuba. ‘Younger Cubans overwhelmingly support a policy of engagement and expanding travel. He's kind of reaching out to a crowd that's not there anymore.’” [Huffington Post, “Young Cuban-Americans Think Marco Rubio Is Stuck In The Past,” 3/14/16]

Forbes: Rubio’s “Cold War Mentality” Continues To Block Ambassador To Mexico Over Cuba Policy. “One man, Senator Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican who is seeking his party’s presidential nomination, placed a hold on Jacobson’s nomination in October, thus blocking a confirmation vote. ‘We need an ambassador in Mexico City that has the trust of Congress for this important post,’ Rubio explained in a statement announcing his opposition. ‘I do not believe that Ms. Jacobson is that person and will oppose her confirmation.’…Jacobson’s sin, in the senator’s view, was her role in executing the rapprochement with the island’s Communist-led government following Obama’s decision in December 2014 to renew diplomatic ties after more than half a century of Cold War hostility. Jacobson subsequently led negotiations with the government of President Raúl Castro aimed at opening a U.S. Embassy in Havana last summer.” [Forbes, “Marco Rubio’s Cold War Mentality Toward Cuba Holds Nominee For U.S. Ambassador To Mexico Hostage,” 3/15/16]-

U.S. Business Ties To Cuba Grow, If Slowly

Obama Will Take Delegation To Try To Kick-Start Business Relationship With Cuba. “When he makes his historic visit to Cuba next week, President Obama will try to kick-start a business relationship that has yet to flourish despite intense administration efforts. Obama will arrive with a delegation that includes the CEOs of Xerox and Marriott International to help nudge along deals in the works. U.S. airlines are set to resume commercial flights to Cuba this summer, a New York-based research facility is working with Cuban researchers on a lung cancer vaccine, and an Alabama-based tractor company has won approval to build a factory near Havana. Hotel chains Marriott and Starwood could announce their own deals during the president's trip, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. And AT&T could join Sprint and Verizon in providing roaming services on the island.” [USA Today, “Obama plans to kick-start U.S. business with Cuba on Havana trip next week,” 3/15/16]

New York Times Editorial: Pointlessly Sanctioning Businesses For Embargo Violations While Pressing For The Policy’s Repeal Sends Mixed Signals. “Even as the Obama administration has lobbied Congress to repeal the embargo, some federal officials are still, inexplicably, enforcing aspects of it. Last month, the Treasury Department fined a French company $614,250 for exporting goods from the United States to a ship that was operating in Cuban waters. In a statement, Treasury officials classified it a ‘non-egregious’ violation of the embargo. Such enforcement actions serve no purpose and send mixed signals at a time when the White House is attempting to build a constructive relationship with the Cuban government.” [New York Times, “The Opening to Cuba Widens,” 3/15/16]

Verizon Signs Direct Connection Deal With Cuba. “A unit of telecoms multinational Verizon Communications signed a direct interconnection agreement with the Cuban state monopoly Etecsa, expanding on existing roaming services in the Caribbean country, Etecsa said in a statement on Monday. Verizon last September became the first U.S.-based wireless company to offer roaming in Cuba, taking advantage of U.S. President Barack Obama's move to open relations with a former Cold War adversary of the United States. Rival Sprint Corp in November signed the first direct roaming agreement with Etecsa. The U.S. trade embargo of Cuba remains in place, but the Obama administration issued new regulations a year ago shortly after detente that allow U.S. telecommunications companies to do business with the Cuban state.” [Reuters, “Verizon signs direct connection agreement with Cuba,” 3/14/16]

Cubans Slow To Allow Commerce And Tourism, “Wary Of U.S. Influence.” “Hungry for dollars but wary of U.S. influence, Cuban President Raul Castro's government has taken only a few cautious steps to allow U.S. commerce and tourism to return. Even as Obama's administration prepares to let more Americans travel and businesses operate in ways unimaginable just two years ago, it's unclear how far Cuba's labyrinthine bureaucracy and socialist ideals will bend…For Cuba, any American footprint carries uncomfortable echoes of the decades before its 1959 revolution, when American business and organized crime worked hand-in-hand with U.S.-backed strongmen to dominate the island's economy and politics, often with brutal force. For old-school Cuban officials, U.S. hotels, flights and cruise ships are not just new business, but a direct ideological challenge to a system that sees resistance to U.S. dominance in the region as part of its national mission.” [AP, “Obama to chop down more Cuba barriers, but is Havana ready?” 3/12/16]

Report: Cubans Have Huge Potential To Grow The Country’s Tech Sector. “Cubans on the island are bristling with underused skills, innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit that could burst into the tech world if given the right tools and political climate, a South by Southwest panel said on Monday. Trade with Cuba could reach $13 billion a year if restrictions between the two countries are lifted, including the U.S. embargo on Cuba, and greatly expand the island’s outdated tech sector, according to a report led by J. Walter Intelligence, a global research group, which was released at the panel. The group spent nine month interviewing economists, industry leaders and journalists about the evolution of the Cuban economy and the prospect of business dealings with the U.S.” [USA Today, “Cuban innovation ready to explode into tech world,” 3/15/16]

Cuba’s High Literacy And Abundance Of Engineers Make The Island “Ideal” For Tech Innovation. “Cuba’s high literacy percentage – around 99.8% -- and abundance of trained engineers would make it an ideal place for tech innovation to flourish, according to the report. That’s highly contingent on whether the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba is lifted, panelists said. U.S. sentiment on the embargo is evolving, they said. A Pew Research Center survey released in July showed 72% of Americans – including 55% of conservative Republicans – favor ending the embargo.” [USA Today, “Cuban innovation ready to explode into tech world,” 3/15/16]

Cuban-Americans on Re-engagement

White House Reaches Out To Cuban-American Exiles Ahead Of Obama’s Trip. “The White House sent one of its top officials to Miami on Friday to ease concerns in South Florida’s large Cuban American exile community over President Barack Obama’s upcoming visit to the communist-run island. ‘At a town hall meeting Obama’s senior adviser and point man on Cuba policy, Ben Rhodes, said the president would be accompanied March 20-22 by a large bipartisan congressional delegation, as well as a group of Cuban Americans. Pressed on whether Obama would raise human rights issues with Castro, Rhodes repeatedly assured the audience of mostly young Cuban Americans that the president’s new policy of engagement with Havana was more fruitful than continuing the old policy of isolation. ‘We are Americans, we believe in the right to free assembly, the right to free speech …. we know the ways in which those rights are denied in Cuba, and this is a part of everything we’re doing,’ he told the town hall, at Miami-Dade College. ‘We want the same thing. We want to get to the same place.’” [Univision, “White House reaches out to exiles ahead of Obama visit to Cuba,” 3/11/16]

Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine To Become First Head Of A Miami-Dade County City To Visit Cuba Since 1959. “In a historic visit, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine plans to travel to Cuba in his official capacity next week, becoming the first head of a Miami-Dade County city to go to the island since the 1959 revolution. Levine will fly to Cuba to help lead a graduate seminar for Tufts University, which he said asked him to join about a dozen students of international affairs. The dates, set some time ago, happened to coincide with President Barack Obama’s trip to the island, the first time a U.S. president will step on Cuban soil in nearly 90 years. “I think I’m the first mayor from Miami-Dade County to go,” Levine told the Miami Herald on Tuesday, in a boast that might have been unthinkable just a couple of years ago. “I believe in the Cuban people in Cuba as well as the Cuban people in Miami. And I believe that we need to engage people in Cuba, and we need to do it through all types of interaction, and we need to give them hope. We need to give them aspiration. ‘Obviously, government-to-government it’s been very challenging over the past 60 years, but I think if you empower the people, the people will be able to bring about the changes that they would like to see, whether it’s human rights and, of course, all types of freedoms.’” [Miami Herald, “In historic visit, Miami Beach mayor to travel to Cuba next week,” 3/15/16]

Cuban Americans Share Their Experiences Under The New Cuba Policy With The White House. “As travel restrictions were lifted, I was able to return to Cuba frequently, to visit my relatives and friends from childhood. To visit my husband during the beginning of our relationship, when he was still living in Havana. To conduct academic research for my thesis, which explored Cuba’s relations with Western Europe. Sending remittances has also become easier, allowing us to support our families more meaningfully. With our help, some of my relatives in Cuba have launched successful small enterprises.” [Medium, “Voices from Miami: Cuban Americans Share Their Thoughts on President Obama’s Efforts on Cuba,” 3/11/16]

Debate Continues Over How To Move Forward On The Cuban Adjustment Act

The Economist: Only Sustainable Action On The Cuban Adjustment Act Is To Simultaneously Lift It With The Embargo. “At root, today’s fights about Cuban migration turn on old arguments about whether the island is best liberated by openness or isolation. Bruno Barreiro is the Miami-Dade county commissioner for Little Havana, a bastion of anti-Castro fervour. He says the Cuban Adjustment Act was a mistake: if Cubans had been bottled up on the island, they would have exploded long ago. The act saved lots of lives, Mr Barreiro concedes: “Unfortunately, it also permitted the Castro regime to stay in place.” Not every anti-Castro politician goes that far, though the logic of isolation underpins politicians’ growling about Cuban-Americans showing disloyalty by returning to the island to visit their families. In the end, the only sustainable Cuban immigration policy involves a free and prosperous island, 90 miles off Florida. Cubans’ entry privileges may be a relic of the cold war. But so is the failed embargo. Scrap both at the same time, and bet on openness.” [The Economist, “Not so special,” 3/12/16]

UC Irvine Professor Ruben G. Rumbaut: Cuban American Community Has Never Been Static On Migration Policy. “Geography, a generational divide, continuous waves of Cuban migration and the passage of time are changing the political landscape of the Cuban American community in Southern California and nationwide, observers say. ‘It's never been a static thing … the Cuban American community,’ said Ruben G. Rumbaut, a professor at UC Irvine who has studied the Cuban diaspora for about 50 years. ‘It's always changing.’… Although the original exiles from the late 1950s and early '60s weren't homogenous in their politics, they were generally conservative. ‘Those who left as adults from Cuba, especially those who left for political reasons, arguably made the most consequential decision of their lives. It was an act of self-definition like no other and you don't change your attitude 10 years later or 30 years later. You don't say, “Let bygones be bygones and everything will be fine,”’ Rumbaut said. Younger Cubans are more liberal and tend to be more Democratic than their elders, and their views on relations with Cuba and immigration also differ, according to a 2014 Florida International University poll.” [Los Angeles Times, “This Cuban American family's fractured views on immigration show how much the community's politics have changed,” 3/14/16]

¡No Me Digas!

Personal Letter From Obama To 76-Year-old Cuban Included In First Direct Mail To Cuba In Over 50 Years. “The first direct U.S. mail service to Cuba in more than 50 years this week included a personal letter from President Obama to a 76-year-old Cuban pen pal. The presidential missive was among a batch of mail that went out on a flight to Cuba on Wednesday, according to the White House. The U.S. Postal Service said Thursday that it now offers a full-range of mail service to the island-nation, including first-class letters, packages and even Priority Mail International. Until now, mailing items to Cuba was a complicated, highly regulated process that made it difficult for Americans to ship letters or items to friends or relatives on the island. Most shipments went through third-party countries, such as Canada and Mexico.” [USA Today, “Obama letter among first direct mail to Cuba in 50+ years,” 3/17/16]