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One-Trick Pony Diaz-Balart Is Back With His One Trick

David Gomez

#CubaNow Blog Post

Apr 28, 2015

Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL)

Like a broken record of an album nobody liked to begin with, the AP is reporting today that once again Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart is attempting to insert a policy rider rolling back progress in U.S-Cuba policy. In what seems like an annual tradition, the congressman is trying to get his own way by attaching his provisions to must-pass legislation:

“House Republicans unveiled legislation on Tuesday to sharply curb the Obama administration's recent moves to ease restrictions on travel to Cuba.

The provision by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Cuban-American from Florida, would block new flights and cruise ship travel to Cuba. The provision was attached to a must-pass transportation spending bill that the House will consider next month.

Diaz-Balart's move comes in response to new rules issued by the administration in January that would significantly ease travel restrictions to Cuba and permit regularly scheduled flights for the first time, the result of a rapprochement after a half century of Cold War animosity.

The GOP plan would thwart the new flights but leave in place new rules permitting the import of limited amounts of goods like cigars and rum.”

For those not familiar with Congressman Diaz-Balart, rescinding Americans rights’ by slipping unpopular Cuba policy into legislation is sort of his “thing,” like the Fonz pounding on the jukebox. And much like the Fonz, Congressman Diaz-Balart is stuck in the 1960s, doing the same thing over and over. He tried it last year and the year before that. He tried it in 2011 even as it posed the possibility of causing a government shutdown:

“But the provision that set off the biggest firestorm is one tightening federal rules regarding family travel and remittances to Cuba. The rider, by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R) of Florida, overturns Obama administration policies that allow Cuban-Americans to visit family in Cuba or send remittances without limit. In a return to Bush-era policies, the rider would limit visits to once every three years and remittances to $1,200 annually.”

Returning to Bush-era policies by limiting family visits to Cuba and the remittances they can send to Cubans on the Island? Small wonder the Congressman tried to sneak it into an omnibus in the middle of the night instead of trumpeting what he knows is unpopular policy among the hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans visiting every year.

Fortunately, it looks like many in Congress are getting tired of it. As the AP also reported, there’s a growing bipartisan sentiment that it’s time to fix a broken policy:

“The provision is sure to spark controversy and a veto threat from the White House. It also faces votes in the Appropriations Committee and in the House, where there is significant sentiment, even among some GOP conservatives, to ease the five-decade-plus Cuba trade embargo and travel restrictions to the island.

The embargo and travel restrictions, however, have not moved the Castro government toward democracy.”

There’s a very simple reason why supporters of hardliner policy like Congressman Diaz-Balart try to sneak in these provisions when they think nobody is looking. The last five decades of Cuba policy are as unpopular among both Americans and Cubans as the new shift is popular. And with U.S.-Cuba relations on the mend and serious legislators finally taking up the task of fixing this bad policy, the one-trick Members of Congress are suddenly faced with a terrifying reality: that despite entire legislative careers and fundraising machineries built on the necessity of an embargo remaining in place, everyone else is finally ready to leave it behind.