Monday, October 27, 2008

Losing His Touch

As usual, I was listening to Radio Mambi (the highest rated AM station in South Florida) yesterday and waiting to hear what Armando Perez Roura had to say in his daily radio commentary, Tome Nota. (The title translates more or less to "pay close attention," but literally means "take notes." Perez Roura is Radio Mambi's programming director, and perhaps the most popular voice in Miami of the militant Cuban exile.)

Lately, hosts on Radio Mambi have been warning their listeners of the potential danger of electing Sen. Barack Obama this November. Callers have been calling in to repeat those concerns, and in a nutshell they all seem to share a common conclusion about Sen. Obama: he's part of a worldwide communist conspiracy to destroy the United States. This assertion would undoubtedly have strong resonance within the mostly Republican Cuban exile community, but I don't think that propaganda works anymore.

Years of polling data about the Cuban community in Miami show that attitudes have changed, including their policy options against the Cuban government. Recent polling of three important congressional districts in South Florida [18th, 21st, and 25th], which are composed of mostly Cuban residents, show that younger Cubans may be distancing themselves from the traditional militant position. The results show that the 18 to 44 age group in each district is far more likely to vote (by an average margin of 27%) for the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama, who has voiced a new diplomatic strategy towards the Cuban government.

Nevertheless, Radio Mambi seems to remain unchanged with their military strategy to free Cuba from the evil clutches of "communism." There should be no doubt that self-proclaimed "intransigents" like Armando Perez Roura only see a military solution for Cuba. But, seeing that attitudes are changing in Miami, militant exiles, like Perez Roura, sound more and more removed from reality with every passing day.

Take yesterday's Tome Nota for example.

Armando Perez Roura begins by praising Colombian President Alvaro Uribe for the recent news of a freed FARC hostage, Oscar Lizcano. Ever since the Colombian army successfully killed a top FARC leader last March in a controversial military operation inside Ecuador, Cuban exile militants have been cheering for the Uribe administration. Perez Roura repeated his mantra yesterday that "these elements [of the FARC] can only be stripped of power by force."

But, if you are familiar with his speeches, when Perez Roura says "these elements" he really means terrorists, communists, socialists, democrats, etc. They're all somewhat the same to him, like Hugo Chavez, or Barack Obama.

Recently in Miami, former Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez was honored by some former Cuban political prisoners. Telemundo51 was there for an interview and recorded him calling for the violent overthrow of current Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Telemundo51 probably already knew what Carlos Andres Perez was gonna say, since he said it before publicly in 2004. But, Telemundo51 attempts to keep the militant spirit alive in Miami by rebroadcasting those comments, which only encourages militants like Armando Perez Roura, who yesterday quoted the exiled former Venezuelan president.

So, by the end of his Tome Nota, Perez Roura pieces together his list of "these elements" and concludes that we must...

"remove by force these elements that assume power through the vote and later begin to make 'changes.' They are elected following the rules of the game that exist, and later say they are going to 'change,' and begin changing in order to fulfill the plans they carry concealed. Because all these individuals that talk about 'change' are all alike. Inside they carry the little red worm."

Perez Roura never ceases to amaze me. Within his speech he lumps together the FARC guerillas, Hugo Chavez, and Sen. Barack Obama with inventive desperation. I'm laughing at the creative associations (not to mention the "little red worm"), but how serious is he being? Is Armando Perez-Roura, and other militants, being honestly fearful of Sen. Obama, or are they engaging in pure propaganda?

Whatever the reason may be, there are some important facts missing. Perez Roura praises the Uribe government for the recently freed FARC hostage, Oscar Lizcano, but, according to news reports, the Colombian military had nothing to do with his release. Instead, Lizcano was helped by a FARC deserter. In addition, Lizcano is telling President Alvaro Uribe to "[l]ook for a humane solution as soon as possible" to free all other hostages. He is alerting the Colombian army that FARC rebels are prepared to shoot any hostages that are about to be liberated.

Findings solutions to problems require some grasp of reality. Armando Perez Roura's committment to militancy seems to be losing touch with it.

[The same can be said about writers of the Babalu Blog.]

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dinner with the Mambises

Just wanted to post this photo before it disappears from the net. Its another wide shot of the table where President Bush sat with SOME leaders of the Cuban exile community earlier this month (October 10th). Before this dinner, he met at the home of Sergio Pino, President of Century Homebuilders of South Florida (longtime Republican contributor). According to Republican officials, Bush raised more than $500,000 on this trip for the Florida Republican Party.

In the photo above are Armando Perez-Roura (far right, no pun intended) and Ninoska Perez-Castellon (in front). Both criticized Pres. Bush in May for not having done what he "should have done" to free Cuba. I wonder if they said the same thing (with the same attitude) to him at the dinner?

Florida Votes

If you haven't heard, there are long lines for early voters in South Florida. There seems to be several reasons for this, some political. Anyway, a large voter turnout is a good sign, but one that may cause concern for our favorite congressional incumbents: Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario and Lincoln Diaz-Balart.

Below I have organized the results of recent polling by local Spanish-language news stations Telemundo51 and Univision23. The Telemundo51 poll used a sample of 300 registered voters in the following questions (margin of error: 5%). The Univision23 poll was conducted by The Metropolitan Center at Florida International University and used a sample of about 400 likely voters (margin of error not provided). All polling was conducted before or near the beginning of October.

What is very interesting of all the data is the number of undecided likely voters. Also, age and ethnicity seem to be a significant factor as well (click on links for more data). One thing I've learned about living in Miami, there's always a potential for a surprise. Below, results show all congressional incumbents leading the race so far.


Telemundo51: 48% - 35%, Undecided 17%
Univision23/FIU: 52% - 27%, Undecided 21%


Telemundo51: 48% - 43%, Undecided 9%
Univision/FIU: 47% - 33%, Undecided 20%


Telemundo51: 43% - 41%, Undecided 16%
Univision/FIU: 46% - 37%, Undecided 17%

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

It's Up to the Undecided [UPDATED]

This week Telemundo 51, one of South Florida's Spanish-language news stations, released interesting polling results about the anticipated Congressional races involving Rep. Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. According to the results, the road to November will be very suspenseful.


Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen at first glace seems to have a very comfortable lead (48% v 35%) in front of her opponent, Annette Taddeo. But, Telemundo 51 and a recent FIU/Univision poll show a significant amount of potential voters still undecided. In both polls, undecided voters number about 20%!


Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart leads (48% v 43%) in front of his opponent Raul Martinez, but undecided voters make up 9% of respondents.


Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and his opponent Joe Garcia are almost head to head in this race, Diaz-Balart leading 43% v 41%. But, undecided voters (16%) will certainly name the winner.

It's all very exciting, with less than a month to go until elections. It's important to note that these results come at a time when all candidates above are just beginning their massive media campaigns. These following weeks will be decisive.

Today, all six contenders appeared in a local forum, which the Naked Politics blog attended and provides some details.

The Babalu Blog, who loves to analyze polls, has not reported these findings yet. And Diario Las Americas, a local Spanish-language newspaper that regularly includes columns by Reps. Lincoln or Mario Diaz-Balart, has not reported these findings either. Instead, Diario today posts an article showing support for Ileana, Mario and Lincoln by a Cuban exile organization.

According to the article in Diario, the militant Cuban exile organization "Foro Patriótico Cubano" has endorsed Ileana, Mario and Lincoln for November. The endorsement is signed at the bottom by its members, which include Radio Mambi's Armando Perez Roura and Frank Alonso. Both Perez Roura and Alonso are leaders of the militant organization Unidad Cubana.

----- [Update: Oct. 17] -----

More polling results have been publicized by Univision/FIU. According to the new results, the race between Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and Joe Garcia is not as close as it seems. Rep. Diaz-Balart leads over Garcia 46% v 37%. This is a larger lead than the one found by polling done for Telemundo51. Nevertheless, the number of undecided voters is almost identical (17%).

Meanwhile, the attack ads in the race between Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Raul Martinez are heating up. Telemundo51 has video of a confrontation between both candidates accusing each other of being the instigator.

In the video, Raul Martinez reveals that he approached Rep. Diaz-Balart and proposed a deal where they could agree to remove certain negative ads. Martinez says that Rep. Diaz-Balart refused to discuss the issue. Thus, Martinez says that he will continue his ads attacking his opponent as "corrupt."

Also in the video, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart repeats that there is nothing personal about his ads. But, his ads against Martinez have been scrutinized as deceptive.

Raul Martinez has also recently been endorsed by the Miami Herald.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Jose Ramos-Horta on the US Embargo

Jose Ramos-Horta is winner of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize and current President of Timor-Leste. He spoke to the UN General Assembly last week (September 25, 2008) and addressed the US embargo towards Cuba. In his own words...

-----[Excerpt from full speech(PDF)]-----

Timor-Leste is a LDC [Least Developed Country]. However, the Almighty God has bestowed on us some modest oil, gas and other mineral wealth.

While our first obligation is to make use of our oil wealth towards a sustainable development of our country and addressing the immediate needs of our poorest, we are not indifferent to the suffering of our fellow human beings in other parts of the world.


Now in response to several natural disasters that have affected tens of millions of our fellow human beings, Timor-Leste has promptly decided to donate:

1. US$500,000 for the victims of the earthquake that hit the Chinese province of Sichuan;

2. US$500,000 for the victims of cyclone Nargis that hit Myanmar in May 2 to be channeled through the ASEAN Secretariat;

3. US$500,000 for Cuba to assist the victims of cyclones Gustav and Ike, to be channeled directly to the Cuban authorities.


Cyclones Gustav and Ike, that brought thorough devastation to the Caribbean, ruined the Cuban economy. The material losses are staggering with initial estimates totaling at least US$5 [billion].

We have almost 700 East Timorese medical students in Cuba and over 140 are studying medicine in our National University with Cuban medical instructors. In addition, there are almost 300 Cuban doctors working in our country distributed through all districts and sub-districts. Cuban adult education specialists assist us in adult literacy campaign benefiting thousands of adults. The costs of these programs are covered almost entirely by Cuba.

While I commend the US and any country that stands for universal democratic values and provide moral support for those promoting democracy in their own country, I submit that punitive measures imposed on poor developing countries for the perceived sins of their leaders cannot be morally justified.

As a friend to the US, I humbly appeal to the next US Administration and Congress to lift the embargo on Cuba. Such a gesture would be an honourable one and my admiration for the US would only increase. As it is, as I witness the impact of US sanctions on a small developing country and its refusal to provide assistance to Cuba following the devastation caused by cyclones Gustav and Ike, my heart bleeds in sorrow and my admiration for the US seriously diminishes.

In this regard, I wish to reiterate our most heartfelt sympathy and solidarity with the people of Haiti and others in the Caribbean region that were affected by the recent natural disasters.

The Embargo

In 2005, a book by political science professors Patrick J. Haney and Walt Vanderbush was published concerning the US embargo towards Cuba. It was called "The Cuba Embargo: The Domestic Politics of an American Foreign Policy."

In my opinion, the book provides an excellent summary and analysis of the dynamic politics behind the US embargo (an interest of Haney and Vanderbush going as far back as 1999). But, I bring attention to the book now because of the authors' prescient conclusions made three years ago.

Haney and Vanderbush believed that a Democratic Presidential win in 2004 would signal the "last hurrah" for the US embargo against Cuba. While their hopes in 2004 never materialized, this year's election gives new life to their conclusions and may prove them right in the end.

I highly recommend Haney and Vanderbush's book, and you can read large excerpts at Google Books.

----- [Excerpt from pp.169-170] -----

It is at least possible that a Democratic candidate could do better in Florida by arguing for small changes to the embargo, as younger Cuban Americans are less wedded to the hard embargo, and as the state's non-Cuban Hispanic vote increases rapidly. At the very least, that would seem a more promising approach than giving the appearance of pandering to the Cuban Americans. A Democratic presidential candidate might take a more nuanced postion on the embargo - in favor of more travel, continued family remittances, and no limits on the sale of food and medicine to Cuba, perhaps, while maintaining diplomatic isolation and other elements of the economic embargo, particularly prohibiting the import of Cuban goods to the United States - and find that there is a net gain in Florida, much less the rest of the country.

Finally, some have suggested that this may be the last presidential election during the era of the Cuban embargo... As we have discussed, the politics of Cuba policy, to the extent that they have a trend line, seem to us to be moving away from the embargo for a variety of economic, political, institutional, and electoral reasons. This election may be the last hurrah for embargo hard-liners as they hold out the prize of Florida's electoral votes, or the embargo may go out with a whimper at some future point. But, however it ultimately recedes, the days of the strong U.S. embargo of Cuba are numbered in large part because the political dynamics set in motion in the 1980's have come of age in ways that have undermined presidential control over the embargo, and the embargo policy itself.