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Newt, Mitt, And The Battle For Florida’s Cuban Vote

By Jack Tomas

The Republican primary race is getting real. Gingrich and Romney are at each other’s throats to see who will win the crucial Latino vote in Florida. They have to strike a balance between being anti-immigration and appealing to potential Latino voters. But let’s face it, what getting the Latino vote in Florida really means is which one of them will get the support of the Cubans. Cuban-Americans have historically been Republicans. In my house growing up, Democrat and communist were synonyms. It’s not because we believe in big business, small government, or are evangelical Christians. Cuban-Americans are interested in only one thing: “What are you going to do about Castro?”

Going to Florida and pandering to Cuban-Americans is a right of passage for all presidential hopefuls. When they go to Florida, they will drink a cafecito at the famous Versailles Cuban restaurant while wearing a guayabera. They will make big promises about what they are going to do about Cuba and the Cubans get all excited and chant, “¡Cuba si, Castro No!”. You can set your watch by it. So, far Gingrich is winning at the anti-Castro posturing game. He promised that as president he would push for a “Cuban spring” and might consider bombing Cuba. Romney, on the other hand, used Fidel’s most famous slogan, “¡Patria o Muerte: Venceremos!” in one of his campaign ads. He might as well have taken a crap on a Cuban flag and a Gloria Estefan CD. I predict they will support Newt.

The reality is that we Cuban-Americans have been pawns in this game for over 50 years. First, in the pissing fight between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, and now between the Castros and the hardcore Cuban-American interests in Miami. No president, Republican or Democrat, has supported removing the embargo. Why? Because unfortunately, these hardline Cubans still control Florida and you need Florida to be president. Just ask Al Gore. This is changing, though. As the old people die off and the demographics in Miami change, the embargo may be on its last days. Younger Cuban-Americans like me, Cubans that have come over in the last 20 years, and the Latinos from other countries are largely against the embargo and the hardline Cuban-American platform. But, for right now Romney and Gingrich still need them. Just remember, they don’t care about Cuba. They don’t care about you or what your family suffered under the Castros. They’ll get your vote and keep things in the stasis they’ve been in for 50 years.

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