1 Fresh Start for a Stale Policy: Can Obama Break the Stalemate in U.S.-Cuban Relations? by William M. LeoGrande School of Public Affairs American University Washington, DC Paper prepared for presentation at the conference, "Proyecciones, tendencias y perspectivas de las relaciones Cuba - Estados Unidos en el contexto del mandato Presidencial ,"17-18 de Diciembre de 2012, La Habana, Cuba.
2 Fresh Start for a Stale Policy: Can Obama Break the Stalemate in U.S.-Cuban Relations? by William M. LeoGrande American University After a long, nasty campaign in which the candidates and assorted super PACs spent upwards of $6 billion, voters re-elected President Barack Obama, increased the Democrats' control in the Senate by two seats, and left Republicans in control of the House, albeit by a smaller majority. Thus the balance of power in Washington was not much changed by the 2012 election. It was logical to conclude, therefore, that U.S. policy toward Latin America, and Cuba in particular, might not change dramatically in the second Obama administration. Four years earlier, President Obama took office promising a "new beginning" in U.S. relations with Cuba. During the 2008 campaign, he acknowledged that 50 years of the policy of hostility had failed, and argued that it was time to try something new. During his first term, he expanded people-to-people programs significantly, not just reversing the restrictions placed on them by President George W. Bush in 2003 and 2004, but going beyond what President Bill Clinton had put in place in Obama lifted virtually all restrictions on Cuban-American travel and remittances in 2009, and then expanded educational travel in 2011, restoring the broad people-to-people category that Bush had abolished. 1 But the Obama administration made very little headway in expanding government-togovernment ties with Cuba. It resumed the semi-annual immigration consultations Bush had suspended, but then suspended them again in January Initial talks on counter-narcotics cooperation, joint medical assistance to Haiti, and Coast Guard search and rescue seemed to offer some promise of progress, but they stalled before reaching any new agreements. Only talks on cooperation to mitigate oil spills in the Caribbean made any real progress, and even then Washington insisted on conducting them multilaterally rather than bilaterally. The proximate cause of the failure to move bilateral relations ahead was the arrest of USAID subcontractor Alan Gross in December But there were deeper causes for the loss of momentum in Obama's new Cuba policy. One was the low priority given to it in the face of the
3 2 multiple foreign policy problems facing the president wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, nuclear proliferation in Iran and North Korea, revolutions sweeping North Africa. Even in Latin America, the administration faced more pressing problems the coup in Honduras, drug war in Mexico, and earthquake in Haiti. Another reason for the lose of momentum was the political resistance the president faced in Congress, not just from Florida Republicans like Ileana Ros- Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart, but from powerful Democrats like Senator Robert Menendez (NJ) and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.). Nor was Obama willing to make the dramatic change in policy direction that his campaign promises seemed to portend. He continued funding the "democracy promotion" programs Bush had funded lavishly, including one to create an independent, satellite-based digital network in Cuba, outside the government's control the project that got Alan Gross arrested. More fundamentally, Obama adopted the basic outlook of every U.S. president since George H. W. Bush that Cuba would have to change its political and economic system before the United States would change its policy in any fundamental way. Consequently, for the last three years, U.S. policy has been essentially frozen as regards state-to-state relations. Has anything changed that would lead us to expect that U.S. policy will be any different in the next four years? The Presidential Campaign Cuba has been an issue in U.S. elections with surprising frequency certainly more often than any other Latin American country. In 1960, John F. Kennedy pilloried Vice-President Richard Nixon, blaming the Eisenhower administration for having lost Cuba. In the 1962 midterm campaign, Republicans turned the tables, attacking Kennedy for allowing a Soviet military buildup on the island, only to have Kennedy trump their argument in October by ending the Missile Crisis with the withdrawal of Soviet missiles. In 1976, challenging President Gerald Ford for the Republican nomination, Ronald Reagan criticized Ford for not doing more to keep Cuban troops from intervening in Angola. Four years later, Reagan blasted President Jimmy Carter for failing to force the Soviets to withdraw their so-called "combat brigade" from Cuba and for his
4 inability to halt the Mariel refugee crisis. "Carter couldn't get the Russians to move out of Cuba," Reagan quipped, "so he's moving out the Cubans." 2 In the 1992 campaign, Bill Clinton tried to outflank President George H. W. Bush on the right by endorsing the Cuban Democracy Act (know as the Torricelli bill, for sponsor Congressman Robert Torricelli, D-NJ), which Bush had opposed because its extraterritorial provisions would inflame U.S. relations with Latin American and European allies. Clinton's endorsement of the law forced Bush to flip-flop and sign the bill into law. Four years later, Clinton signed the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act (Helms-Burton), surrendering to Congress presidential authority over policy toward Cuba, but strengthening Clinton's prospects among Cuban-American voters in the upcoming election. In 2000, however, the Clinton administration's decision to return six year old Elián González to his father in Cuba doomed Vice-President Al Gore's chances of a decent showing among Cuban-American voters in Florida. He lost the state and the election to George W. Bush by 537 votes. Four years later, Bush himself was the target of criticism from those same voters for not doing enough to keep his pledge to bring about regime change on the island, leading him to tighten regulations limiting travel and family remittances. Foreign policy played a minor role in the 2012 presidential campaign, however, and Cuba was nearly invisible. Even during the presidential debate devoted to foreign policy, held in Florida, there was not a single question about Cuba and neither candidate mentioned the island. Nevertheless, the Romney campaign tried to rally its Cuban-American base in Florida by 3 accusing Obama of "appeasement" for his policies on travel and remittances. "If I'm fortunate enough to become the next president, it is my expectation that Fidel Castro will finally be taken off this planet," Romney told Cuban-American civic leaders at a political rally in Miami. "We have to be prepared, in the next president's first or second term, it is time to strike for freedom in 4 Cuba." Just days before the election, the Romney campaign ran a controversial television spot in Spanish featuring Mariela Castro, Cuban President Raúl Castro's daughter, and Venezuelan 5 President Hugo Chávez, saying they would vote for Obama. As a result of Cuba's absence as a campaign issue, Obama begins his second term unconstrained by any campaign promises. 3
5 The 2012 Election Perhaps the most surprising result of the election was that, despite Romney's efforts to appeal to the community's traditional anti-communism, Obama won almost half the Cuban- American vote in Florida. Two statewide exit polls showed Obama winning the Cuban-American vote, 49% to Romney's 47% (Edison Research National Election Pool), or losing it narrowly, 48% to Romney's 52% (Bendixen & Amandi International). No Democrat had ever done so well among this solidly Republican constituency. * Conventional wisdom among Democratic political operatives had been that a presidential 6 candidate needs to win 30% of the Cuban-American vote to carry Florida. The only Democrats since 1980 to meet that threshold and carry the state were Bill Clinton in 1996 (35% of the Cuban-American vote) and Barack Obama in 2008 (35%). Clinton was the first Democrat to actively campaign for the Cuban-American vote, beginning in 1992 with his endorsement of the Cuban Democracy Act. Although Clinton carried just 22% of the Cuban-American vote in 1992, 4 * The polling results were not uncontested. The conservative anti-castro lobbying group, U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, attacked Bendixen as "infamously known for the inaccuracy of his polls," and "once again peddling inaccurate exit polling data about Cuban-American voting trends." ("Bendixen Peddles Exit Poll Fiction (Again)," Capitol Hill Cubans, November 8, 2012, It did not comment on the poll by Edison Research, which since 2003 has done the exit polling for the National Election Pool used by all the major television networks. Professors Dario Moreno and Kevin Hill conducted a statistical analysis of the vote in the most heavily Cuban-American precincts in Miami-Dade county. They estimated the Romney vote at somewhere between 55% and 59%, and then generalized that finding state-wide. The Bendixen poll found that in Miami-Dade, Romney won the Cuban-American vote, 56%-44%, a result consistent with Moreno and Hill, but lost to Obama 59% to 41% among Cuban-Americans elsewhere in the state, who represent about 25% of the Cuban-American electorate. (Juan O. Tamayo, "Did Obama or Romney Win the Cuban-American Vote?" Miami Herald, November 12, 2012; Sergio Bendixen, Comment on Brian E. Crowley, "Little Havana Turns Blue (Or Maybe Not)," Columbia Journalism Review online, November 14, 2012).
6 that was a better showing than any Democrat since Jimmy Carter (Table 1). Clinton's success in 1996, after signing the Helms-Burton legislation tightening the embargo, convinced Democrats that a tough policy toward Cuba was the right electoral strategy to win enough Cuban-American votes to carry Florida. If a Democratic candidate was just as bellicose as his Republican opponent, a significant number of Cuban-Americans would decide their vote based on other issues issues on which their policy preferences tended to be closer to those of other Latinos, and to Democrats. In 2008, Hillary Clinton and John McCain followed the tried and true path of lambasting Cuba to appeal to conservative Cuban-American voters, but Obama adopted an alternative strategy. He sought to cut into the Republicans' traditional electoral advantage by winning over moderates-- a growing segment of the community according to opinion polls. He promised to end restrictions on remittances and family travel for Cuban Americans, resume "people-to-people" educational and cultural exchanges, and engage Cuba in bilateral talks on issues of mutual interest. Engagement, he argued, offered the best hope for promoting "a democratic opening in 7 Cuba." Advocating engagement proved to be a winning strategy. By carrying Florida in 2008 with 35% of the Cuban-American vote, Obama proved that a Democrat could take a moderate stance on Cuba and still make inroads with this solidly Republican constituency. His even stronger showing in 2012 proved that the 2008 result was not just an anomaly. Having defied conventional wisdom that only a "get tough on Cuba" platform would sell in south Florida, Obama changed the domestic political dynamics of the issue, making new thinking about Cuba politically feasible. But was Obama's success a harbinger of structural realignment in the Cuban-American community or merely a conjunctural product of Romney's flawed candidacy? The Republican ticket had its shortcomings. In 2007, candidate Romney famously ended a speech to stunned Cuban-Americans with Fidel Castro's signature closing, "Patria o muerte! Venceremos!" 8 (Homeland or death! We shall overcome!). Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan had a record of repeatedly voting in the House of Representatives to end the embargo against Cuba (on the libertarian grounds that the government should not impede free trade). "That did their ticket a lot 5
7 Table 1: Cuban American Presidential Election Vote in Florida, Statewide Miami Dade Exit polls (%) Precincts (%) 1980 Reagan 80 Carter Reagan Mondale Bush Dukakis Bush Clinton Perot Dole Clinton Bush Gore Bush Kerry McCain Obama Romney Obama tage percent percen ntage Republican and Democratic Shares of the Presidential Vote by Cuban Americans in Florida, (exit polls) Republican and Democratic Shares of the Presidential Vote by Cuban Americans in Florida, (precinct analysis) R D R D Sources: Polls: 1988, , Bendixen and Amandi International, Exit Poll of Hispanic Voters in Florida, November 8, , Schroth quoted in "Dole Can't Count on Cuban American Vote," Ocala Star Banner, October 13, , Ana Maria Merico Stephens and John P. Schmal, "Voting" in Encyclopedia Latina: History, Culture, And Society In The United States, ed. Ilan Stavans and Harold Augenbraum, Vol 2, pp Precincts: , Dario Moreno, Maria Ilcheva, and Juan Carlos Flores, "The Hispanic Vote in Florida," in Beyond the Barrio: Latinos in the 2004 Election, ed. Rodolfo O. de la Garza, Luois DeSipio, and David L. Leal, pp , Moreno quoted in Juan O. Tamayo, "Did Obama or Romney Win the Cuban American Vote?" Miami Herald, 12, , Moreno quoted in Mary Ellen Klas, "Who Really Won Florida's Cuban Vote?" Naked Politics Blog, Miami Herald, November 13, 1012.
8 of harm with Cubans, and allowed us to at least get a hearing with them about many other 9 economic issues," an Obama campaign official said. Moreover, the Republican Party's anti-immigrant posture, which hurt it with Latino voters nationwide, hurt it with Cuban-American voters as well. The state's most prominent national Republican elected officials Senator Marco Rubio, and Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart, all distanced themselves from their Party's hardline on immigration 10 reform. In 1996, when Bill Clinton won 35% of the Cuban-American vote against Bob Dole, the Republican Party was also hurt by its anti-immigration policy. That year, the Republican Platform supported making English the official language, advocated cutting off welfare for non- 11 citizens, and deny citizenship to the U.S.-born children of illegal aliens. Yet despite these problems, there was growing evidence that Obama's gains might represent more than just Romney's weakness. Polling by Florida International University since 1991 has chronicled gradual changes in the Cuban-American community in south Florida, both demographically and attitudinally changes that, as they begin to manifest themselves in voting behavior, do not bode well for the Republican Party. 6 The Cuban-American Electorate When FIU began polling Cuban-Americans south Florida in 1991, 87% favored continuation of the U.S. embargo. By 2011, support had fallen to 56%. In 1993, 75% of respondents opposed the sale of food to Cuba and 50% opposed the sale of medicine. By 2011, solid majorities (65% and 75% respectively) supported both. In 1991, 55% opposed unrestricted travel to Cuba, whereas in 2011, 57% supported unrestricted travel for all Americans and 66% supported unrestricted travel for Cuban-Americans (Table 2). These changes in Cuban-American opinion were clearly linked to demographic changes in the community. Exiles who arrived in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s came as political refugees, motivated principally by their opposition to the socialist course of the revolution. Those who arrived in the Mariel exodus in 1980 and afterwards were more likely to have left for economic reasons. Recent arrivals, especially those who arrived in the post-cold war era, were far more likely to have maintained ties with family on the island. A 2007 poll of
9 Table 2: Florida International University Cuba Polls, US EMBARGO WORKS? Overall, do you think the U.S. embargo of Cuba has worked very well, well, not very well, or not March 1991 Oct 1991 June 1993 March 1995 June 1997 Oct 2000 March 2004 March 2007 Dec 2008 Sept 2011 Very Well 7% 8% 9% 9% 9% 7% Well 17% 17% 17% 14% 12% 12% Not Very Well 42% 33% 28% 31% 23% 27% Not at All 33% 41% 46% 45% 56% 57% CONTINUING THE EMBARGO? Do you favor or oppose continuing the U.S. embargo of Cuba? March 1991 Oct 1991 June 1993 March 1995 June 1997 Oct 2000 March 2004 March 2007 Dec 2008 Sept 2011 Strongly Favor 74% 78% 73% 74% 78% 62% 66% 58% 45% 56% Mostly Favor 13% 9% 12% 9% Mostly Oppose 6% 5% 6% 5% 22% 38% 34% 43% 55% 44% Strongly Oppose 8% 7% 10% 11% Not with Fidel/Raul 0% 1% 0% 1% Favor 87% 87% 85% 83% 78% 62% 66% 58% 45% 56% Oppose 13% 13% 15% 17% 22% 38% 34% 43% 55% 44% Allowing companies to sell medicine to Cuba. Do you strongly favor, mostly favor, mostly ALLOW MEDICINE SALES TO CUBA? oppose, or strongly oppose this? March 1991 Oct 1991 June 1993 March 1995 June 1997 Oct 2000 March 2004 March 2007 Dec 2008 Sept 2011 Strongly Favor 31% 36% 29% 44% 50% 56% 48% Mostly Favor 19% 25% 27% 22% 19% 16% 27% Mostly Oppose 8% 8% 12% 7% 6% 7% 9% Strongly Oppose 33% 26% 33% 27% 25% 21% 16% Not with Fidel/Raul 9% 5% Favor 50% 62% 56% 66% 70% 72% 75% Oppose 50% 38% 45% 34% 31% 28% 25% Allowing U.S. companies to sell food to Cuba. Do you strongly favor, mostly favor, mostly ALLOW FOOD SALES TO CUBA? oppose, or strongly oppose this? March 1991 Oct 1991 June 1993 March 1995 June 1997 Oct 2000 March 2004 March 2007 Dec 2008 Sept 2011 Strongly Favor 15% 17% 21% 38% 39% 49% 42% Mostly Favor 8% 11% 19% 18% 16% 13% 23% Mostly Oppose 10% 12% 17% 9% 10% 11% 11% Strongly Oppose 55% 53% 43% 35% 35% 27% 24% Not with Fidel/Raul 12% 7% Favor 23% 28% 40% 56% 55% 62% 65% Oppose 77% 72% 60% 44% 45% 38% 35%
10 ALLOW UNRESTRICTED TRAVEL? Should unrestricted travel from the US to Cuba be allowed or not? Would you favor or oppose ending current restrictions on travel to Cuba for all Americans? (2008) March 1991 Oct 1991 June 1993 March 1995 Oct 2000 March 2004 March 2007 Dec 2008 Sept 2011 Strongly Favor 31% 34% 23% 22% 53% 46% 55% 67% 57% Mostly Favor 14% 16% 18% 15% Mostly Oppose 6% 5% 5% 9% 47% 54% 45% 33% 43% Strongly Oppose 41% 34% 46% 49% Not with Fidel/Raul 8% 11% 9% 5% Favor 45% 50% 40% 37% 53% 46% 55% 67% 57% Oppose 55% 50% 60% 63% 47% 54% 45% 33% 43% Source: Cuban Research Institute, Florida International University, Cuba Polls, , <cri.fiu.edu/research/cuba-poll/> Favor 80% 60% 40% 20% 0% Cuban American Attitudes on Commerce with Cuba, Sell medicine Sell food End embargo Favor 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Cuban American Attitudes on Travel to Cuba, Unrestricted
11 Cuban-Americans in south Florida found that 58.3% were sending remittances to Cuba, but fewer than half of those who arrived before 1985 were sending money, whereas three quarters of 12 more recent arrivals were. The differences in age and experience among different waves of migrants produced sharply different opinions about relations with the island, with more recent arrivals being far more likely to favor policies that reduce bilateral tensions and barriers to family linkages, especially the ability to travel and send remittances (Table 3). Although these attitudinal differences have been clear for some time, they have not manifested themselves in Cuban-American voting behavior, principally because a far higher proportion of the early arrivals have obtained U.S. citizenship (Table 4), and thus still comprise a larger share of the Cuban-American electorate than more recent arrivals (although by 2010, Cuban-Americans born in the United States were a larger voting bloc, comprising almost half the Cuban-American electorate) (Tables 5 and 6). In addition, earlier arrivals are far more likely to be registered to vote than more recent arrivals. Registration rates for those who arrived before 1985 are over 90%, whereas for post-cold war arrivals who are citizens, the rate is only 60%. 13 But, of course, the early wave of exiles is becoming a smaller and smaller proportion of the community as new immigrants arrive every year and as natural mortality takes its toll on the aging exiles. And with the passage of time, more and more of the post-1980 immigrants obtain citizenship and begin to vote. In addition to generational differences, an important reason for the gradual change in Cuban-American opinion has been the deepening ties between Cuban-Americans and their families on the island. During the 1960s and early 1970s, it was difficult if not impossible for families to maintain contact across the Florida Strait. Travel to Cuba was prohibited by the U.S. embargo, and the Cuban government would not allow "gusanos" to return to visit. Direct mail service was cut off, and telephone connections were notorious poor. Moreover, the prevailing opinion in both communities was one of hostility. To Cubans who left, those who stayed behind 14 were communists. To Cubans who stayed behind, those who left were traitors. The first cracks in this "sugarcane curtain" opened when President Carter legalized family remittances and travel to Cuba. The Cuban government, in its 1978 dialogue with representatives of the Cuban-American community, agreed to allow exiles to return for brief family visits. In the 7
12 Table 3: Cuban-American Opinion in 2007, by Year of Arrival US born All Continue the embargo? Favor 78% 79% 68% 48% 41% 54% 58% Oppose 22% 21% 32% 52% 59% 47% 43% Sale of Food? Favor Oppose Sale of Medicine? Favor Oppose Unrestricted travel? Favor Oppose Establish diplomatic relations? Favor Oppose Do you send money to relatives? Yes No Refused to answer Source: Cuban Research Institute, Florida International University, 2007 Cuba Poll, <cri.fiu.edu/research/cuba-poll/> (The 2007 poll has the most detailed breakdown by years of arrival and results in the 2011 poll are comparable)
13 Table 4: Naturalization of Cuban Americans in Florida, 2010, by Year of Arrival Year of Entry Naturalized Unnaturalized Before , % 25, % , % 39, % , % 98, % 2000 or later lt 23, % 173, % Source: U.S. Census American Community Survey, % Cuban American Naturalization in Florida, 2010, by Year of Arrival 80% 60% 40% Unnaturalized Naturalized 20% 0% Before or later
14 Table 5: Cuban Americans in Florida, by Year of Arrival Year of Entry 1980 Census 2000 Census 2010 ACS Entered before , % 317, % 274, % Entered 1980 to , % 116, % Entered 1990 to , % 173, % Entered d2000 or later lt 197, % 1% US born 85, % 211, % 391, % Total 451, % 846, % 1,153, % 1980 Census includes 1980 entries 2000 Census includes thru March 2000 in 1999 entries 1990 Census does not provide data on year of entry Sources: U.S. Decennial Census, Florida, 1980 and 2000; U.S. Census American Community Survey, % Cuban Americans in Florida, by Year of Arrival 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 2000 or later Before 1980 US born 10% 0%
15 Table 6: Cuban American Citizens in Florida by Year of Arrival, Census 2000 Census 2010 ACS Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent Cuban origin citizens 239, % 582, % 816, % Naturalized Entered before 1980: 154, % 279, % 248, % Entered 1980 to 1989: 68, % 77, % Entered 1990 to 1999: 23, % 75, % Entered 2000 or later: 23, % Native 85, % 211, % 391, % 1980 Census includes 1980 entries 2000 Census includes thru March 2000 in 1999 entries 1990 Census does not provide data on year of entry Sources: U.S. Decennial Census, Florida, 1980 and 2000; U.S. Census American Community Survey, % Cuban American Citizens i in Florida, by Year of Arrival 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 2000 or later Before 1980 US born 10% 0%
16 first year, over a hundred thousand visited, bringing lavish gifts at a time of economic austerity on the island, and sparking the 1980 Mariel refuge crisis. After that, the Cuban government put strict limits on the number of visitors allowed annually, and Ronald Reagan imposed tighter restrictions on remittances. 15 The end of the cold war opened new opportunities for the two communities to re-connect. The collapse of European communism plunged Cuba into deep economic crisis. The loss of Soviet economic assistance-- between three and four billion dollars a year meant shortages of key raw materials like fuel and fertilizer, causing huge production losses in both manufacturing 16 and agriculture. From 1989 to 1993, Cuba s GDP fell by at least 35%. Consumer goods of all types became extremely scarce, unemployment rose, and the standard of living contracted abruptly. Food shortages appeared, because the government could no longer afford to import it. The suffering endured by ordinary Cubans during this crisis prompted a significant humanitarian response in the United States. The 1992 Cuban Democracy Act legalized private humanitarian assistance of food and medical supplies, prompting a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to launch relief projects. From 1992 to 1998, the Treasury Department 17 granted licenses for $2.9 billion in humanitarian assistance. Despite their undiminished hatred of Fidel Castro, Cuban-Americans were moved by the plight of their brethren, and responded by increasing the flow of both in-kind assistance and cash remittances. Cuban-Americans had been sending such aid ever since The growth of cash and in-kind assistance slowed during the 1980s, however,when the two governments reimposed travel restrictions. Until 1993, it was illegal for Cubans to hold U.S. currency, so dollars could only be used on the black market. Nevertheless, by 1990, rough estimates of the cash remittances being sent to Cuba totaled about $ million annually. 18 As the standard of living in Cuba plunged in the early 1990s, access to dollars became a critical determinant of people s quality of life. A few dollars equaled a month s wages in pesos, and many basic consumer goods were available only in dollar stores. Remittances began to climb. Desperate to acquire hard currency, the government legalized the holding of dollars in 1993 so that it could capture part of the remittances stream. By 1995, the estimated value of private cash transfers to Cuba had risen to some $500 million a year (Table 7). 8
17 Table 7: Remittances to Cuba, (millions of US$) CEPAL Havana Consulting Grp Sources: CEPAL, , Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe, Cuba: Evolución económica durante 2001 ; CEPAL 2003, Carmel Mesa Lago, "Social and Economic Problems in Cuba During the Crisis and Subsequent Recovery," CEPAL Review 86, (August 2005): ; CEPAL , CEPAL, Economic Survey of Latin America and the Caribbean, Emilio Morales and Joseph L. Scarpaci, "Opening up on both shorelines helps increase remittances sent to Cuba in 2011 by about 20%," Havana Consulting Group <thehavanaconsultinggroups.com> 2500 Remittances to Cuba, Millions $US CEPAL Havana Consulting
18 In 1994, to punish Cuba for the balsero migration crisis, President Clinton cut off cash remittances and ended most charter flights, making family visits more difficult. Such measures were not universally supported among Cuban-Americans, many of whom were more immediately 19 concerned with the well-being of their families than with punishing Fidel Castro. In practice, Clinton s effort to limit remittances failed. Family ties between Cubans in the United States and Cubans on the island had become too well established and too important to be so easily severed. Cuban-Americans simply sent funds through third countries or carried them by hand, traveling through Mexico, Jamaica, or the Bahamas. In 1998, after the Pope s visit to Cuba, Clinton lifted the restrictions on remittances, and by the end of the decade, they reached between $800 million and a billion dollars annually. 20 In 2004, President George W. Bush imposed tough new restrictions on Cuban-American travel and remittances, hoping to reduce the stream of hard currency flowing into the island from the Cuban community abroad. Bush cut Cuban-American travel from one trip annually (supplemented by additional trips for family emergencies), to only one trip every three years, with no emergency trips allowed. The new regulations also restricted the support Cuban- Americans could provide to family on the island through remittances and gift packages. The cumulative effect was to cut travel by U.S. residents in half, reduce humanitarian assistance from some $10 million annually to $4 million, and shrink remittances from $1.25 billion to about $1 billion annually. 21 Although hardliners in Miami applauded the tough new sanctions, they were not popular in the broader Cuban community. In 2007, 55% of Cuban-Americans told pollsters they favored unrestricted travel to Cuba. Moreover, 64% wanted to see Bush's 2004 restrictions on travel and 22 remittances lifted, and 41% reported that the restrictions had an impact on them personally. In late 2006, twenty Cuban-American organizations, including the Cuban-American National Foundation, called for Bush to relax restrictions on Cuban-American travel and humanitarian assistance. 23 Since President Obama lifted the Bush-era restrictions in April 2009, Cuban-Americans have been able to travel to visit family under a general license and send unlimited remittances. 24 9
19 10 As a result, family visits increased from fewer than 50,000 in 2004 to almost 400,000 in Remittances jumped from an estimated $1.4 billion in 2008 to $2.3 billion in 2011 (Table 7). 25 When Cuban-Americans in south Florida were polled in 2011 about Mario Diaz-Balart's proposed legislation to rollback Obama's policy, thereby curtailing travel and remittances once again, opposition was overwhelming: 61% of all respondents were opposed, and 76% of those who arrived in the United States after The 113th Congress Congress has held a central role in U.S. policy toward Cuba ever since it codified the U.S. embargo into law in the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996 (Helms-Burton). To move beyond limited improvements in relations on issues of mutual interest or limited commercial activity that is, to move toward the full normalization of diplomatic and economic relations the president would have to win congressional approval to change the law. In 2000, the Congress passed the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000, which legalized the sale of food products to Cuba, albeit on a cash-only basis, but at the same time prohibited tourist travel by U.S. residents. For the next four years, the bipartisan Cuba Working Group in the House of Representatives worked to end all prohibitions on travel to Cuba. In 2001, Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), the founder along with Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.) of the Cuba Working Group, introduced an amendment to the Treasury appropriation bill prohibiting enforcement of the travel ban. The House approved it in July by a wide margin ( ), but it was dropped in conference committee by the Republican House leadership in response to Bush s 27 veto threat. For the next three years, this scenario was replayed annually. The House (and the Senate in 2003 and 2004) voted to end enforcement of the travel ban, but congressional Republicans conspired with the White House to prevent it from becoming law by repeatedly dropping the provision from the final bill. People are wrong to underestimate what it means to 28 have President Bush on our side, Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla) said with satisfaction. By 2005, a sense of futility had eroded the Cuba Working Group. Aided by campaign contributions to key members of the House from the new pro-embargo U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, Republicans
20 were able to defeat amendments easing restrictions on travel to Cuba and block consideration of 29 others in 2005 and With President Obama promising a new policy of engagement toward Cuba and having lifted travel restrictions on Cuban Americans in 2009, freedom-to-travel advocates launched a new congressional campaign to lift the travel ban. With large Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate, hopes ran high for success. Over 170 cosponsors quickly signed on in the House. A broad coalition of some 130 business groups and foreign policy NGOs formed behind the campaign, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union, American Society of Travel Agents, Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The travel web site Orbitz collected over 100,000 signatures on a petition to lift the travel ban. As a measure of its commitment, the Chamber of Commerce warned legislators that their vote on Cuba would be scored as a key business vote included in the Chamber s annual How They Voted scorecard. 30 Public opinion, even among Cuban-Americans, favored the freedom to travel. A 2008 poll in south Florida by Florida International University found that 67% favored ending current travel restrictions for all Americans. A national poll of Cuban-Americans the following year by Bendixen and Associates found the same result, and a 2010 poll by a faculty member at the 31 University of Miami found support at 64%. The general public s view was even more lopsided: 70% favored unrestricted travel to Cuba, and even 62% of Republicans agreed. 32 Opponents blasted the freedom-to-travel coalition as venial for putting dollars ahead of human rights. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who pledged to filibuster the bill if it ever got to the Senate, denounced businessmen who only care about padding their profits by opening up a 33 new market, even though it meant enriching the Castro regime. Congresswoman Ros Lehtinen attacked proponents of free travel for, seek[ing] to reward the Cuban regime with 34 tourism cash flows as the dictatorship tightens its stranglehold on the Cuban people. The legislative vehicle for opening travel and facilitating agricultural sales was House Resolution (H.R.) 4645, the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act, cosponsored by House Agricultural Committee Chair Collin Peterson (D-Minn) and Jerry Moran 11