Biden’s decisions in Cuba could further damage the reputation of Hispanic voters
Jhe Biden administration’s redefinition of U.S.-Cuban relations may come at a bad time for Democrats, who have seen support dwindle among Hispanic voters in recent months.
Reversing many of former President Donald Trump’s reforms, the White House is restoring flights to Cuban cities, easing travel restrictions and allowing increased remittances. But Trump’s decisions have been credited with his gains among some Cuban-American voters in the 2020 election, particularly in South Florida, which could hurt Democrats in this fall’s midterm elections.
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The election of President Joe Biden would have made some Cuban Americans more solidly red, as they supported Trump’s tougher stance on the Cuban government. Biden’s moves could foster that alienation and bolster Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R-FL) re-election bid, argues Carlson Steelman, press secretary for the conservative advocacy group Heritage Action for America.
“Between Biden’s gaffes in Cuba with the Castro/Diaz-Canel regime and in Venezuela with Maduro, he annoys and alienates core South Florida voters,” Steelman said. “The 2020 election has proven that Florida’s exile community can move the needle up-profile and down-vote elections, so Biden’s decision to surrender to communist dictatorships will undoubtedly have serious consequences. for Democratic candidates over the next two election cycles.”
In an about-face with Trump-era policies, the White House allows flights to Cuban cities other than Havana, allows educational and professional group travel, restores the family reunification program and removes caps on the amount of money that can be sent to families on the island, currently set at just $1,000 per quarter.
Hispanic voters have already drifted away from Democrats. For example, in 2020, more than 60% told pollsters they would vote for their Democratic House candidate, researchers found. At the end of 2021, 37% said they would make the same choice, while the same percentage would support the Republican. About 1 in 5 people remained undecided.
“While there have been differences of opinion regarding U.S. policy toward Cuba between former historical exiles and the young Cuban-American population, Biden’s announcement has been unpopular with many members of both groups and all political horizons,” Steelman said, adding that former President Barack Obama’s policies enriched the Cuban regime even as it continued “to oppress and murder its people.”
DeSantis, often mentioned as a possible 2024 presidential candidate, makes the same point in comments after the announcement, predicting it would only enrich the country’s dangerous dictatorship.
Even some Democrats criticized the move, such as Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez, son of Cuban immigrants.
“As the Diaz-Canel regime continues its ruthless persecution of countless Cubans from all walks of life for their participation in last year’s pro-democracy uprising, today’s announcement risks sending the wrong message to wrong people, at the wrong time and for all the wrong reasons,” Menendez said.
Others disagreed. Democratic strategist Brad Bannon said the policy change will allow some Cuban Americans to visit long-lost relatives and could make it easier for Cubans who want to settle in the United States.
“Overall, I think it’s a smart and diplomatic move,” he said. “It will encourage communication between Cuban Americans and Cubans.”
Bannon describes Cuba as being in a political transition, with this policy having the potential to push the island diplomatically in the right direction.
Unfortunately for the Biden administration, it has deeper issues when it comes to Cuba. The White House could see a wave of defections at next month’s Summit of the Americas conference as Latin America’s biggest economies insist that Washington antagonists be invited.
An ultimatum from Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador pressures Biden to invite Cuban, Venezuelan and Nicaraguan leaders to the triennial meeting or face a boycott. The United States is hosting the event for the first time since its inaugural meeting in Miami in 1994, and according to for a State Department website, it’s “Biden’s priority event for the region.”
Biden’s top diplomat in the region, Western Hemisphere Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols, has previously said he did not expect Cuba, Nicaragua or Venezuela to receive an invitation. White House officials said the new Cuban policy was unrelated to the impending summit, calling the timing a “coincidence”.
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But while Trump’s moves in Cuba have been credited with helping him in Florida, Biden still won 65% of the Latin American vote, compared to Trump’s 32%.
“I think the stories about the Hispanic voter movement are overblown,” Bannon said. “When you lose the Latinos 65-32, it’s not really anything out of the ordinary.”