Florida Reacts To President Obama's Plan To Normalize Relations With Cuba

Dec 17, 2014

This image shows Florida's proximity to Cuba.
Credit www.bbc.co.uk

Florida Governor Rick Scott and Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio are blasting President Obama’s move to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba. The U.S. and the socialist country have been at odds for more than fifty years. Governor Rick Scott expressed his disapproval in a written statement.

Time and time again, the Castro regime has chosen violence and suppression over freedom and democracy, and the Obama administration’s actions of appeasement to dictators diminish the United States’ role of being a beacon for democracy. As long as Cuba chooses dictatorship over democracy, I will continue to support the embargo and sanctions against them. President Obama is giving in to a tyrannical government that does not value human rights and completely disregards the people of Cuba who are fighting for democracy.”

But Florida State University professor Alexander Avina says renewed conversations between the two countries comes as attitudes about Cuba are changing.

“We’re starting to see a movement away from support of the embargo among the young Cuban-American population. I see this with my own students who, obviously they don’t agree politically with the Cuban government, but they want to be able to travel there," he says.

Florida International University has been tracking Cuban-American attitudes for more than 20 years.  As NPR notes, according to FIU's polling:

Back then, 87 percent of Cuban-Americans supported the embargo, but after President Obama was elected in 2008, that shifted completely. For the first time in the poll's history, most Cuban-Americans said they disapproved of the U.S. embargo.

By 2011, that Obama effect had disappeared, Professor Guillermo J. Grenier, a co-principal investigator of the FIU Cuba Poll, told us. But in the 2014 poll, conducted this summer, a majority once again favored lifting the embargo.

President Obama's announced changes include re-establishing  diplomatic ties with Cuba and making it easier to export goods to the country. In return, Cuban leader Raul Castro is releasing 53 political prisoners and increasing internet access and human rights inspections in his country. A U.S. aid contractor was also freed by Cuban officials after five years in prison.

The moves were finalized yesterday in the first direct phone call between the two countries in five decades.

Still, FSU's Avina says the President can only go so far. The heavy lifting, such as lifting the trade and financial embargoes on Cuba—is a congressional matter. One that may not happen any time soon.