When president Obama indicated an interest in reopening trade agreements with Cuba, it didn’t take long for many to voice their disagreements. Now, Matthew Seeger reports that Florida lawmakers are getting their rejections heard in the form of a house memorial.
In December, President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. would resume diplomatic ties with Cuba. That move annoyed some Florida lawmakers, like Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, who has been vocal opponent of the suggestion.
“You know, the Cuban people are the only people in this hemisphere who have not had a free and fair election in the last decade and a half," Rubio said in a subcommittee hearing. "They deserve the right to have that just like other people do.”
In the Florida legislature, there’s Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. (R- Hialeah) who is making his objection known in the form of a bill. The bill made it on the agenda of the Local and Federal Affairs Committee Thursday morning, presented to representatives by Rep. Jeanette Nunez (R- Miami), who stood at the podium in Diaz’s stead.
“I believe that we cannot trade and negotiate with terrorists," she said. "And trade away our security in the United States.”
The rebuke was met with overwhelming support. Rep. Neil Combee (R- Polk County), for example, made his case very clear, using the fact that 55 years of life have allowed the Polk County republican to watch the entire Cuba situation to unfold from start to finish.
“It’s outrageous, it makes me sick, it breaks my heart," he exclaimed. "As a lover of liberty and freedom, I think about this all the time.”
Rep. Larry Ahern (R- Seminole) also had strong feelings about the bill. He sited his experience in Cuba while in the armed service.
“In my years in the army, I have lived in Panama, under the dictatorship of Manuel Noriega," he said. "And one of the things people don’t understand is that doing something like what the president did is a reward and incentive to keep that dictatorship going.”
Not everyone disagrees with the policy. Democratic Representative Kristin Jacobs of Coconut Creek cited polls and statistics which allude to the public’s opinion on the matter.
“…68 percent of whom favored the restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba," she said, siting recent poll taken by Florida International University. "Among the young respondents to this poll, 90 percent of them favored the restoration of diplomatic ties. 69 percent of them favored the lifting of travel restrictions that are currently impeding Americans from traveling to Cuba.”
Although she wasn’t the only “nay” vote by a long shot, she was the only representative to speak about it. In her closing statement, however, Nunez countered Jacobs’ statistics.
“With all due respect, I don’t legislate by polls," she retorted, "I come up here to do what I think is right, and what is right is being on the side of freedom.”
A pair of similar bills are also making their way down the alimentary canal of the legislature. Although each one is sponsored by a different rep, all three of them are listed as “Diplomatic Relations with Cuba” and all three are what amounts to largely ceremonial opposition to a U.S. policy change well underway.