04 July 2005

Davis supports freedom for the Cuban people

On this 229th birthday of our great country, all Americans should commend Florida Congressman Jim Davis (D-Tampa) for his attempt to promote freedom among the Cuban American people and to those on the island itself. Sadly, it was the three Cuban American congressmen from Miami, who by opposing Davis' amendment did more to keep Fidel Castrol in power.

Last Thursday, Davis, who is running for governor, introduced an amendment to an appropriations bill that would have eased restrictions on Cuban Americans who wish to visit family members in Cuba. Davis' amendment would have reversed a widely unpopular policy implemented by the Bush administration just one year ago to the day. Unfortunately, the Davis amendment failed 208-211.

Davis faces former Democratic Party Chairman Scott Maddox and state Senator Rod Smith (D-Gainesville) in next year's primary election for governor. The victor will go on to face the winner of the GOP primary race between Attorney General Charlie Crist and Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher.

On June 30, 2004, the Bush administration implemented a policy that would significantly limit travel by Cuban Americans who wish to see their families on the island located just 90 miles off the coast of Florida. The policy, which prompted outrage within Florida's Cuban American community, also limits the amount of money that Cuban Americans can send to family on the island. The changes were spurred by a 2004 Report to the President [link to table of contents for HTML version or complete report in PDF format - 4.4 MB] of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba.

Since the administration of President John F. Kennedy, the United States has imposed an embargo against the communist island, but it has failed to topple the country's brutal dictator. Fidel Castro continues to enjoy great power, the Cuban people remain oppressed, and recently Castro was listed as one of the wealthiest individuals in the world, with an estimated worth of $550 million, by Forbes magazine. Still, the embargo issue has been a rallying cry for right-wing Cuban American politicians whose own success depends on that of Fidel Castro.

Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Miami) argued that Davis' amendment would weaken the 40+ year embargo, but Davis shot back that Diaz-Balart was misleading. "This is not a debate over the embargo," Davis said. He insisted that the amendment was about "family values," intent on reuniting families who have been separated due to the Castro regime.

Davis was unsuccessfully, but no one can argue that he lost. The closeness of the vote should motivate the congressman to continue his fight for freedom in Cuba. Davis only needs two members to change the vote in order to win next time. The empty rhetoric of members like Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Miami), Congressman Mario Diaz Balart (R-Miami) and his brother Lincoln is growing old and stale. More and more Cuban Americans realize that the policies of the hard liners in Miami have only made Castro stronger.

Davis took a chance, and his political opponents may try to use the issue against him next fall. Still, he did what is right for this country and what was best for the Cuban people. The Cuban patriot Jose Marti said, "Con todos y para el bien de todos." ("With all the people and for the good of all the people.") There's no doubt that Marti would have approved of Davis' act of courage last Thursday.


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