Florida Sen. Marco Rubio blasted the Obama administration recently for relaxing restrictions on travel and trade with Cuba. The change in policy, Rubio argued, ignores human rights issues that continue to exist in Cuba. Further, he said, our expanded interaction with the country will not inspire the Castro regime to change its ways. Sending tourists to Havana will not make life any easier for pro-democracy nationals. Lowering trade barriers will not force the Cuban government to curtail its use of violence in dealing with opponents or critics.
The issue affects Florida in ways that other states may not understand. The majority of Cuban Americans live in Florida, mostly in the Miami area. According to a poll conducted for the Miami Herald in December, this population falls roughly into two groups: political exiles and economic immigrants. The former tend to have strong anti-Castro feelings, while the latter, younger immigrants tend to react more favorably — or, at least, are less vehemently opposed. The differences mean there is no single “Cuban American perspective” to guide policymakers or to the media.
Florida’s business community may not stand together, either, with the lifting of the embargo. Travel and tour companies may be broadening their product lines, but the makers of Cuban cigars could suffer significantly. CBS Miami reported that air passengers came back from Havana and other cities loaded down with Cuban cigars (and rum) on the first day travel was allowed. It’s hard to say if that one day will blossom into a trend, but the state’s cigar manufacturers are paying close attention as the novelty of travel begins to wear off.
The debate, then, runs from high-level policy concerns to ground-level economic gains and losses. There is a middle ground, though, of all the things behind the scenes that make travel and commerce possible. These are the details that lawmakers and regulators think about and that the news media glosses over.
Things like insurance.
We’ll continue this in our next post.
Miami Herald, “Rubio clashes with State Dept. at Cuba hearing,” Chris Adams, Feb. 3, 2015
Carrier Management, “U.S. Rules on Cuba Ease Travel, Trade, Insurance Restrictions,” Krista Hughes and Anna Yukhananov, Jan. 15, 2015Share