When it comes to a position on Cuba, no presidential candidate is more open-minded than Sen. Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat. In a controversial debate remark earlier this summer he indicated his willingness to meet – without preconditions – with world leaders who are America’s adversaries, including Fidel Castro. Late last month in Miami, Obama made headlines when he called for the U.S. to ease travel and remittance restrictions to the island for Cuban-Americans. No other presidential candidate has taken these positions.
It was enough to prompt this comment from Patrick Manteiga, the politically plugged-in editor and publisher of the Ybor City-based weekly La Gaceta. “It’s nice to see one candidate who is not pandering to the far right Miami Cuban exile community,” stated Manteiga in his front page “As We Heard It” column.
Which begs this question: Isn’t the bar set pretty low when it comes to Cuba?
What about the embargo that hurts Cuban citizens, U.S. business and American credibility around the world? The Cold War relic that geo-politically positions the U.S. as a hypocritical hegemon at the worst possible time? Or the sense that Cuba’s actually a sovereign country that doesn’t require America’s democratic stamp of approval?
No candidate will touch the embargo, including Obama. In fact, no candidate would dare agree with the April 12, 1963 press conference words of President John F. Kennedy. “The basic issue in Cuba,” said JFK, who had weathered his share of Castro crucibles and CIA intrigues, “is not one between the U.S. and Cuba; it is between the Cubans themselves. And I intend to see that we adhere to that principle.”
“Sure, the bar is low,” acknowledges Manteiga. “No one is talking about anything, even (the lone Hispanic, Bill) Richardson.
“I honestly thought the tipping point was two or three years ago,” he says. “But it’s still so easy to rattle sabers at Fidel – and even Raul. It’s still the political thing to do. And the new (generation) Cubans won’t rally.
“Obama’s as good as it will get,” underscores Manteiga. “Hillary will follow her husband’s play book: say nice — but don’t change anything. This actually could show Obama having some leadership. Reaching out, uniting families. He’s got to nip at her heels – without getting his nose bloody. And who knows, maybe Hillary or Edwards might move over a bit.”