[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Educating on U.S. Cuba Policy

Monday, March 05, 2007

Educating on U.S. Cuba Policy

In light of last fall's victory by Democrats which enabled them to gain control of both House and Senate, a lot of discussion and media attention has taken place regarding the possible relaxing or total lifting of current U.S. sanctions on Cuba. Leading the pack have been Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) and Bill Delahunt (D-Massachusetts).

We haven't heard much from the other side of the debate, besides the South Florida Cuban-American delegation.

Nevertheless, there remains a significant pro-sanction contingent that goes beyond the South Florida C-As that is rarely reflected in the MSM. In today's Miami Herald, Pablo Bachelet describes the story and opinions of New Jersey Democratic Representative Albio Sires, a Cuban-American.

Rep. Albio Sires gets personal when he asks fellow lawmakers to reject efforts to ease economic sanctions against his native Cuba. ''I just tell them about my story,'' says the New Jersey Democrat.

Sires, who spent the first 11 years of his life in the town of Bejucal near Havana, tells them how, after Fidel Castro took over, English-language books were burned and he was forced to march in parades toting a Czech-made submachine gun.

Sires' goal is to use his personal experience as an educational tool to brief fellow members of Congress on why he feels the restrictions are needed.

Keep the sanctions in place until the Castro government makes significant political and human-rights reforms, Sires tells his fellow Congress members.

Sires is a freshman representative, one of the new wave of Democrats that buoyed hopes of an elimination of sanctions of Cuba amongst anti-restriction people.

No doubt that the presence of Sires is bad news for these folks.
Sires is the new kid on the block, a first-time lawmaker joining more seasoned veterans of Cuba-policy battles -- Miami Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario and Lincoln Díaz-Balart and Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Pembroke Pines -- in leading a campaign in the House to stay the course on Havana.

Mel Martinez, R-Fla., and Bob Menendez, D-N.J., are carrying the load in the Senate. Sires holds the House seat once held by Menendez.

Sires and Wasserman Schultz, together with other pro-sanctions legislators, have drawn up lists of lawmakers and their positions on Cuba. Those who are new to the issue or undecided get a full briefing, with Sires focusing on the freshmen. Others who have voted against easing sanctions in the past are pulled aside for a brief chat to make sure their position hasn't changed.
Opponents are doing their best to pull the heartstrings of members,'' said Wasserman Schultz. While sharing those concerns, she said, ``we try to explain the complexity of the issue. . . . For most of my colleagues, it requires an education.

In the end, it's about educating and promoting a greater understand of the issues. This is something that bloggers such as myself have attempted to do, and our representatives are doing the same.

Rep. Sires adds this brief but dead-on statement:
I think we win once we tie it to the abuse of human rights, once we tie it to the freedom to express yourself, once we call for election, for the release of political prisoners on the island,'' Sires told The Miami Herald.


I don't know what Sires' chances of succeeding are, but it looks like the anti-sanction folks aren't going to win their side of the argument without a serious fight.

Read the entire article here.

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