My friend and colleague Arturo Lopez-Levy just sent me the following link to his new commentary in Foreign Policy magazine written in reaction to the election of Marco Rubio to the US Senate and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's move to become head of the Committee on Foreign Relations now that the Republicans control Congress.
The problem is that we keep waiting for this "new generation" of Cuban migrants to make their voices heard by breaking with the old school hardliners and electing someone with a more pragmatic, pro-engagement approach to Cuba.
But it hasn't happened.
Either they're so disillusioned with politics that they refuse to vote; not enough time has gone by for them to become citizens, register, and vote; or they in fact are voting but find the Rubios, Riveras, Ros-es, and Diaz-Balarts more to their liking than their more moderate Cuban-American comperitors.
Obama's election two years ago indicated that this generational sea change might indeed be underway. He won Florida without taking the typical hardline on Cuba and though he lost the overall Cuban-American vote, he did rather well with Cuban-American youth.
However, in that same 2008 election all the usual suspects, Ileana, Lincoln, and Mario were re-elected, two of them defeating moderate Cuban-American pragmatists. Now, two years later, Mario took Lincoln's seat as he retired, the hardliner David Rivera easily defeated pragmatist Joe Garcia, and Ileana is poised to take over as head of the Foreign Relations Committee.
Even more important in terms of the supposed eminent generational shift, for the first time an actual member of the supposedly more "suave" ABC (American-Born Cuban) generation has been elected to the Senate. He's just 39 and not himself an exile. However, he seems to be as much of a hardliner (or more) than his grandfather's generation.
In fact, in every speech I've seen him give, he proudly invokes that generation's sacrifice and suffering, pledging to honor it by refusing to engage in any way with what he pointedly calls the "illegitimate" leaders of Cuba. If this "kid" does not represent the Cuban-American community and is so out of touch, how did he emerge from relative obscurity and slay the supposed moderate Republican "giant" that was Charlie Crist?
Here's the link to Arturo's article followed by a few key quotes.
Not Your Father's Cuba
What Marco Rubio and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen don't get about the new generation of Cuban-Americans.
BY ARTURO LOPEZ-LEVY, NOVEMBER 5, 2010
"Over recent decades, however, a funny thing has happened: The Cuban exile community, in Miami and elsewhere in the United States, has grown apart from the politicians who represent its interests in Washington. Miami's Cubans may keep voting for Ros-Lehtinen and Rubio, but they no longer agree with them."
"What Cubans -- even those who were just as disenchanted with the communist regime as the first-generation exiles -- saw when they looked at Miami was a group fixated on punishing Castro, even if it came at the expense of the Cuban people."
"Neither Ros-Lehtinen nor Rubio speaks to the aspirations and outlook of this new majority -- and indeed, if you look closely at the voting patterns in exile community, you can see cracks in the foundation of the bloc beginning to emerge."
"None of Obama's most Cuba-relevant foreign policy officials -- soon-to-be-National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon, Obama's senior advisor on Latin America Dan Restrepo, Secretary for Hemispheric Affairs Arturo Valenzuela, and Valenzuela's senior advisor for Cuba, Dan Erikson -- have ever defended the embargo as an effective policy."
"The circumstances are ripe for Obama to put U.S.-Cuba relations on the path to de-escalation. And no one should be surprised if, an election or two down the road, Cuban Americans vote their approval."
Arturo Lopez-Levy is a lecturer at the Colorado School of Mines and a Ph.D. candidate at the Josef Korbel School of the University of Denver.