09/04/2014 02:29 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

President Obama Can Help Charlie Crist Win in Florida


Progresso Weekly has published an optimistic assessment of how Charlie Crist can regain the governorship of Florida as a Democrat, an important contest for Americans who want more rational relations with Cuba.

It is worth considering whether a breakthrough by President Obama with Havana could help by demonstrating that Crist's call for a new approach to Cuba was realistic and relevant. Obvious White House options are opening travel with a general license for all purposeful travelers, not just Cuban Americans; movement toward normal relations; and suspending anti-private enterprise aspects of the embargo.

When the latest poll by Florida International University was conducted this spring, a narrow margin of Cuban Americans in Miami-Dade County who were registered to vote (51 percent to 49 percent) opposed repeal of the embargo, but 78 percent viewed it as not working very well or not at all. More to the point of potential Presidential action, 57 percent would likely vote for a candidate in favor of replacing the embargo with a policy increasing support for independent business owners. Also within the realm of Presidential power, 58 percent of registered Cuban Americans favored unrestricted travel by all Americans and 55 percent supported establishment of normal diplomatic relations.

The poll did not address the Alan Gross issue, but successful negotiation of his freedom is likely to generate approval for Obama and indirectly for Crist in the influential and high voter turnout Jewish community in Florida.

Including in the deal freedom for some or all of the three Cuban prisoners here is not likely to concern Jewish voters who have witnessed far more disproportionate exchanges in Israel. I doubt it would create a problem outside of hard line exiles who will never support Crist because of his call to repeal the embargo.

John McAuliff
Fund for Reconciliation and Development


Links and Resources

"Damn Yanquis. Why is President Obama still allowing covert operations in Cuba? It's just one failed disaster after another" by Fulton Armstrong, an invaluable article on USAID Cuba democracy programs on the Foreign Policy blog

"Cuba Sees Its Future in Mariel Port, Hand in Hand with Brazil" by Patricia Grogg, Havana correspondent for Inter Press Service, writes about Cuba's economic future

"U.S. living in the past over Cuba", a commentary by Fareed Zakharia on CNN's Global Public Square

"Bitter Prohibitions", former BBC correspondent Fernando Ravsberg dissects backward steps in the reform process in his insightful Letters from Cuba feature of On Cuba magazine.

"Cuba tightens bra limits, but serious threat to trade comes from US sanctions", Emily Morris of University College London analyzes economic reasons for Cuban restrictions of informal imports