The Presidential Inauguration is just a few weeks away and the Republicans are still in shock. They can’t believe that Barack Obama received (49 percent of the Cuban-American vote.
But what’s really astonishing is that Republicans also did not believe poll after poll over the past 25 years that has been showing shifting support and that the Cuban-American community no longer supports the isolationist policy against Cuba which has been upheld by nine presidents.
Most Cuban-Americans who were born in Cuba experienced some degree of oppression that came with communism and understand that Cuba is still being governed by a dictator. At the same time, they do not believe that the innocent people, who had no decision-making power in putting the dictator Fidel Castro and now his brother, Raul, in office, should continue to suffer.
However, when Obama emerged onto the national political arena in 2008, Cuban Americans were impressed; they were listening to what he had to say and how he said it. Obama, a man of mixed race, just like 79 percent of Cubans, who exudes trust and humility, would not only afford them the opportunity to exercise their privilege to vote and help elect America’s first black president but also if there was something that could be done for the Cuban people, he would certainly give it a try. First impressions are often the truest.
Obama respected Miami’s Cuban-American com-munity. He did not come to Miami to promise that the Castro brothers would be immediately out of power if he was elected. Obama respected the Cuban community enough to not make that promise. Instead, he said, “I will see what I can do.”
And see he did. In his first term, Obama kept his promise. He saw something that he could do to help the Cuban people and Cuban Americans and he went for it. After 50-plus years of a U.S. economic embargo that has failed to cause the overthrow of communism, Obama brought “purposeful” travel to Cuba, facilitating the ability for family, religious, civic and academic groups to travel from the U.S.
The administration stated, “These measures will increase people-to-people contact; support civil society in Cuba; enhance the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people; and help promote their independence from Cuban authorities.”
While falling far short of a full-scale free flow of travel to Cuba, the new policy, which Obama was able to implement without congressional approval, opened the way for hope that one day there will be free flowing travel to Cuba.
That decisive move enhanced the welcomed current of information to and from the Cuban people and the president’s stature has grown not only in the Cuban-American community in Miami but also throughout the United States, as well as in Cuba.
But the job is not done. We must take on this embargo and, if we do, the walls of communism will come tumbling down. Every day, there are the untold stories of Cubans taking to the high seas in makeshift vessels, risking their lives with only one goal: reaching the shores of the United States of America. And they do so knowing that if they are caught before reaching America, the U.S. Coast Guard will take them back to Cuba, where they are thrown in jail. Most Cuban-Americans in private feel and state that lifting the embargo can ultimately bring a free Cuba.
And, from our perspective, their vote was the only way that they could let the president know that they “got his back” and are committed to him and thank him for affording them the opportunity to at least be able to visit and provide some additional aid to their relatives in Cuba.
Cuban Americans know that Obama probably will not hand them a free Cuba but at least he kept his promise and he set the stage for the grand vision of a free Cuba to come true.
Thank you, Mr. President.
Henry Crespo is an Afro-Cuban American civic commentator and writer on culture, politics and social Issues. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at Twitter: @hcresposr