Miami exiles pressure U.S. to loosen policy on Cuba

Tue Jun 17, 2014 4:30pm EDT
 
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By David Adams

MIAMI (Reuters) - Cuban exile Joe Arriola at one time would never have dreamed of returning to his homeland while it was under communist rule.

But after 53 years in the United States, the former manager of the city of Miami swallowed his pride and decided he had waited long enough.

Arriola, 67, said a week-long trip to the island last year had opened his eyes to what he now believes is a failed U.S. policy of trying to isolate Cuba.

"The number one weapon we have is capitalism and we are not using it," he said over breakfast at the Riviera Country Club in Coral Gables, a bastion of older, conservative-minded exiles in Miami-Dade County. "We should be flooding the place with tourists and commerce."

Tired of waiting for the end of communism in Cuba, more and more Cuban-Americans have concluded that it is time for the United States to allow more engagement with the island they left behind, polls show.

"Our president has not had the guts to do the right thing," said Arriola, who helped raise funds for Barack Obama's campaign and whose son, Ricky, sits on the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

Advocates of policy change say the administration's caution stems less these days from concerns about a Miami backlash than from the hard-line stance of lawmakers like Senator Robert Menendez, a Cuban-American and the influential chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The New Jersey Democrat and other members of Congress, including Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican who is also of Cuban descent, say exiles who favor lifting a five-decade-old trade embargo against Cuba are undermining the cause of democracy and putting money in the pockets of the Castro dictatorship.   Continued...

 
Cuban-themed murals adorn the buildings along SW 8th Street, known locally as "Calle Ocho" in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami, Florida May 17, 2014. REUTERS/Brian Blanco