Nor­mally con­ser­va­tive Cuban Amer­i­cans di­vided over Trump ‘Don­ald Trump says a lot of stupid things’

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

For decades, older Cubans have loved to talk pol­i­tics as they played domi­noes and slapped tiles down on the board. And they were al­most uni­formly Repub­li­can. But in this elec­tion be­tween Hil­lary Clin­ton and Don­ald Trump, they are torn. The Repub­li­can Trump now talks a good game on op­pos­ing the com­mu­nist regime in Ha­vana, and this sits well with older Mi­ami Cubans.

How­ever, his tough and of­ten nasty com­ments about im­mi­grants, Mex­i­cans and other Lati­nos, do not. “Don­ald Trump says a lot of stupid things,” said Car­los Padron, 61. “He is a racist and as a Latino I do not agree with him be­cause he is at­tack­ing my peo­ple,” Padron said as he sat in a Lit­tle Ha­vana park that is a mag­net for domino play­ers. But Padron points to the other 50odd play­ers at the park and says, “none of them will ad­mit it, but most of those who are here will vote for him.”

His­pan­ics in Amer­ica are mostly Democrats, but Cuban Amer­i­cans have tra­di­tion­ally been largely con­ser­va­tive. Older gen­er­a­tions fled from the is­land in the years or decades af­ter Fidel Cas­tro took power, and they de­spise him and his younger brother Raul, who is now in power. But this ten­dency has changed in re­cent years as more younger Cubans, less bent on op­pos­ing the Cas­tros and more open to good US-Cuban ties, have come to Mi­ami.

So Trump’s strat­egy in his in­tense cam­paign in Florida-a bat­tle­ground state that he needs to win to take the pres­i­dency-has been to woo the older Cuban ex­iles who em­i­grated in the 1960s and 70s. Cubans make up 31 per­cent of the His­panic vote in Florida and 18 per­cent of the to­tal elec­torate, ac­cord­ing to the Pew Re­search Cen­ter. Polls show Trump and Clin­ton neck and neck in Florida. Trump made a play for older Cuban-Amer­i­cans a month ago when he moved away from his vague sup­port for de­tente in USCuban re­la­tions.

Now, Trump fiercely op­poses the idea of the United States lift­ing the em­bargo it im­posed on Cuba af­ter Fidel Cas­tro came to power. The em­bargo is still in place even though the two coun­tries re­stored diplo­matic re­la­tions in 2015, end­ing 50 years of en­mity. Older Cubans love that kind of tough stance against Ha­vana. On Wed­nes­day, Trump made an­other ap­peal for their sup­port.

“We will can­cel Obama’s one-sided Cuban deal, made by ex­ec­u­tive or­der, if we do not get the deal we want and the deal that peo­ple liv­ing in Cuba and here de­serve, in­clud­ing pro­tect­ing re­li­gious and po­lit­i­cal free­dom,” Trump told a Mi­ami rally, al­lud­ing to the restora­tion of ties. But does it make sense to court these older Cubans when the broader Cuban Amer­i­can com­mu­nity prefers bet­ter re­la­tions be­tween the two for­mer en­e­mies? A poll re­leased last month by Florida In­ter­na­tional Univer­sity found that 63 per­cent of Cuban Amer­i­cans in Mi­ami are against the em­bargo, ini­tially aimed at crip­pling and over­throw­ing the Cas­tro regime.

‘Throw out the crim­i­nals’

Jorge Duany, di­rec­tor of the univer­sity’s Cuban Re­search In­sti­tute, said Trump is op­er­at­ing un­der the premise that many younger Cubans, or ones that ar­rived more re­cently, can­not vote in Amer­i­can elec­tions.

“Trump is bet­ting that the strong­est vote within the com­mu­nity is the con­ser­va­tive vote, the Repub­li­can vote and the vote of peo­ple over age 65,” Duany said. “On the other hand, many of the young and those who ar­rived re­cently are not US cit­i­zens.” But Clin­ton, who is more pop­u­lar among young peo­ple and mi­nori­ties, has been firm in her sup­port of warmer ties with Cuba.

This did not ex­act too much of a po­lit­i­cal cost be­cause of the emerg­ing ide­o­log­i­cal change among Mi­ami’s Cuban Amer­i­cans, as prode­tente sen­ti­ment comes to dom­i­nate. Clin­ton has an­other ace up her sleeve: older Cubans may like Trump’s tough talk on the Cas­tros, but his anti-im­mi­grant rhetoric is hard for them to stom­ach. Clin­ton says she is in fa­vor of com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion re­form, and says she will main­tain a 1966 law that gives spe­cial treat­ment to Cuban mi­grants.

Early in his cam­paign Trump crit­i­cized that law, but as he of­ten does, he later changed his po­si­tion. But he has been con­sis­tently dogged on fight­ing il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion. And this has sowed un­prece­dented divi­sion among con­ser­va­tive Cuban Amer­i­cans. “The Trump cam­paign that be­gan in Mi­ami by fight­ing and crit­i­ciz­ing Mex­i­can mi­grants had an ef­fect on the Cuban com­mu­nity,” said Duany.

“Many Cubans took this per­son­ally, and since then there has been re­sis­tance to sup­port­ing his cam­paign.” But many Cubans, be­cause they have spe­cial mi­gra­tory priv­i­leges, do not iden­tify with the anti-Trump move­ment that has gal­va­nized other His­panic Amer­i­cans. “I to­tally agree with se­cur­ing the bor­ders,” said Denise Galvez, a Cuban Amer­i­can who founded Lati­nas for Trump. “To keep good im­mi­grants who want to work, first you have to throw out the crim­i­nals.” — AFP

MI­AMI: Sup­port­ers for Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump hold signs at a rally. — AFP

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