10/14/13 - Miami Herald - Rep. Joe Garcia, districts are at center of Cuba clashes, policy changes
Congressman Joe Garcia had to choose between two worlds.
At one end of Garcia's district, an ally persuaded fellow Key West city
commissioners to unanimously pass a resolution inviting Cuban diplomats to
the San Carlos Institute - a Duval Street landmark steeped in Cuban
history, as well as tensions between exiles and the Castro regime.
The Key West resolution was met with outrage by some near the northern end
of Garcia's district, in Miami-Dade. His two Miami Cuban-American
colleagues and another House member penned a letter that urged the U.S.
State Department to block the diplomats' Sunday visit from Washington.
Garcia didn't sign.
The diplomats canceled amid the controversy.
But questions now linger about Garcia's exile bona fides and, more broadly,
the direction of U.S.-Cuba policy amid South Florida's shifting politics
The San Carlos controversy marked the second time in as many weeks that
Garcia ostensibly distanced himself from the rest of the Cuban-American
delegation. Last Monday, the Miami Herald reported, Garcia became the only
delegation member to help advocate for U.S. trials of a diabetes treatment
developed by a Cuban regime institute.
"Joe Garcia is at a crossroads. We're at a crossroads," said Rafael
Peñalver, an exile leader who heads the San Carlos Institute and led
opposition to the Cuban diplomats' visit.
"We have to decide, and he has to decide, if we're going to advocate for an
open Cuba with cosmetic changes by a repressive regime that uses the Cuban
people as slave labor for a few business interests," Peñalver said. "Or
are we going to keep the pressure on for a free Cuba without the Castro
regime and with true freedom for the Cuban people?"
But Garcia objected to the notion that the Cuban diplomats' visit would
help the regime.
Citing conversations with the U.S. State Department, Garcia said that
allowing the Key West visit would lead to "reciprocity": U.S. Interest
Section diplomats in Havana would be allowed more travel in Cuba where they
could help dissidents repressed by the Castro regime.
"I'm willing to bet no one's going to become communists in Key West. But I
do know dissidents need assistance in Cuba," Garcia said.
"These people have no sustenance," he said. "They are literally living at
the tip of the most repressive regime in the hemisphere."
Garcia also rejected suggestions from critics that he's soft on Cuba. He
wrote an April 30 letter to the State Department calling for Cuba to remain
a designated state-sponsor of terrorism. And in a Sept. 19 letter, he
joined with the other three Cuban-American House members by raising
concerns over the regime's involvement in selling art at a Houston art
But the diabetes medicine and San Carlos issues show that Garcia's
positions on Cuba appear more nuanced than any other Cuban-American House
member from the Miami area: former Miami Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and
current Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. She represented
Key West until the district was redrawn and pitted Rep. David Rivera
Garcia won the 2012 election in a race in which he refused to heavily court
the exile vote the way Rivera did.
Original Source / Fuente Original:
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