Fabiola Santiago: Crist’s stance on Cuba may be his undoing on election day

05/13/2014 6:39 PM

05/13/2014 7:03 PM

Dear Charlie,

Fire your Cuba-obsessed advisors.

They must be working for Rick Scott, the Republican governor whose seat easily could be yours again if you focused this race on crucial state issues, not U.S.-Cuba policy.

You didn’t hear me the first time I brought this up after your silly appearance on Bill Maher, so here’s a second round of unsolicited advice: Amateur Democrat Charlie Crist, you’re digging yourself deeper in the hole. Stick to what you know – and what all Floridians need from their governor, leadership on state matters.

How we, Cuban-Americans, feel about Cuba is more complicated and nuanced than any poll could ever measure – and you could understand.

When I finished reading the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times story headlined: “Crist: Embargo ‘has not worked,’ ” I felt that, as a voter, I was done with you.

Not because of any position I hold on the embargo, but because so many of your comments throughout the story show bad judgment and political opportunism — and because I’ve heard from your campaign not an ounce of leadership on endangered springs, rising sea levels threatening our cities, and gun control laws.

I don’t know what you say in Jacksonville, Tallahassee or Gainesville, but you’ve more than worn out the political red carpet in Miami with Cuba as an election talking point.

The “ Cuba Sí, Castro No” political campaigns are a thing of the 1980s and ’90s. We’ve learned to recognize a panderer to our history and our pain when we hear one.

The polls then said we overwhelmingly favored sanctions on Cuba and people buttered us up with tough talk. It worked — and we made bad decisions we’re still paying for dearly.

The polls now say that because economic sanctions haven’t worked in five decades, we’re more inclined to be in favor of lifting them, and so here you come, so darn sure that’s what you need to say to win our vote.

Don’t bet on it. Look at your own last poll. Your numbers are going down, not up, against Scott.

The U.S.-Cuba policy issue, still highly divisive, won’t help you — and can hurt you.

No matter what the polls say about where Cuban-American opinion stands, it’s pretty much a stand-off pro and con embargo. No one with any credence on either side of the issue (and no beef or gain) has offered up substantiated proof of what’s best for the cause of Cuba’s democratization.

But we will punish you for politicking with our real wound of loss and separation. And there lies my disgust with your Cuba rants — and with those of any other politician who uses the topic to court votes in local and state elections.

Maybe you’re still running the Senate Republican primary you lost to Marco Rubio.

But nothing shows more that you didn’t learn a thing than saying that your Cuba views are inspired by Florida sugar magnate Alfonso “Alfy” Fanjul, a Cuban exile who was feverishly anti-Castro, and in his old age is preaching normalization and investing in the government that confiscated his family business, in exchange for spending the last few years of his life partying it up in his homeland.

No one familiar with the Fanjul sugar enterprises could possibly wish them upon Cuba — or any other place on Earth.

Loathed by Democrats for his family business’ polluting of the Everglades in the company of U.S. Sugar and for the exploitation of sugar workers in Florida — and most gruesomely, in the Dominican Republic — Fanjul is also a turncoat to his Republican former friends.

Thankfully, Fanjul is supporting Scott’s campaign, as any money-greedy, government-subsidy-loving businessman trying to avoid regulation would.

Ay, Charlie, I’m dying to know who your advisors are. You’re meddling in someone else’s dysfunctional family argument.

As for comparing your Cyprus to our Cuba, that belongs in the same bobo playbook as the mai tai reference on Maher that should’ve been a mojito. Of course, we’re used to the dumb-American-does-Cuba story, but the reason this one matters is that we — all Floridians — are the losers.

Unless you wise up quickly, your false campaign start leaves us with another four years of Scott, the worst governor Florida has ever had.

How messed up is that?

Here’s teetering on the brink of leaving you, a registered Democrat. 

About Fabiola Santiago

Fabiola Santiago


Fabiola Santiago was born in Cuba. She was exiled to the U.S. in 1969 on one of the historic Freedom Flights. She has been a Herald reporter and editor since 1980.

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