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Marco Rubio & The Hispanic-Cuban Vote…

Just over 16% of the population of the United States is Hispanic. Those of Mexican origin number some 12%, Puerto Ricans 2%, Cubans less than 1%, and the remainder are assorted Caribbeans, and Central and South Americans. (Whites are 64%, and Blacks 13%.)

The Real Cuba...

Within this Spanish-speaking mélange, while similar in language and culture, there are significant variations. Relative to voting, conservative or liberal, one would have to comprehend these differences.

My own knowledge on the subject is derived from an early youth in the South Bronx (Puerto Ricans), travels south of the US in numerous countries, and 20+ years in the federal prison gulag.

Prison is a good place to fathom population demographics. In most respects, the US federal prison system is a unique microcosm of the general American population (312 million).

The federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has a current population of 218,000 inmates in 113 institutions distributed throughout the US. Over 75,000 (34.7%) of these prisoners are Hispanic.

The island of Puerto Rico is a US possession, a holdover of our colonial period. As such, Puerto Ricans are US citizens. However, only PR residents in the US can vote in US elections (not island residents).

Cuba is a special case as the US gov’t and its corporate partners continue to wage a blockade against Cuban independence. Any Cuban that steps on US soil is automatically granted residency.

All other Hispanics are considered aliens unless granted residency and/or citizenship. And therein lays the foundation for their political dichotomy.

There were several waves of immigration to the US from Cuba, each of varying characteristics.

Havana today...

Prior to the Cuban Revolution of 1959, Cuba was one of the most oppressed and poorest societies in the Caribbean. While Cuba remains poor (especially given the US blockade), it is a world leader in health, education, parity in wealth (i.e., equitable distribution of resources), and other factors.

Many have little idea of Cuban reserves. It’s an island 780 miles long with pristine beaches and virtually untapped resources, including off-shore oil. Its surrounding reefs are a protected national reserve. If Cuba were laid out on a map of the US, it would stretch from Chicago to New York City.

The first wave of mass immigration consisted of primarily middle and upper class Cubans. They were joined by many of the former dictator’s gov’t associates, military officers and secret police.

They were labeled by the revolutionary gov’t as “gusanos” (worms in Spanish). They also became the foundation for CIA organizing to invade the Island, and many terrorist acts since. Today, some 25% of the Miami-Dade population are of Cuban origin.

Miami-Dade Cubans largely remain ultra-conservative, oppose all attempts at any liberalization of policies toward Cuba, and vote Republican (74%). But as they die off, the younger generation is somewhat liberalizing their politics.

The early Cubans were given special sanction and privileges, including automatic residency, direct financial and public assistance, Medicare, education scholarships and start-up business loans.

The second wave of Cubans was very different. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter opened the US to Cuban immigration as a political gambit and humanitarian gesture.

Arrival from Cuba...

The Cuban gov’t allowed those who wished to leave to do so. Cuban families in the US organized a massive boatlift and flooded the port at Mariel, Cuba. The Cuban gov’t also released a large number of prisoners and required the boats to carry them along with those they otherwise chose.

A Cuban-American Detroit police officer I was dating at the time–a die-hard gusana–found herself gravely disappointed when no one in her Island family chose to leave.

The US soon shut the whole operation down. Most of these latter Cubans were very poor and thus largely shunned by the Miami-Dade Cubans and shipped to other parts of the US.

Many of those without family and perhaps having an unknown criminal record were subsequently imprisoned. During my own imprisonment from 1990-2010, I came to know a number of these Marielitos. Most were not at all as the corporate media depicted them.

Perhaps as an irony to the gusanos, the Marielitos—largely being economic emigrants—were not rabidly anti-Castro and, having lived under a measure of socialism (state jobs, education, healthcare, etc.) they were mostly apolitical (even as they paid nominal obeisance to the anti-communist US-gusano mantra).

One of them was named Medina. When I met him he was in his 19th year of incarceration. (More on his story can be found in a previous article at this site.)

Medina had been convicted of a minor infraction, given a term of 18 months, and had since remained in federal prison because he had no family in the US to “sponsor” him.

I met many in his same situation. The US Supreme Court eventually outlawed the practice and ordered the release of those not convicted of any crime, but they took more than 20 yearsto do so.

US processing of Mariel Cubans...

Medina worked in Unicor where I clerked for the Factory Manager. With overtime, he easily earned $300/mo. Given his other hustles (cleaning cells, laundry, etc.) he sent home almost every dime he made to Cuba (thru a Canadian exchange).

Like most other such Cubans I knew (I respected their culture, watched Spanish TV with them, and spoke their language reasonably well), they longed for the day when they could return home, and many have.

I asked Medina once what he faced in Cuba if/when he returned. He replied that many already had and (except for those convicted of predatory crimes) word coming back was that they were held for 30 days and released back to their home towns on promises of good behavior.

Obviously, given the continuing US embargo, the economic plight of Cuban society, and the potential opportunity to send home money (as with other economic immigrants, such as Mexicans), they would have preferred to live and work in the US and have the freedom to travel back and forth.

In the last election (2008), Obama got some 67% of the overall Hispanic vote. He is expected to do much the same this time around.

While to whites and blacks the Hispanic communities in prison may have appeared as monolithic, they were not.

Most other Hispanics generally accepted Marielitos as a part of the general Hispanic family. Conservative Cubans with their “special privileges,” and who largely absorbed the white racist culture, were not.

I suspect that if Romney chooses Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) as his VP, a Miami-Dade Cuban, he’s hardly going to resolve the Republican nativist-racist problem that he has with Hispanics…among numerous others.

On the other hand, given Obama’s mixed signals re his pals on Wall Street (and infested thoroughly in the White House and the Administration), I suppose it can’t hurt.

On the other hand, one might wish to consider: Those who fail to exercise their vote to at least nullify a conservative one, effectively are voting for and empowering Romney.

Good luck with that strategy…

Dr. Publico

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