Friday, December 19, 2014

Rubio: It's Unfortunate Rand Paul Has Adopted And Is Supporting Obama's Foreign Policy On Cuba

“I think it’s unfortunate that Rand has decided to adopt Barack Obama’s foreign policy on this matter.”

Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio responded to a series of tweets and a Facebook post from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) criticizing his view on U.S.-Cuban relations.

Paul had wrote that Rubio was "acting like an isolationist" for not supporting normalized relations with Communist Cuba. His comments came after Rubio went on Fox News Thursday night and said libertarian-leaning Kentucky senator "has no idea what he's talking about" in regard to Cuba.

"I think it's unfortunate that Rand has decided to adopt Barack Obama's foreign policy on this matter," Rubio told radio host Mark Levin Friday evening, citing his personal knowledge of atrocities of the Castro regime.

The remarks were first flagged by the conservative blog The Right Scoop.

"So you have these people coming out and saying, 'Well maybe we should try something different,'" Rubio added. "And that's what basically Rand did, he repeated the talking points of the president. And that's fine, he has every right to support the president's foreign policy if that's where he wants to line up with. But I'm telling you, it isn't going to work."

The notion that opening up relations with Cuba would help bring freedom to the country was false, the Florida senator added, and ultimately would only serve to strengthen the regime.

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Supreme Court Allows Florida Same-Sex Marriages To Proceed In January

A late Friday order from the Supreme Court denies Florida’s request to stop same-sex couples from marrying during the state’s appeal.

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Friday evening denied Florida's request to stop same-sex couples from marrying during the state's appeal of a federal case challenging the state's ban on such marriages.

Under the trial court's order striking down the ban as unconstitutional, the injunction was stayed — or put on hold — until the end of the day January 5. State officials have appealed the ruling striking down the ban, but also asked higher courts to keep the trial court's order on hold during that appeal.

The 11th Circuit had rejected Florida's request and, on Friday evening, the Supreme Court did as well. Justice Clarence Thomas, who hears such applications from the 11th Circuit, referred the matter to the full court, which then denied the request.

Both Thomas and Justice Antonin Scalia, the brief order noted, would have granted the request. The two previously have noted that they would grant such stay requests during appeals of other marriage ban cases.

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Miami Venezuelans Try To Succeed Where Their Cuban Allies Failed

From one day to the next, Obama ended Cuba’s decades-long isolation and signed sanctions against Venezuela’s president. Miami’s Venezuelans had to mourn even as they celebrated.

People peer from their windows beside a giant banner with Cuban former president Fidel Castro (right) and Venezuela's late president Hugo Chavez during a march in Havana on Sept. 30, 2014.

Stringer / Via Reuters

MIAMI — Venezuelans in South Florida had a huge victory to celebrate, but they were careful not to look too happy.

In the space of 24 hours, President Obama signed fresh sanctions into law against the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and normalized relations with Cuba. In doing so, Obama simultaneously ended the United States' longest-running feud in Latin America while quietly escalating another one.

This put the increasingly powerful group of Venezuelan expatriates in Miami in the awkward position of celebrating a hard-won victory even as their conservative Cuban-American allies mourned the end of the Castro regime's isolation. An overly exultant mood, or a failure to acknowledge the bitterness of the moment, might alienate their Cuban-American allies, whose political advocacy against the Castro regime has been a model for Venezuelan expatriates in the United States.

"Now I know what people mean when they say they have mixed feelings," said Ernesto Ackerman, who led the effort to lobby congress for sanctions, and who organized a last-minute celebration Thursday night in Miami. "But the very people who helped us pass the sanctions, the Cuban members of Congress, are suffering because of what Obama did to their country."

The quick succession of events on Wednesday and Thursday reflects an ongoing shift in Miami, long the hotbed of geopolitical maneuvering with regard to Latin America. The exiled Cuban opposition was once a mighty and radical political bloc with the power to sway presidential elections. But as Wednesday's historic thaw with Cuba showed, that power has faded significantly.

Meanwhile, the Venezuelans have coalesced into a genuinely formidable political force increasingly able to draw the attention of politicians on the American right. Most of those politicians — like Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen — are Cuban-Americans for whom opposition to the Castros has been a foreign policy pillar.

David Smilde, a senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America, said the Venezuelans' success relies in large part on repurposing the political stances of those legislators. "They're not suddenly going to switch tactics or switch rhetoric," Smilde said. "Given the decline in popularity of the Cuba sanctions, Venezuela is a great replacement. It's a great new way for them to furnish their foreign policy credentials."

In Miami, the Venezuelans say they're happy to learn a lesson or two from their Cuban forebears. "The embargo [against Cuba] has had absolutely no effect," said Ackerman. That's why, he said, the Venezuelans have pursued targeted sanctions against the regime instead of generalized economic blockades. The new sanctions target the finances and overseas travel of Venezuelan officials involved in a violent crackdown against anti-Maduro protesters earlier this year.

"Venezuela's victory has to be achieved by Venezuelans," said Vidal Lorenzo, another expatriate opposition leader. "The Cubans were always a little too enchanted with the idea that the American government would solve their problems."

For Lorenzo, the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 is the perfect metaphor: The small invading force of Cuban exiles, believing they would receive air support from the Americans, was instead left alone and trounced by Castro's forces.

The Venezuelans, Lorenzo said, will not suffer the same fate. "We won't be stuck on the beach waiting for air support."

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