Skip to comments.Repatriated Cubans spell boatload of trouble for Bush: Novak
Posted on 07/31/2003 7:35:45 AM PDT by OldCorps
Repatriated Cubans spell boatload of trouble for Bush
July 31, 2003
BY ROBERT NOVAK SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST Advertisement
It was not just that the Bush administration dispatched 12 Cubans who hijacked a boat to the tender mercies of Fidel Castro. What inflamed pro-Bush Cuban Americans in south Florida is that the United States negotiated with the communist dictator to impose 10-year prison sentences. This sudden agreement between Washington and Havana could cost George W. Bush a second term.
President Bush's Cuban-American friends consider this a de facto trial, resulting in incarceration by a police state. ''This is a very pained community,'' Republican Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart told me. Sharing the pain of his Cuban constituents and known to be unhappy with the decision is the president's brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. ''I do not think the president was aware of this decision,'' said Diaz-Balart.
Although there is truly no sign the decision went to the Oval Office, its political sting may be felt there. It is clear that Bush could not have won Florida and the presidency in 2000 without Cuban votes. Since repatriation of the hijackers, Florida Democrats have been busy pointing out betrayal by the White House. If Cuban voters stay home next time, Florida will almost surely be won by Bush's Democratic opponent.
Eleven men and one woman, seeking freedom in America, stole the Cuban boat Gaviota 16 on July 15 but were intercepted by the U.S. Coast Guard the next day. They were denied automatic entry into the United States, granted under law, citing an agreement with Castro made by President Bill Clinton. The issue went to a U.S. interagency committee, where Justice and State Department career bureaucrats insisted the refugees be returned to Castro.
The three Cuban Americans from south Florida in Congress--Lincoln Diaz-Balart, his brother, Mario, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen--pleaded to send the hijackers elsewhere, perhaps Guantanamo. Instead, the bureaucrats bargained with the Cuban dictator. Once Castro agreed not to execute the refugees as he had U.S.-bound hijackers in April, U.S. negotiators eagerly accepted 10-year prison sentences. The freedom-seekers were sent back July 21.
Desire to achieve accord with Castro has not borne fruit. Starting July 6, U.S. broadcasts to Iran that are critical of the mullahs were illegally jammed from Cuba. Why has the U.S. government not protested? The CIA has informed the White House that the jamming originated at the Iranian embassy in Havana. It defies belief that this could have been done without concurrence and cooperation by Cuba's government.
Repatriation of the hijackers fits a pattern. In federal court in Key West, Fla., July 10, a Cuban accused of skyjacking was denied permission to testify that he feared for his life if he surrendered control of the plane to Castro's agents. Bush has waived the rights of Americans to sue foreign speculators who profit from stolen American properties in Cuba. The Justice Department never has sought indictments of Cuban Air Force pilots who shot down small civilian aircraft in international air space.
Bush has been prevented from getting his choices in control of Cuban policy. Democratic Sen. Christopher Dodd has been relentless in blocking confirmation of Bush's own assistant secretary of state for Latin America. Without much effort made by the White House, Bush gave up on Otto Reich, former ambassador to Venezuela, who was instead named a presidential adviser. Roger Noriega, ambassador to the Organization of American States, was finally confirmed by the Senate Tuesday night after a four-month wait.
If Castro was a fixation for John F. Kennedy, he seems off the screen for George W. Bush. While repatriation to Cuban prisons caused a furor in south Florida, it hardly made a ripple in Washington. My check of Bush policy and political advisers indicated neither awareness nor interest in what happened.
Diaz-Balart refers to the Cubans as the base of Hispanic support for the president and the Republican Party. If this is the treatment given the only minority group that supports the GOP, he wonders what message will be sent other minority groups wooed by Republicans. ''When the base is ignored,'' the congressman said, ''there is a problem.'' More than ignored, the Cubans are simply disrespected, and that is the painful message in Miami.
But now the Bush administration selling them out? What gives? And why do this.
I'm really an impartial observer to all of this. I'm a white guy, no Cuban blood. Yeah, I hate commies and Castro. When I was in the Army, I knew a fellow captain of Cuban blood. You could not find a more loyal and dedicated American. Yeah, he hated Castro. But shouldn't all freedom loving people?
The Cubans should have come across the border via Mexico and then Bush would be fine with them staying.
Within 24 hours they would have driver's licenses, a social security card, medicaid benefits, free education, and an attitude.
Hatians have a lot more to bitch about than Cubans.
Where is this noted? Where is the proof of this statement? Or is this more piling on by Novak to show just how much he hates the President?
With Wanna-be Paleo's like Novak (sorry, even I couldn't insult the paleos like that) floating around, who needs enemies from the left?
Hey, Novak, you get a check from Hillary, or are you taking cash?
On the other hand, America was created by traitors and yet we regard ourselves as legitimate, so apparently the desire for freedom sometimes justifies breaking the law.
You can only hijack a boat that has other people aboard. The article says that they stole the boat (of course Cuba being a Communist country they cannot own their own boat).
What's the result if we reward people who commit crimes to enter our country?
Every single person who has fled from a Communist country has committed at least one crime. You going to send them all back?
As for me and other critics being Bush-bashers, sorry but I have bashed just about every president (starting with Nixon) in my lifetime about the nonsense of sending a refugee of any sort back to a Communist country.
Um, no, it didn't... "It was not just that the Bush administration dispatched 12 Cubans who hijacked a boat to the tender mercies of Fidel Castro."
Every single person who has fled from a Communist country has committed at least one crime.
No, they haven't. Their home country may consider their thirst for freedom a crime but we don't. We DO, however, consider highjacking (yes, I'll use that since it's from the article) a crime.
the nonsense of sending a refugee of any sort back to a Communist country.
I agree and disagree with you on this point. There is a lengthy review process to address asylum seekers. Most are not sent back capriciously. What do you think would be the result of a blanket policy of accepting all comers from Cuba? I'll tell you... a mass exodus across the sea. It's dangerous for them and a severe impact on us that we are ill-prepared to accomodate.
These are hardly criminals though. I can guarantee you that no one on that hijacked boat (other than a couple French tourists) was upset about the chance of possibly making it to America.
I flew into Havana the day they were arrested, April 4th. The day I left Havana, April 11th, on that trip, they were executed.
Over 80% of the Miami Cubans voted for Bush.
You act like a hi-jacking from Cuba is the same as one from the U.S. or somewhere else in the free world. Do you not think everyone being "hijacked" on that boat was not thrilled they might be making it to America? I was in Cuba at the time this was going on and asked several Cubans I know what they would do were they on a boat or plane that made it to America via an unexpected hi-jacking one day. These people all said without a second thought that they would stay in America, even with their families (including children) remaining in Cuba. As one put it, he would be much better help to his child in America than he would be in Cuba.
Can you suggest of any other way to get a boat in Cuba?
As you admit, even home-made rafts and boats are turned back to Castro, along with the refugees. Since leaving Cuba without an exit visa is a felony, the US government is spitting in the face of freedom-seeking Cubans.
The returned refugees are punished; the mildest punishment is losing the ration book that allows them to buy food and basic items such as toiletries and shoes.
Novak's making it sound like Cuban Americans are no better than the Arab Street for goodness sake. Cuban Americans can think for themselves and don't need Novak or anyone else to tell them what to do and who to support. They're not freakin' simpletons or children. Stop treating Cuban-Americans like you're a Democrat, Mr. Novak.
Couldn't have said it better myself.
Mexico wouldn't let them in.
That's patently false.
These refugees are intercepted at sea and interviewed in a boat. They never have a chance to put up a case about their political or religious persecution, since their word is worth zero.
I have been to political asylum hearing for refugees inside the US, and that process is fair. Refugees are allowed to present live testimony from fellow refugees, to introduce sworn statements by US citizens who have lived exemplary lives in the US and knew about the refugee' plight years before in the old country, to present smuggled letters from pastors and relatives in the refugee's homeland attesting to the veracity of the refugee's claims, as well as Amnesty International and American Watch human rights reports.
None of these simple ways to prove a refugee's word is allowed in a 5-minute boat interview in the middle of the ocean.
Well, in that case, we can declare the refugee crises an act of war and invade Cuba; or at least, we could lift the arms embargo against Cuban freedom fighters.
Castro will shut off the valve right away. Is it a coincidence that Castro unleashes his massive exodus when the US is under a Democratic president?
Reagan told Castro that he will never tolerate a refugee crises, and Castro behaved both during the Reagan's administration and the following Bush administration.
Compromising with a tin dictator is not negotiating from strength. Weakeness is not your friend when dealing with communist dictators.
That's a blanket statement with no basis in fact. There is a lengthy review process for asylum seekers. I agree, however, that the process is not followed as blanket policy on a boat in the middle of the refugee situation. There are ways, though, where it has worked, even for these folks. Those who get word out through their loved ones ahead of time to prepare the authorities have been able to get past the boat review.
I don't live in Miami and I don't have any specific examples, I just recall reading stories of these situations over the years in the news.
You are making it up as you go along.
Present proof that the US Coast Guard calls relatives in the US to confirm whether a refugee will suffer persecution in Cuba while the INS officials are conducting a 5-minute interview in the middle of the ocean.
Yeah, you caught me. I made this up too...
No Asylum Decisions Yet On 15 Cuban Migrants
Officials Say They Don't Believe Vessel Was Hijacked
POSTED: 7:29 p.m. EDT July 18, 2003
MIAMI -- Immigration officials had not decided Friday whether to grant asylum to 15 Cuban migrants who were intercepted at sea on a government-owned boat.
The migrants were taken aboard a U.S. Coast Guard cutter on Wednesday after the vessel was stopped in international waters in the Straits of Florida. The Cuban government said its coast guard chased the 36-foot vessel into Bahamian waters Tuesday after it was taken from the communist island.
Coast Guard officials said they don't believe the boat had been hijacked, contradicting Cuban government reports.
Under the U.S. government's wet-foot, dry-foot policy, Cuban migrants who are intercepted at sea are usually repatriated and those who get to land are allowed to stay.
But the threat of execution -- the Cuban government used a firing squad to execute three men on April 11 who were convicted of hijacking a ferryboat in Havana Bay -- has raised humanitarian concerns over returning the migrants among some experts.
The migrants were still being interviewed Friday aboard the cutter, said Ana Santiago, a spokeswoman with the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services.
She could not comment on whether the migrants had requested asylum because of fear of persecution in Cuba.
"Everyone is judged on their own merits," Santiago said.
The State Department is considering the threat of retribution against the accused hijackers.
"We have our concerns," a State Department official said. "But basically a decision is premature at this point."
Present proof that the US Coast Guard calls relatives in the US to confirm whether a refugee will suffer persecution in Cuba while the INS officials are conducting a 5-minute interview in the middle of the ocean.
Let's see... I think I said that I recall reading articles to the effect that relatives call the State Dept ahead of time to inform them. The refugees identify themselves and then more questioning can start there. I also said that I don't have the exact references in front of me as these weren't internet articles. Your demand for proof is idiotic. Are you in Florida? Guess what... down here, Cuban issues make for local news and we read more about it.
I'm in Florida, and I know for a fact that you're just making it up. That's why I asked you to proof your inaccurate claims.
Btw, the article you posted does not help your case.
Ten (10) years in prison is persecution; therefore your claim that refugees are not returned to Cuba when they have legitimate fear of persecution was disproved by your article.
As a matter of fact, the US government returns refugees back to Cuba after being told by the Cuban government that such refugees will be persecuted and given a 10-year prison term.
Feel free to cut and paste from any of my posts where I made such a ludicrous assertion.
You're spinning in circles and throwing accusations that don't stick. I'm tired of going around and around with you answering your expanding list of grievances. I have better things to do.
Wanna bet? (about the antique guns, that is)
The networks merely pretend that he is a conservative Republican.
That statement was proven false for many reasons.
First of all, there is no lengthy review process to address asylum seekers from Cuba while there are intercepted 10 feet from a Florida beach.
Second, there is no lengthy review process to address asylum seekers from Cuba after they touch dry land. There are covered automatically under the Cuban-Adjustment Act.
And yes, our wet foot, dry foot policy is capricious. The same person is considered a refugee or an illegal migrant depending on whether his feet are dry or wet. That's why during the Surfide Six incident, the police tried to keep the refugees inside the one-foot deep beach water to avoid giving them refugee status. After the refugees walked on dry sand, they went from illegal migrant to legal refugees.
Hell. No wonder. No doubt, he's on a mission to fracture the party from within. Now how do you convince the paleos that he's no friend of theirs either?
adj 1: changeable; "a capricious summer breeze"; "freakish weather" [syn: freakish] 2: determined by chance or impulse or whim rather than by necessity or reason; "a capricious refusal"; "authoritarian rulers are frequently capricious"; "the victim of whimsical persecutions" [syn: impulsive, whimsical]
Also, all of my posts have been my personal opinion. I'm regurgitating some things I have seen in the news over the years... this doesn't make me an authority and I'm not pretending to be one. I'm not paid by the State Dept to defend their policy positions. Pointing out that there is no lengthy review process because they are covered under another act... big, flippin' deal. Asylum seekers and refugees still go through a review process regardless of the act or executive order covering them.
The fact is still that the rules are known and the risks are accepted by those who test them. Those who don't want to risk making it to shore, negotiate ahead of time (remember the baseball player, Hernandez?). Do I think it makes sense that there's a different set of rules for those who step out of 1 ft of water? No, but again, these rules are the result of years of evolution through disparate situations. They will evolve again.
How many times does someone have to ask you to go away before you get the hint?
Do you have the name or phone number of the person a Cuban in the island can call to "negotiate?"
Do you know of any case where an average Cuban has done this "negotiation?"
The Hernandez case is not applicable. He was already in dry land, Bahamas, and a complicated arrangement was workout for himself because of his star status. Again, capricious.
You don't own this board, dear. You keep repeating false information, and you will find people who refutes it.
Correction: When I state that somewhere in the past I recall reading something that has helped me form an opinion, I will run into intransigent blowhards who will demand proof of what has led me to that opinion. Well, for the third time, I don't have first hand knowledge of how this process works only that I recall reading that it has been done. The following is from the USCG website. I won't bother asking you politely to go away this time. I will simply wait for you to challenge me again for concrete proof of my personal opinion.
INS 800 Number on Cuban Migrant Interdiction Process
Good day. This is the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, the INS. if you are calling about a Cuban national who has been picked up at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard, please stay on the line and we will provide you with information on Cuban migrant interdictions. To listen to this information in English, press 1. For Spanish, press 2.
Under the migration accord signed May 2, 1995, by the United States and Cuba, Cuban citizens interdicted by the U.S. Coast Guard in International or U.S. waters are returned to Cuba.
Individuals who believe they cannot return to Cuba have the opportunity to speak with a specially trained INS asylum officer. This officer sends the Information provided by each individual to INS Headquarters in Washington where senior INS officers determine whether the individual has a "credible fear of persecution." This standard is a generous one and is designed to ensure that no one who might be at risk is returned to Cuba.
People on board the cutter who are found to have a credible fear of persecution are transferred to the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. After being interviewed a second time at Guantanamo, those found to have legitimate protection concerns are resettled ln third countries by the Department of State. The U.S. Government does not resettle any one in the United States, even though the individual may have close family in this country.
[Sounds an awful lot like a lengthy review process for asylum seekers to me...]
Cuban migrants who are transferred to the naval base may place a collect telephone call to relatives to let them know they are safe. As the decision process and the transfer to Guantanamo may take several days, family members should not expect to be contacted immediately if they believe their family member has been taken to the naval base.
Cuban migrants who are found not to have a credible fear of persecution are returned by the Coast Guard directly to Cuba. Again, the return process may take several days, and no one should expect to hear immediately from a family member or friend being returned.
It is INS policy to hold in confidence the identity of all Cuban migrants interdicted at sea. we cannot confirm whether a particular individual is on board a U.S. Coast Guard cutter, regardless of the closeness of your relationship to that individual. Family members and friends must wait to be contacted by the migrants themselves, whether it be from Guantanamo or their homes in Cuba. Please do not call the U.S. Coast Guard or the INS office in Miami about your relative or friend since they cannot provide any Information beyond that whIch you are hearing on this tape.
Migrants picked up by the U.S. Coast Guard in Bahamian waters or on Bahamian territory are turned over to the Government of the Bahamas. The U.S. Government does not return migrants interdicted in Bahamian waters directly to Cuba. We hope the preceding information will be helpful in understanding U.S. policy under the May 2, 1995, migration agreement.
Now, I know what comes next; "It says specifically that family members shouldn't call them." Yeah, it does. Now if I could only remember where it was that I read that they can call ahead of time to let the government know that their loved ones had taken to sea in a bid for freedom. I don't remember, so don't ask.
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