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Clinton: Lift Cuba Embargo             07/31 06:20

   MIAMI (AP) -- Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday will call on Congress to end 
the trade embargo the U.S. has imposed against Cuba since 1962.

   The position, which Clinton already outlined in her 2014 book "Hard 
Choices," puts her in line with President Barack Obama, who moved in December 
to establish diplomatic relations with Cuba and has called for normalized trade 
relations.

   Perhaps more importantly, it draws a sharp contrast with two top Republican 
presidential contenders from Florida, Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb 
Bush, at a time when younger Cuban-American voters in Florida are softening 
their stance on the matter. The Republican-led Congress is unlikely to allow 
such a change in U.S.-Cuba relations anytime soon.

   "The time has come for us to continue down the path of engagement that has 
been laid out by President Obama," Clinton said Thursday after a campaign 
meeting with labor leaders in Maryland. "It's something I worked on as 
secretary of state, something I strongly recommended to (Obama) that he 
consider in his second term."

   Clinton's campaign says she will frame her GOP rivals as backing "failed 
policies of the past."

   U.S.-Cuba relations have long been a flashpoint in Florida politics. The 
generations of Cuban-Americans who were born in Cuba and fled shortly after the 
Castro-led revolution in the late 1950s generally supported a hard line, 
including the embargo that keeps American businesses from trading with Cuba and 
blocks Americans from traveling in the country and spending money there as 
tourists.

   For decades, south Florida politicians and presidential candidates vying for 
the state's crucial electoral votes reflected those views, regardless of party. 
Clinton's husband was among them, even as he quietly attempted to engage Fidel 
Castro in the 1990s.

   Now, says Florida pollster Fernand Amandi, an expert on Cuban-American 
public opinion, that once solid voting bloc is "a community in transition," 
giving Clinton an opening that "wouldn't have been possible not very long ago."

   U.S.-born Cuban-Americans, Amandi said, are consistently more supportive of 
normalized relations than their Cuban-born parents or, even if they aren't, the 
younger voters are less likely to consider themselves one-issue voters. "The 
younger generations are more like any other immigrants --- they care about 
pocketbook issues, jobs, their kids' educations," he said.

   There also has been an influx of Cuba-born immigrants in the last few 
decades, Amandi explained. "They lived under the sanctions and concluded that 
it just emboldened the Castro regime," he said. "So think after 55 years of 
failure, it's time for something else."

   Beyond the Cuban-American community, a majority of adults in the U.S. 
support normalizing relations with Cuba. A Pew Research Center survey conducted 
July 14-20 found that nearly 73 percent of Americans approve of establishing 
diplomatic relations with Cuba while 72 percent support ending the trade 
embargo, both double-digit percentage increases from January, immediately after 
Obama's decision.

   Pew found the same trends even among Republicans, with 56 percent of GOP 
voters backing a diplomatic bond and 59 percent supporting an economic 
relationship.

   Rubio remained unmoved Thursday, releasing a statement ahead of Clinton's 
visit. "Unilateral concessions to the Castros will only strengthen a brutal, 
anti-American regime 90 miles from our shore," Rubio said. "President Obama and 
Secretary Clinton must learn that appeasement only emboldens dictators and 
repressive governments, and weakens America's global standing in the 21st 
century."


(KA)


 
 
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