LEDE: This week, The Census Bureau announced that Florida now has the second highest Hispanic population of any state, behind only New York. Last nights presidential debate was held in Miami Dade County, which now has the highest Latino population percentage wise in the entire United States. But in an hour and a half discussion on foreign policy, no Latin American country was mentioned even once; and particularly disappointing to many Floridians was the lack of discussion of Cuba. From WMNF radio in Tampa, Andrew Stelzer has more.


Felix Arroyo

ACT “One thing is to talk about family values, the other is to take action. That policy that he has separates families from Cuba and America, and that talks loud to me. “

Felix Arroyo is an member of the Boston city council, he’s one member of the Congressional Hispanic caucus traveling through Florida this week speaking to Hispanic voters before this Mondays registration deadline. Arroyo says the travel restrictions put on Cuban-Americans by president Bush earlier this year are not in line with his message of keeping families strong.

ACT Where are the actions versus where are the words? It is important to look at the facts and the implications, and see how his policies are effecting elderly, are effecting housing, are effecting employment, are effecting opportunities, and that’s what is real�

Four Recent Hurricanes have left Thousands of Cubans with their homes destroyed; after the first storm, Charley, the state department offered 50 thousand dollars in aid to the island. But Cuba's foreign ministry rejected the money, saying the amount offered was humiliating, the offer was "cynical and hypocritical" and it ignores the damage to Cuba caused by more than four decades of "economic war" by the U-S. The Cuban government also took issue with the U-S government's insistence that the money not be given to Castro's government but be distributed by the U-S Interests Section in Havana. Although john Kerry attempted last night to distinguish himself from President Bush in regard to how he would work together with foreign countries, Kerry voted for the 1997 Helms-Burton Act, which was designed to discourage foreign investment in Cuba by punishing foreign companies investing in property, which was confiscated from Americans when Castro took power. Arrin Hawkins is the vice Presidential candidate for the Socialist Workers party; says both candidates support the repression of the Cuban people through the economic and travel embargos.�

ACT “One thing were calling for is a normalization of relations with Cuba. Both of them are against that..they are both trying to figure out different ways to strangle Cuba, and one way or the other support the economic and political attack against the revolution.�

The Cubans in Miami have traditionally voted Republican, but in Tampa and central Florida, considered the part of the state, which has the most undecided voters, the Cuban population is less anti-Castro. For that reason, the travel restrictions imposed by Bush have become on issue of contention in the race for Florida’s open Senate seat. Mel Martinez was Bush’s former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; he was handpicked by the administration to run for seat being vacated by retiring democrat Bob Graham. Martinez escaped from Cuba when he was 16 years old, and Martinez supports the strategy of denying the Cuban people money and visits from their families in an effort to end the rule of Fidel Castro. Martinez democratic competition, Betty Castor, disagrees.

ACT ‘In Florida, where a lot of our citizens are now prevented from traveling to the island more than once every three years, in spite of the devastation of this hurricane, I don’t think that we are keeping faith with families on humanitarian terms. So I think that will be a discussion with Mr. Martinez He favors that policy; I think that’s surely something that we will discuss in our debates.�

But Betty Castor, like John Kerry, and most democrats still supports the 44-year-old economic embargo. Felix Arroys from the Congressional Hispanic caucus, says a supporter of Kerry that’s a position he can live with, but he hopes there is more discussion as the debates continue later this month.

ACT “He’s not going to take away the embargo but he has compassion. He understands that you do not separate families. That for me is important.� ME: BUT ARENT THER E A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO WANT THE EMABARGO ENDED? “Well of course in the democratic party and outside of the party, there is different opinions of the embargo, if it makes any difference or not, and Ill leave that to the general discussion.�

Senate candidates Mel Martinez and Betty Castor will have a televised debate on October 18th. It will be televised on WFLA channel 8.

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