Cuba Now ad encourages people to vote,

supports current travel rules to Cuba


Christina Vazquez, Local 10 News, WPLGLocal10


MIAMI.- An ad expressing support for current travel rules to Cuba tells people to vote, although no specific candidate is mentioned. Cuba Now co-founder Ricardo Herrero, who was born in Puerto Rico, but whose ancestors are from Cuba, said that the message he is lobbying for is that elections have consequences, and politics should not interfere with family reunification.


"What made this a passion for me initially were trips I took with family to Cuba in the early 2000s," said Herrero. "I got to see the island with my own eyes. I got to meet a lot of Cubans and a few young enterprising Cubans, which made me realize change would have to come from within the island, not from outside."


The television and internet ad by the advocacy group, Cuba Now supports family travel rules set by President Barack Obama in 2009, which admonishes political candidates who, "threaten to take that right away from me just to win votes."


"We are funded by Cuban-Americans who live throughout the United States, who believe our current policy has been a failure and we need to take a different approach," said Herrero.


Herrero co-runs Cuba Now from a shared workspace in Wynwood. He said the ad is not aimed at or lobbying for any particular candidate. But on a blog post he slams Carlos Curbelo, a republican, in a bitter battle for the 26th Congressional District against democrat Joe Garcia.


On Twitter Cuba Now posted, "Why is Carlos Curbelo hiding his position on Cuba policy and family travel?"


In a written statement Curbelo's spokesman told local 10 News: "This is clearly a surreptitious effort by a shady group to shore up support for Joe Garcia’s sinking campaign. Mr. Garcia and his allies seek to change the subject and divide our community in an attempt to deflect attention from his record of scandal and corruption. Carlos Curbelo supports family members visiting and helping each other. However, as an American citizen he cannot stand for the abuse of our country’s immigration laws."


Herrero emailed a statement to Local 10 News, responding to Curbelo's statement, saying, "It appears Mr. Curbelo is conceding that he would favor going back to a policy that forces Cuban-Americans to choose whether to visit a sick parent or attend their funeral, but not both. #CubaNow is an independent advocacy group and has not made, nor will make, any endorsements in this or any other campaign. But Mr. Curbelo’s response makes it clear why it’s so important that we’re airing this ad and bringing attention to this important issue. Supporting the Cuban people with contact and remittances isn't a concession to the Cuban regime and it isn't a violation of immigration laws. Rather than double talk and dancing around the issue, Mr. Curbelo should explain why he thinks the U.S. government should be in the business of telling Cuban-Americans how often they can freely visit their family and friends in the Island, and limit the support they send them. The close to half-a-million Cuban-Americans who travel to Cuba every year deserve an honest and direct answer. Our advocacy for this issue goes beyond any single congressional district, and we've advocated for a new conversation and a new approach at every level, including by calling on President Obama to take further action under his existing authority to expand the flow of support for Cuban civil society."


Dr. Jose Azel of the Institute of Cuban and Cuban-American studies also weighed in on the travel issue saying, "Basically our entire political spectrum, with the exception of Joe Garcia, I believe has always supported not allowing Cuba travel."


Herrero maintains his ad urging viewers to vote in November is about families, not politics.


"I think everybody has the right to decide when and when not to go to Cuba," said Herrero.


"As a political exile out I would never consider traveling to Cuba and I am, to some degree, offended that we are talking about this kind of travel," said Azel. "Because I think until the conditions that brought about our exile change, we should not return to the island and those conditions have not changed. So, from that perspective, I'm totally against traveling."


Azel continued, "For those of us who have always considered ourselves political exiles, traveling to Cuba is not an option. It is not a consideration, however our community has changed and there are many in the community who think of themselves as economic immigrants. For them, traveling is an important consideration, so I suspect an ad such as this would have some appeal to those that no longer, or have never thought of themselves as political exiles."


Here is an English translation of the Cuba Now ad:


"Several years ago, the Castros separated my family.


Getting here took great sacrifice.


Thanks to changes made to U.S. law in 2009, I can now visit Cuba to support and reunite with my friends and family.


Unfortunately, every election year, there are candidates who threaten to take that right away from me to try to win votes.


That is why I vote. Because I refuse to allow another politician to come between me and my loved ones again.


This November, VOTE."



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