Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Issue of Cuba Divides Congressional Hispanic Caucus

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Issue of Cuba Divides Congressional Hispanic Caucus

Article excerpt

Last August, U.S. Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, both Republicans from Miami, stood on the House floor and ripped up a GOP proposal to make English the official language of the United States.

Their chief adversary: Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

By breaking away from the Republican leadership on the English-only bill and other controversial legislation affecting immigrants and minorities, Diaz-Balart and Ros-Lehtinen enhanced their status within the mainly Democratic Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Still, their relationship with the other Hispanic members has never been a comfortable one. As Republicans and Cuban-Americans, Diaz-Balart and Ros-Lehtinen are minorities within a minority - viewed with suspicion in a caucus dominated by lawmakers of Mexican and Puerto Rican extraction. The only other Cuban-American in Congress is Rep. Robert Menendez, D-N.J. Diaz-Balart and Ros-Lehtinen quit the Hispanic caucus last month after Rep. Xavier Becerra, a Democrat from California, was voted chairman. What they found unpardonable was that Becerra recently met with Cuban President Fidel Castro in Cuba but failed to call for free elections and visit with political dissidents. "It was insensitive and beyond the pale," Diaz-Balart said. "Castro is the Hitler of the Western Hemisphere. I do not believe Jewish members would belong to an organization whose chairman visited Hitler while he was in power." Becerra and a few other caucus members oppose the 35-year-old U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, while Diaz-Balart and Ros-Lehtinen support it. Aides to Becerra said he attempted to hear from all sides during his four-day tour of Cuba in December, but Ros-Lehtinen didn't buy it. "I believe he knew exactly what he was doing with his visit," Ros-Lehtinen said. "Life will go on for the caucus. I'm sure there is not great sadness over the loss of us. We were the only two Republicans." Menendez also was angered by the selection of Becerra as chairman, but opted to remain in the caucus to ensure there isn't a total vacuum if members decide to take a stand on any Cuba-related issues. The resignations of Diaz-Balart and Ros-Lehtinen leaves the caucus with 17 members, all Democrats. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.