Ethnic Groups and U.S. Foreign Policy

By Mohammed E. Ahrari | Go to book overview

7
From Little Havana to Washington, D.C.: Cuban-Americans and U.S. Foreign Policy

Damiá'n J. Fernández

Cuban-Americans are committed to influence U.S. foreign policy owing to the political nature of their migration. 1 The first two generations of Cuban exiles share a world view and a socioeconomic makeup that have compelled and facilitated their entrance into the arena of foreign relations. By the 1980s Cuban-Americans had developed vigorous national lobby organizations that have focused on foreign policy issues from different points in the ideological spectrum. During the Reagan years the conservative Cuban lobby organization, the Cuban-American National Foundation (CANF), has strengthened its influence on Washington decisionmakers.

This chapter explains why Cuban-Americans have manifested a commitment to shape U.S. foreign policy. It assesses how the group has tried to do so and why it has succeeded or failed in its various attempts. The approach is to analyze the relationship between internal characteristics of the Cuban- American migration and the group's political behavior, as expressed particularly through two national Cuban-American lobby organizations in Washington. The chapter presents a brief political, socioeconomic, and demographic analysis of Cuban-Americans and discusses the group's foreign policy views and the political differences within it. It shows how the perspectives of the different lobby organizations have been congruent or not with those of the executive branch. What this has meant for Cuban-American foreign policy initiatives is addressed. Finally, the prospects for the Cuban-American foreign policy lobby are discussed.

Cuban-Americans' interest in shaping U.S. foreign policy and the success or failure of their initiatives to do so are explained by variables internal and external to the group. The reason Cuban-Americans engage in foreign policy lobbying, specifically in regard to Cuba and the Communist world, is the

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