February 11, 2010

Big news for all Cubans! Early February, Florida Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a Republican lawmaker for nine terms, will retire at the end of this term. This is somewhat of a “game-changer” in the chess game between Cuba and Cuban-American reconciliation. Lincoln represents more of a “hard-liner” approach in the confrontation between Cuba and US policies.

(Florida Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart announced Retirement)

Lincoln Diaz-Balart was born in Havana, Cuba and was one of the first-Cuban Americans to win a seat in Congress. A definite victory for the ambitious Cubans of my parents generation who sough to make it in this new country of exile. Lord knows the Cubans are smart enough to do whatever they set their mind to. Lincoln was originally a former democrat that later joined the Republican party in the mid 80’s. He previously served in the Florida House and Senate. Lincoln is the brother of Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., who represents a neighboring congressional district.

Lincoln has also been instrumental in US policies which determine how much money is spent fighting Cuba (some would even call the Embargo, “a silent war”). Other issues Lincoln’s opinion were affected by: Radio Marti, Elian Gonzalez, assassination attempts on Fidel, etc.

I can’t say I agree with all of Mr Lincoln’s decisions, but that’s another conversation.

The point is, the game is getting close to 50/50 split with “old-schoolers” and “new schoolers” on the handling of Cuban policies. Generally, not always, its about Republican viewpoints versus Democratic viewpoints on these issues.

Lincoln, who represents one of the “old-school” hard-liners faced his toughest re-election in 2008. But he beat former Hialeah Florida Mayor Raul Martinez with 58 percent of the vote. On the Presidential front, the vote was similarly split between President Obama and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in the 2008 presidential contest.

Last year, I wrote about the removal of 2 main “hard-liner” players on the Cuban side of the fence — Cuba’s Vice President Carlos Lage and Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque (BIg Change in Cuba — and the gossip that ensued (The Real Reason Raul Axed Them). This had a more scandalous nature, but nonetheless, it’s 2 “old-schoolers” from the island who are now out of the game, leaving more room for younger minds to take over.

This month, one of the major players on the Cuban-American side, Lincoln Diaz-Balart announced he will step down from his post eventually.

In terms of Lincoln’s evacuated seat, there is speculation that Mario could seek election in his brother’s seat, which is considered to be a safer Republican district. Lincoln Diaz-Balart becomes the 18th House Republican and the second in as many days to announce they won’t stand for re-election later this year.

Only 12 House Democrats have declared their retirements.

If Democrats outweigh the Republican voices, maybe we’ll some different executive decisions on overall Cuba-US policies?