Cuban–American lobby

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The Cuban–American lobby describes those various groups of Cuban exiles in the United States and their descendants who have historically influenced the United States' policy toward Cuba. In general usage, this refers to anti-Castro groups.

History and formation[edit]

The Cuban–American lobby was formed by Cuban expatriates during migratory waves throughout the latter half of the twentieth century. In the 1960s, many Cubans left the island due to fear of revolutionary communist reforms. They were often white, wealthy, and/or supporters of the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship.[1] Many Cuban expatriates followed family and friends to the U.S. and built a "second Havana" in Miami, although the concentration of Cubans in Miami has been heavily diluted in recent decades by subsequent immigrant influx from other Latin American countries. Hardships in Cuba during the 1980s and 1990s also encouraged expatriation motivated by economic prospects in the United States. The ideological makeup of the lobby shifted drastically after Raúl Castro lifted travel restrictions in 2013. The group constituting the resulting exodus has been young and much more moderate than earlier groups.

Makeup of the lobby[edit]

The Cuban–American lobby is usually seen to be anti-Castro and recognizing the Cuban government as repressive, although it has become much more moderate since the late 1990s. However, the most influential organizations and politicians within the political sector of the lobby are still conservative. They advocate for punitive maintenance of the embargo unless Cuba privatizes its economy.[2][3] The most notable organization with this viewpoint is the Cuban American National Foundation. Other organizations advocate for an easing or lifting of the embargo before or regardless of whether Cuba changes its government structure and policies.

The academic circles within the lobby, though not monolithic in opinion, generally believe that the U.S. and Cuba should more readily exchange scientific information and advances. Some organizations within the intellectual wing of the Cuba lobby advocate for travel as a human right, and have affected change on U.S. travel policies towards Cuba.[4]

Business interest lobbies often advocate for lifting the embargo to increase trade between the two nations. They believe trade with Cuba would be beneficial for the U.S. economy, and usually point to financial reasons for their stance.[4] Lobbies outside the Cuban-American community have also advocated for liberalization of trade between the two nations, most notably the agribusiness lobby.[1]

Political influence[edit]

In the 1980s, most Cuban expatriate interest groups were only active in southern Florida. These groups were splintered and their voice was poorly organized. The lobby became more powerful after many organizations pledged to change the inner workings of Cuban government, as powers within the U.S. government shared the same objective. The Reagan administration strongly supported the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), which formed the month the president took office.[2] The lobby built institutional ties with the administration through their ideological sameness, giving conservative Cuban-American groups growing influence and increasingly early access to information through the 1980s.
Organizations within the lobby have affected public policy by collaborating with both Republican and Democratic lawmakers. One of the most notable collaborations occurred in 1992 between the Cuban American National Foundation and Democrat Robert Torricelli. Torricelli, whose liberal views on the embargo characterized his early career, sought election campaign funds from the CANF. He adopted a stronger anti-Castro, pro-embargo stance, secured CANF funds, and was reelected to Congress.[1] Torricelli subsequently sponsored the Cuban Democracy Act, often referred to as the Torricelli Act, which was signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1992.

The conservative lobby's influence waned when Jorge Mas Canosa, founder of the Cuban American National Foundation, died in 1997. The international custody case of Elián González, which lasted from November 1999 to June 2000, also had negative effects on conservative influence within the Cuban-American community. The rise of moderate and liberal influence within the community are often partially attributed to Canosa's death and González's repatriation into Cuba.[1]
While still influential, the Cuba lobby appears to be weakening due to dissenting opinions within groups.[5] Younger Cuban-Americans are more likely to be open-minded regarding relations between the two countries and the lifting of the embargo.

Rising influence of moderate voices allowed room for the agribusiness lobby to push for reforms that softened the embargo. The lobby campaigned for the Trade Sanction Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000, with success partially due to conflict within the Cuban-American community after the death of Canosa and the case of Elián González. The law allowed for the trade of some agricultural and medical goods between the two nations.[1] A more persuasive reason for the agribusiness lobby's success and the rise of moderate and liberal voices is the recent economic reforms instituted by Raúl Castro. For instance, the proportion of state-owned agricultural land has fallen from 75% in 1992 to 20.7% in 2012.[1]

Effect of the lobby's campaign contributions[edit]

A logistic regression model analyzed Congress members' attitudes towards two nearly identical pieces of pro-embargo legislation before and after receiving campaign funds from the Cuban–American lobby groups. Trevor Rubenzer found that pro-embargo PAC contributions had a statistically significant effect on Representatives' likelihood to adopt a pro-embargo stance.[6]

Effect of the lobby on presidential elections[edit]

During election years between 1992 and 2004, policy regarding Cuba and the embargo followed the hard-line exiles' agenda during presidential election years. During non-election years, any legislation implemented during election years was either nullified or not enforced. Embargo-related legislature became more conservative in presidential years, and less conservative in non-election years.[7]
The lobby typically becomes more successful during presidential election years, as Cuban Americans live in the largest swing state in the U.S. Florida accounts for one-tenth of electoral college votes, and the winner-take-all electoral college system makes Cuban votes in the swing state all the more critical to presidential elections.[7]


Cuban Americans in the United States Congress[edit]

Ten Cuban Americans currently serve in the United States Congress.

Three United States Senators:

Seven are United States Representatives:

Former Congresspeople:

Cuban Americans in state government[edit]

Many Cuban-Americans have been elected to office at a state level, especially in Florida. New Jersey also elects many Cubans to state-level positions, though there is only a small concentration of Cubans in Union City, Elizabeth, and Newark.


New Jersey[edit]


  • Angelica Jimenez, Democrat, Member of the New Jersey General Assembly from the 32nd Legislative District (2012–present)


  • Marlene Caride, Democrat, Member of the New Jersey General Assembly from the 36rd Legislative District (2012-2018)
  • Rafael Fraguela, Democrat and Republican (from April to December 2003), Member of the New Jersey General Assembly from the 32nd Legislative District (2002-2004)
  • Vincent Prieto, Democrat, Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly (2014–2018), Member of the New Jersey General Assembly from the 32nd Legislative District (2004–2018)
  • Caridad Rodriguez, Democrat, Member of the New Jersey General Assembly from the 33rd Legislative District (2008-2011)


  • Art Linares, Republican, Westbrook, Member of the Connecticut State Senate from the 33rd district


Cuban Americans in executive and judicial roles[edit]

Eduardo Aguirre (R) served as Vice Chairman of the Export-Import Bank of the United States in the George W. Bush administration and later named Director of Immigration and Naturalization Services under the Department of Homeland Security. In 2006, Eduardo Aguirre was named US ambassador to Spain. Cuban Americans have also served other high-profile government jobs including White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu.

Florida-based businessman and Cuban exile Elviro Sanchez made his multimillion-dollar fortune by investing the proceeds of his family's fruit plantations. He is one of the most low-profile philanthropists in the Southern States.

Cuban-Americans also serve in high-ranking judicial positions as well.

Cubans in public service with United States federal government[edit]

Other politically active Cuban Americans[edit]

Politically active Cuban authors and academics[edit]

Spanish Language Media[edit]

  • Ninoska Pérez Castellón, prominent Cuban-American radio and television talk show host on Radio Mambi 710 AM
  • Lourdes D’Kendall, prominent Cuban-American radio talk show host on Radio Mambi 710 AM
  • Armando Perez-Roura, prominent Cuban-American radio talk show host, former director of Radio Mambi 710 AM, now on La Poderosa 670 AM
  • Martha Flores, prominent Cuban-American radio talk show host on Radio Mambi 710 AM
  • Tomas Garcia Fuste, prominent Cuban radio and television talk show host
  • Rey Anthony, third-generation Cuban-American radio talk show host on Actualidad Radio 1020/1040 AM
  • Lourdes Ubieta, prominent Venezuelan-born Cuban-American radio talk show host on Actualidad Radio 1020/1040 AM
  • Agustín Acosta, prominent Cuban-American radio talk show host on Actualidad Radio 1020/1040 AM

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Koçak, Canberk (2017). "Interest Groups and U.S. Foreign Policy towards Cuba: the Restoration of Capitalism in Cuba and the Changing Interest Group Politics". Class, Race and Corporate Power. 4 (2). doi:10.25148/CRCP.4.2.001664. Retrieved March 8, 2018.
  2. ^ a b Haney, Patrick J. (June 1999). "The Role of Ethnic Interest Groups in U.S. Foreign Policy: The Case of the Cuban American National Foundation". International Studies Quarterly. 43 (2): 341–361. doi:10.1111/0020-8833.00123. JSTOR 2600759.
  3. ^ "Cuban Democracy Act of 1992". U.S. Department of State. Archived from the original on August 5, 2012.[verification needed]
  4. ^ a b https://Horowitz, Irving Louis (Autumn 1998). "The Cuba Lobby Then and Now". Orbis. 42 (4): 553–563. doi:10.1016/S0030-4387(98)80005-7.
  5. ^ Lindsay, James M. (December 2002). "Getting Uncle Sam's Ear: Will Ethnic Lobbies Cramp America's Foreign Policy Style". Brookings. Retrieved February 10, 2018./
  6. ^ Rubenzer, Trevor (October 2010). "Campaign Contributions and U.S. Foreign Policy Outcomes: An Analysis of Cuban American Interests". American Journal of Political Science. 55 (1): 105–116. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5907.2010.00483.x.
  7. ^ a b Susan Eckstein (May 2015). Díaz Balsera, Viviana; May, Rachel A (eds.). How Cubans Transformed Florida Politic and Leveraged Local for National Influence. University Press Scholarship Online. doi:10.5744/florida/9780813060118.001.0001. ISBN 9780813060118.
  8. ^ "About Us". Center for a Free Cuba. January 31, 2009. Archived from the original on January 31, 2009. Retrieved March 15, 2018.

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