November 15, 2004


Martinez says goal as senator is a free Cuba: Mel Martinez, who will be the first Cuban American in the U.S. Senate, said he hopes to bring his vision of a free Cuba to the highest circles of government. (OSCAR CORRAL, 11/15/04, Miami Herald)

In a wide-ranging interview on U.S.-Cuba policy, Senator-elect Mel Martinez told The Herald that he hopes to become a leading voice for the cause of a free Cuba, promoting ideas that include changing the so-called wet foot/dry foot policy and aggressively planning for a post-Castro Cuba.

''I view it as a really historic opportunity,'' said Martinez, who will be the first Cuban American in the U.S. Senate. ``It will give me a great opportunity to plead with people to better understand the Cuba problem and have a tough attitude on Cuba.''

Martinez, a former U.S. housing secretary, brings a unique perspective to the Senate.

He still has family members in Cuba -- an aunt, an uncle and cousins -- who receive regular remittances from Martinez's mother. He says that having close family members on the island gives him an understanding of people's struggles there. They have visited him in Orlando to seek medical help, and they communicate with him and his family regularly.

Martinez said the remittances his mother sends were not affected by the new limits imposed by the Bush administration because they don't exceed the new monthly legal limit of $100.

Martinez, like thousands of Cuban exiles, says he longs to return to his homeland. Except for a visit to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay, he hasn't been there since he was 15.

''I'm dying to go back,'' Martinez said. ``I understand that the people in Cuba are hurting badly. The cause of the hurt is not us here, it's their ruler. And I'd do anything in the world to see Cuba have the opportunity to do better.''

Wet foot/dry foot is vile--just ending that policy would be a great accomplishment.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 15, 2004 10:58 AM

What we should do is say to the rest of the world, 'You can trade with Castro or you can trade with the US, you cannot trade with both.' Make them pick sides, even Canuckistan, Cuba's largest trading partner, will play ball with us.

Posted by: Bart at November 15, 2004 12:58 PM

Cuba is a great vacation destination.

Posted by: Perry at November 15, 2004 1:37 PM

Perry: Yes it is. Let's have the Marines vacation there! (...Yes, I know there's probably all sorts of reasons not to, but it's fun to think and I have no power anyway.)

Posted by: Just John at November 15, 2004 3:04 PM


The same thing was said about Germany in the 1936 Olympics.

Go there and you can't come here. If your country lets you go there for vacation, no one from your country may come here.

I suppose the antebellum South was a great vacation destination too.

Posted by: Bart at November 15, 2004 3:52 PM

I wouldn't tell the State Department, fly out of Toronto or Cancun. Seeing all those old cars is a hoot.

Posted by: Perry at November 16, 2004 1:18 PM