Shortly after Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) agreed to drop his opposition to President Barack Obama’s nominee for Ambassador to Brazil, interim Sen. George LeMieux (R-FL) decided to pick up where DeMint left off. DeMint had been blocking Thomas Shannon’s nomination over the Obama’s policy on the coup in Honduras; LeMieux, on the other hand, is accusing the former Bush nominee of being soft on Cuba.
According to an anonymous Republican aide, LeMieux is delaying Shannon’s confirmation over the role he played in initiating talks with Cuba on migration and direct mail service when he was Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs under the Obama administration. Yet while many suggest that LeMieux is trying to “burnish his Cuba credentials to help Crist,” he may not realize that Shannon’s actions were largely motivated by an effort to “bridge the gap” between Cuban Americans and their relatives in Cuba. The Obama administration has allowed Cuban Americans to visit their family members and lifted limits on money transfers to Cuban relatives, all while keeping in place long-standing trade restrictions. While still in office, Martinez chose to describe the developments as “good news for Cuban families separated by the lack of freedom in Cuba.”
Curiously, a new report recently revealed that wealthy supporters of the U.S. embargo against Cuba have contributed almost $11 million to members of Congress since 2004 and have been largely successful in blocking efforts to weaken sanctions against Castro’s government. In the meantime, long-time Republican Cuban Americans “drift[ed] to Obama” during the 2008 elections.
LeMieux was nominated and confirmed as Assistant Secretary by a Republican president and Republican-dominated Congress in 2005. Up until Obama’s inauguration, Shannon was working under an administration that approached Cuba with a heavy iron fist and often referred to Castro’s government as part of the infamous “axis of evil.”
Holding up Shannon’s nomination means the U.S. has limited diplomatic relations with the largest and most economically robust country in Latin America. Brazil also ranks fifth among the world’s most populated countries.