Joe Biden is pledging a “new Cuba policy” as polls show that President Donald Trump holds steady support among Cuban-American voters.
The former vice president, who has increased his outreach to Latinos in recent weeks, hinted at the relationship he would try to forge between the United States and Cuba on Monday during a visit to Miami, Flordia. In his remarks, Biden lambasted Trump for championing immigration restrictions, while simultaneously “empowering” strongmen in Cuba and Venezuela.
“We also need a new Cuba policy,” Biden said. “The administration’s approach is not working. Cuba is no closer to freedom and democracy than it was four years ago.”
“In fact, there are more political prisoners, the secret police are more brutal than ever, and Russia is once again a major presence in Cuba, in Havana,” the former vice president added.
Claiming that he had stood for “democracy and human rights … against dictators of the left and the right” throughout his career, Biden said his “policy will be governed by two principles.”
“First Americans, especially Cuban-Americans, are the best ambassadors for freedom in Cuba,” he said. “Second, empowering the Cuban people to determine their own future is central to the national security interests of the United States.”
Although Biden did not elaborate much on what else his policy would entail, the former vice president did argue that it was impossible for the U.S. to take a stand on Cuba given that the Trump administration was “deporting hundreds of Cubans back to their dictatorship.”
“There are almost ten thousand Cubans languishing in tent camps along the Mexican border because of the administration’s anti-immigration agenda,” he said. “That’s the administration actively separating Cuban families by not processing visas through restrictions on family visits and remittances.”
Biden’s promise of a new policy towards Cuba comes as the former vice president struggles to gain traction among Florida’s Latino population, specifically its large Cuban-American contingent.
A poll by the Miami Herald released last month found the former vice president underperforming in Miami-Dade County, a heavily Democratic area that was key to President Barack Obama’s success in carrying Florida in 2008 and 2012. The Herald poll indicated that in a head-to-head matchup, Biden received 55 percent among the county’s voters, compared to Trump’s 38 percent. Four years prior, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton crushed Trump in the county, 63 percent to 33 percent.
The Herald poll also found that 73 percent of Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade County had a favorable opinion of Trump, compared to 23 percent unfavorable. Meanwhile, only 32 percent of Cuban-Americans viewed the former vice president favorably, while 63 percent did not. Moreover, among the county’s Hispanic voters in general, Trump had a stronger approval rating (53 percent favorable to 44 percent unfavorable) than Biden (47 percent favorable to 44 percent unfavorable).
The results in Miami-Dade County appear mirrored across the state, at least according to a poll commissioned by Unite the Country, a leading pro-Biden Super PAC. That poll found 56 percent of Cuban-Americans across Florida held a favorable view of Trump, compared to 42 percent unfavorable. Among the demographic, the incumbent led the Democrat nominee by 18 percentage points.
Biden’s trouble with Cuban-Americans could be a reason why Biden trails Trump among Florida’s Latino population in a recent NBC/Marist College poll. That survey found that Trump led among the demographic with 50 percent support to Biden’s 46 percent. Even though the margin is small, the results are surprising, given that Clinton received 62 percent of Florida’s Latino vote to Trump’s 35 percent in 2016.
A poll released last week by Florida International University also seems to suggest that Biden’s troubles with Cuban-Americans will not easily be rectified by promising a “new Cuba policy.” That poll found that 66 percent of Cuban-American in South Florida approved of the way Trump was dealing with Cuba.