Senate candidate Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) opened a recent virtual town hall with Cuban-Americans praising “the great” Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) and quoting him to “set the theme” for the event, an unfortunate choice given Clyburn’s advocacy for the Cuban Communist Party and praise for Fidel Castro, in particular.
Demings is likely to emerge from the Democrat primary in August as the nominee to unseat incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), one of the most consistently anti-communist voices on foreign policy in Congress and himself a Cuban-American. Demings’ faux pas at an event billed a “virtual meet-and-greet” with Cuban-American Democrat voters follows months of polling showing her significantly behind Rubio and questionable Hispanic engagement that included an endorsement from former Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), a former member of the Puerto Rican Socialist Party and supporter of convicted communist terrorist Óscar López Rivera.
Observers have also criticized Demings for appearing to have no public opinions on the brutal communist Cuban regime prior to running for Senate in the state with the highest Cuban-American population in the country.
In a segment of the meet-and-greet obtained by Breitbart News, which occurred on January 20, Demings opens her talk directed at Cuban-American Democrat voters by citing Clyburn.
“One of my friends and colleagues – the great James Clyburn, who is the majority whip of the Democratic caucus, as you know – likes to say this and I really think it really sets the theme for this meeting tonight and the diversity of this group,” Demings said. “Jim likes to say, ‘we don’t need to make America great again. America is great. America has always been great.”
“That’s not the challenge,” she continued, “but the challenge is, it seems to me, how do we make the greatness of America accessible and affordable to all Americans?”
Demings has enthusiastically praised Clyburn in the past, an unremarkable move given that he is a high-ranking and respected Democrat. In the context of a meeting with the Cuban-American community, however, attempting to organize the conversation around Clyburn’s ideology shows a lack of sensitivity to the 63 years of violent, repressive communism that the island has endured under a leader Clyburn met with, advocated for, and complimented.
While many Democrats, including the small group of Cuban-Americans who identify as such, support removing sanctions on the Castro regime, even most Cuban-Americans who claim to oppose the little that remains of the Cuban “embargo” would not go so far as Clyburn has in praising murderous dictator Fidel Castro as “a policy wonk” with “a great sense of history.”
Clyburn visited Cuba with the Congressional Black Caucus in 2000 and met with murderous dictator Fidel Castro, a fact Castro himself mentioned favorably in remarks in 2009.
“In May 2000, we were visited by another Caucus delegation presided by [the man] who was then its principal leader, James Clyburn of North Carolina [sic], and made up of Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and Gregory Meeks of New York,” Fidel Castro said in a 2009 commentary published by Granma, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba. “These Congressmen were the first to receive from me the disposition of Cuba to assign a number of scholarships to low-income youths with the purpose of studying medicine in our country, selected by the Congressional Black Caucus.”
The Congressional Black Caucus ultimately made that program possible, sending 250 American medical students to receive communist indoctrination in Cuba. Cuba currently presides over one of the most lucrative slave industries in the world through its medical programs, making as much as $11 billion a year selling health workers to friendly countries, who in turn pay Cuba. The health workers receive only a “stipend” that those who have escaped say is barely enough for food. Multiple groups of Cuban doctors have sued both the governments involved and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) for enslaving them.
Clyburn demanded closer economic ties with the Castro regime upon his return to America, predicting that enriching the Castro regime would promote “democracy.”
“The best way to put more democracy in Cuba is the way we’re doing it in China,” Clyburn argued then, according to an article from the Post and Courier archived on the independent Cuban news site Cubanet.
China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001. Since then, the Communist Party has used the tremendous profits from business with the West to build the most elaborate, high-tech system of repression in the world, replete with a “social credit system” that punishes individuals insufficiently enthusiastic about communism, pervasive and intrusive surveillance cameras that have eliminated privacy, and hundreds of concentration camps used to enact genocide against ethnic minorities, most prominently the Uyghur people.
Cubanet reported that Clyburn declared himself an “active proponent” of enriching Cuba and praised Fidel Castro personally as “very reflective” and a “policy wonk” with “a great sense of history and a great sense of self.”
“I was really pleased with his whole sense of history,” the Congressman mused.
Clyburn invited Castro to Washington, DC, after his return home.
“Castro said he doubts he could get a visa, but Clyburn said he would try to get an exemption under a cultural exchange provision in international travel law,” according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Clyburn has also supported numerous Congressional bills to dilute executive power on foreign policy and allow Americans to work more closely with the Castro regime.
Rubio’s campaign told Breitbart News that Demings appearing unaware of Clyburn’s record on Cuba while speaking to Cuban-Americans shows she would be out of touch with the community as a senator.
“Val Demings only discovered the topic of Cuba after deciding to run for Senate, so she must have missed the memo that her political ally Jim Clyburn has tirelessly defended the Communist Cuban regime,” Laura Ortiz, Hispanic Media Director for Marco Rubio for Senate, told Breitbart News. “It’s clear Florida’s Cuban-American community can’t count on her to be their voice in the Senate.”
Demings has struggled to engage Florida’s Hispanic community beyond Cuban-Americans. Last year, her campaign touted support from radical leftist former Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), a former Puerto Rican Socialist Party member. Gutierrez applauded Demings as “a fighter for our immigrants” (Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens by birth, and thus cannot be immigrants to America) and thanked her for bringing “vitality” to the immigration debate.
Gutierrez has been one of the most high-profile defenders of communist Puerto Rican terrorist Óscar López Rivera, who prominently engaged in bombings through the Marxist Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN) terrorist organization in the 1970s and ’80s. The FALN was found responsible for over 100 bombings in America, killing five people. López was sentenced to over three decades in prison for seditious conspiracy but released prior to the end of his sentence in 2017 via a commutation from far-left former President Barack Obama.
Gutierrez spent years advocating for his release from prison.
“This man, Oscar López Rivera, who is now in his 70s and has spent half his life in prison – is no threat to the United States or Puerto Rico. He harbors no nefarious plot to harm anyone,” Gutierrez claimed on the House floor in 2016. “He is simply a man who has served an inordinate sentence for the crime for which he was convicted and now, Puerto Ricans want their elder statesman to be allowed to live out his days in Puerto Rico.”
Gutierrez was front-and-center to honor him in Chicago following Lopez Rivera’s release.