Earlier this week Mauricio Claver-Carone (in photo at top) was tabbed by the Donald Trump team to sit at the table of the president-elect’s group of deciders. Their task is to set the course of the Trump presidency beginning next year. They will help make the ‘hand-off’ from Obama to the new president as seamless as possible, according to tradition. They must also fill more than 4,000 jobs and appointments, all persons who will serve the incoming president.
The question many have asked is “Why Claver-Carone?”
Claver-Carone’s Wikipedia page describes him as an American advocate in support of the policy positions that the United States has taken against the Cuban government. What it fails to mention, I believe, is that Claver-Carone lobbies for positions in congress that have also hurt or attempted to hurt the Cuban people, not only the government. My old friend and mentor Francisco Aruca would have referred to Mauricio as a leading member of the anti-Cuban class, and one of its foremost leaders in “la industria del mal”, or “the industry of evil.”
A lawyer and lobbyist in Washington, D.C., Claver-Carone heads the U.S. Cuba Democracy PAC, which for more than a decade has tried to fill the Jorge Mas Canosa role that did much damage to Cuba in the 1990s. Claver-Carone has had victories, for sure, if you’re into the evil side of the Cuba argument. His successes were amplified during the George W. Bush era. Yet his importance and timeliness decreased considerably after Barack Obama became president in 2009.
But the possibility of a Trump presidency seemed to present a phoenix-like opportunity for Claver-Carone and the PAC. Trump, who has taken more stances on Cuba then Marco Rubio takes on most any issue, came to Miami and reversed his stance on the embargo and Obama’s opening to the Havana government.
During his Miami visit weeks before the election, Trump sought support of that hard-right Cuban voter that Claver-Carone lives off. He received the endorsement of groups like the 2506 Brigade that in the 1960s attempted to overthrow the nascent Castro government and failed. [Not a big deal politically, by the way.] More importantly during the Miami trip, Trump attended a roundtable discussion with 15 of Miami’s ‘evil industry’ leaders, which included Fausto and Remedio Diaz-Oliver, the power couple who pleaded guilty in the late 1990s to fraud and tax evasion, and both strong economic supporters, along with Hialeah auto-magnate Gus Machado, of of the aforementioned PAC. Also present were other heavy hitters ($$$), and a number of politicians not worth mentioning.
[Galling to Trump during this visit was the LBA snub. Miami’s most important Latino building construction group, the Latin Builders Association, a mostly Republican bunch, decided to endorse a Democrat, Hillary Clinton, for the first time in its locally influential history. Reasons for the decision included Trump’s bigotry and reference to a certain group of Latinos as “rapists” and other things.]
In the end, Trump did get help from Cuban-Americans in Miami. The group voted almost evenly in favor and against him during the election, compared to about an 80-20 split-against by all other Hispanic groups in the country. There is no doubt that the Cuban vote did help Trump win the very important state of Florida, but the Cubans were NOT the deciding factor. What tilted the state, which had voted Democrat during both Obama elections, was the overwhelming white vote — especially in the northern counties of Florida — in favor of Trump.
Still, the question lingers. Why Claver-Carone?
I am not privy to any background info, or have talked to anyone close to the Trump group. But I believe, and am willing to speculate, that the naming of Mauricio Claver-Carone to the transition team was a simple nod to those hard-right Cubans who defended, helped financially and ultimately voted for Donald Trump earlier this month. In Claver-Carone, Trump managed to encapsulate and pick the one person who represents a conglomerate of persons who cannot get over their hatred of today’s Cuba and the Cubans who live there.
The pick now allows Trump to point to Claver-Carone and appease his Cuban-American enablers.
Yet, the truth is that Claver-Carone has NOT been named to any official position. We will see if he is, and if so, what job he is offered. And what, if anything, he can influence.
I find it hard to believe that Donald Trump will go against the wishes of the farming interest in the central part of the country, for example, that voted overwhelmingly for him. These farmers are dying to do more business in Cuba. Will Trump stop them just to satisfy the group that backs Claver-Carone and who would love to sink the Cuban island and all 11 million people who live there?
Only time will give us the real answer. And that answer should come sooner than later.