“The things he has said are completely ridiculous,” said one.
“Totally incoherent,” said another.
Donald Trump – the Republican Presidential hopeful who infamously branded Mexican migrants ‘criminals’ and ‘rapists’ (carefully adding, “some, I assume, are good people”) – has a tendency to divide U.S. audiences with his inflammatory and politically incorrect rhetoric.
On the streets of Cuba, however, opinions of the bombastic New York businessman tend to be more consistent – at least they were among those recently interviewed by Fusion.
‘Imbecile’, ‘clown’, ‘monster’, ‘an animal with clothes’ – these were just some of the withering epithets handed to the Presidential hopeful.
Trump, who has previously stated ‘‘the concept of opening with Cuba is fine”, may take heart that he isn’t Marco Rubio.
“Rubio belongs to a right-wing that is much more radical than that of Donald Trump,” noted one interviewee darkly.
“He’s the shadow of the counter revolution,” added another.
Marco Rubio, who is trailing third in the ill-behaved scramble to become the Republican candidate in November’s elections, has openly opposed Obama’s efforts to normalize relations between the U.S. and Cuba, saying he would reverse his policy if elected.
Since 2014, embassies in Washington and Havana have been reopened, commercial and travel sanctions have been lifted, and Cuba has been scrubbed from a U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.
The 50-year-old trade embargo – almost universally opposed at an international level – has yet to be lifted, and probably won’t be while the U.S. Congress is Republican-controlled.
“Nobody expects Cuba to be transformed overnight,” Obama said in his speech on the reopening of embassies. “But I believe that American engagement through our embassy, our businesses and most of all through our people, is our best way to advance our interests and support for democracy and human rights.”
Rubio, a right-wing Cuban-American, represents Florida’s community of Cuban exiles, who together claim to have lost $1 billion in expropriated property during the revolution. He was critical of the normalization process:
“The Cubans have basically achieved all of those concessions and in return have done nothing to change… The only thing that will change is the amount of money the regime will have access to.”
One of the unforeseen consequences of the normalization process has been an upsurge in Cuban immigration to the U.S. (something Trump has not commented on).
At present, Cubans receive special treatment compared to other Latin nationals, including the ability to apply for permanent residency if they are able to make it to dry land and remain in the country for a year and a day (the so-called ‘wet-foot, ‘dry-foot’ policy). Fearing the loss of such privileges, many Cubans are making the treacherous journey across the Caribbean sooner rather than later.
An “outrageous abuse”
Rubio has not directly attacked migration policy, but on Tuesday January 12 he introduced a bill to curb migrant access to federal benefits such as Medicaid and food stamps, calling it an ‘outrageous abuse’ of ‘the American people’s generosity’.
It was thus unsurprising that interviewees branded Rubio ‘another terrible one’ who would ‘probably be disastrous for us’.
Turning to Jeb Bush – who is currently polling fifth place – opinions were only slightly less disdainful.
“Bush’s brother is running too?” Said one man, eyes rolling in disbelief.
“If we have to suffer with this third Bush, it’s going to be a big sacrifice. I don’t think he can contribute much that is not war.”
Of all the Republican candidates, only Ted Cruz, second in the race behind Trump, managed to dodge heavy criticism, largely because no one had heard of him.
“Who the hell is Ted Cruz? He’s completely anonymous!”