“As I left Havana earlier this month,” writes Dr. Rens Lee, senior fellow at Philadelphia’s prestigious Foreign Policy Research Institute, “Cuba was eagerly awaiting the United States’ November presidential elections. The buzz around the capital, reportedly from a highly placed source, was that Barack Obama has already talked to Raul Castro by phone.”

(Note: I notified the Obama campaign of these claims and asked for a response or clarification. It has not responded.)

Dr. Rens Lee explains that the buzz was reported by both highly placed Cuban officials and by an experienced Western diplomat posted in Havana. Lee also cautions against an outside chance that the report is simply wishful thinking from Cuban officials based on Obama’s Castro-friendly campaign promises.

The wishful thinking is certainly warranted. After all, Barack Obama has already pledged himself to grant the Castro brothers one of their most fervent wishes by abolishing a Bush policy that seriously stung them. “I will immediately allow unlimited family travel and remittances to the island,” pledged Barack Obama on his Miami visit in May.

Naturally, as presented by Castro’s agents (on the payroll and off) in the U.S. media, Obama’s proposal sounds eminently reasonable, commonsensical, practical and humane – unlike those of the Cuban-American cabal that designs and enforces the Republican Party’s Cuba policy in between tying screaming damsels to railroad tracks.

As recited by his U.S. media, think-tank and Democratic Party mouthpieces, Castro’s talking points tug mightily at the heartstrings of the uninformed and misinformed on Cuba. “After all, what’s wrong with allowing families to visit each other and help each other financially? Gosh, what type of intransigence and malice could possibly motivate those mean Miami Cuban Republicans to oppose loving families from being together?”

Sound familiar? Of course. We heard the same chorus from the same choir during their advance work for the Democratic shanghaiing of Elian Gonzalez.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: When you see Charles Rangel advocating a certain policy toward Cuba, when you see the media quoting Wayne Smith, Phil Peters and the Inter-American Dialogue to the same effect – the Castro brothers requested it. Then when you see the Democratic National Committee adopt this policy, you can bet there’s something to what Lee heard in Havana. All of the above apply here.

Here are a few things you’re not hearing from the Castro brother’s Beltway echo-chamber: Until fairly recently, the Castro regime (classified by the U.S. State Department as a state sponsor of terrorism, and classified by the liberal media as a victim of a “cruel U.S. embargo”) was in fact enjoying a $1 billion a year lifeline straight from the U.S. This largess came in the form of cash remittances to Cuba from Castro’s former subjects and from the spending by these former subjects upon their frequent visits to their homeland. This $1 billion in remittances approached Red China’s monetary infusion into Cuba.

This preposterous state of affairs finally provoked the Bush administration in 2004 to limit Cuban-American visits to Cuba to one visit every three years and their remittances to $300 a quarter. This amount, by the way, comes to roughly five times the typical Cuban’s salary.

“So what’s wrong with visiting your homeland and families and helping them through their troubles?” many will ask. Nothing – unless you claim the status of a political refugee from that totalitarian homeland on your INS application, take advantage of America’s traditional generosity toward such refugees and then turn around and behave exactly like the immigrant applicants to the U.S. you rudely shoved aside while jumping in front of them in line.

In the ’50s and ’60s Czechs, Hungarians, Russians and East Germans admitted into the U.S. did not immediately clamor to visit the communist nations they just fled, and lavish them with dollars. In fact, the very notion was offensive and insulting to these genuine refugees. In the ’60s and ’70s and ’80s Cubans acted identically, if often more emotionally. Many dropped to the ground and kissed U.S. soil the instant they touched it, often in tears. Pictures and reels of the Mariel Boatlift and incidents before abound in such scenes – scenes that epitomize the motivation of the political refugees America has always welcomed. Those who planned returns to Cuba planned it with carbines and grenades in hand, until they learned (often gape-jawed) that – despite what they had heard daily from Castro’s media – the U.S. government, in fact, arrests any American resident who attempts to give the Castro regime a taste of its own medicine.

“Sorry,” says President Bush’s new policy as advised by Cuban-American Republican legislators. “But if you’re going back and forth to that country with the full blessing of that country’s regime, you’re not a political refugee from that regime by any stretch of the definition.”

It’s been long suspected by genuine Cuban refugees that many of these “family remittances,” by recent Cuban “refugees” that Bush curtailed and that Obama pledges to lavish on Castro’s fiefdom, do not originate from the traditional “sweat of your brow” labors of traditional political refugees.

A recent FBI investigation in South Florida, for instance, turned up a Medicare fraud scandal totaling $142 million. The Benitez brothers, Carlos, Jose and Luis, who arrived in Miami in 1995 from Cuba, are accused of being responsible for $84 million of this swindle. “Thirty-three of the 36 fugitives whose names have been released by authorities are Cuban immigrants,” reported the Miami Herald, “most of whom came to the United States during the past 15 years. Half of these (including the Benitez brothers) have fled back to Cuba to escape prosecution, using their Cuban passports.”

Do “refugees” hold and treasure passports from the Stalinist regime that oppressed them until they escaped it and found refuge? Does a Stalinist regime welcome back its professed enemies and shield them from justice sought by the nation that offered their professed enemies “refuge”? Just asking.

And it’s precisely from this recent “refugee” element that Obama trolls for votes in crucial (27 electoral votes) Florida. The magnitude of Obama’s task was dramatized in a recent article by Canada’s top newspaper, the National Post. “In search of someone – anyone! – on this planet who is not in love with Barack Obama,” starts the article by reporter Allen Abel. “I am in the banquet hall of a Cuban restaurant (Versailles) in the Miami suburbs, and there are dozens of men and women around me and they are hollering “McCain! McCain! McCain!”

Recent polls show McCain, who pledges to continue the Bush policy, can count on almost 80 percent of the Cuban-American vote.

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