Today, President Obama announced the historic news that he is moving to normalize relations with Cuba. This move comes after 50 years of failed U.S. policy that attempted to undermine the Cuban Revolution by isolating the island and keeping Cubans and Americans apart. It didn't work, ensured Cuba would remain economically dependent on the Soviet Union for decades, and delayed the day when the revolution's original promise will be fulfilled and true democracy will come to Cuba.
The wealthy, right-wing Cuban exiles who fled the revolution have had outsized influence on U.S. politics ever since the early 1960s. And Republican politicians in Florida have long cozied up to them. Which brings us to almost-declared GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush. Jeb's political connections are as shady as his father's and brother's were before him. While building his political and financial career in Florida, Jeb Bush became tightly linked to some of the most corrupt, far-right members of the Cuban exile community.
As reported by award-winning investigative journalist Ann Louise Bardach in the book Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana (2002):
"The Bush family connections go back to 1984 when Jeb Bush began a close association with Camilo Padreda, a former intelligence officer with the Batista dictatorship overthrown by Fidel Castro. Jeb Bush was then the chairman of the Dade county Republican party and Padreda its finance chairman. Padreda had earlier been indicted on a $500,000 embezzlement charge along with a fellow exile, Hernandez Cartaya, but the charges were dropped, reportedly after the CIA stated that Cartaya had worked for them. Padreda later pleaded guilty to defrauding the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development of millions of dollars during the 1980s.
Jeb Bush was also on the payroll in the 80s of the prominent Cuban exile Miguel Recarey, who had earlier assisted the CIA in attempts to assassinate President Castro. Recarey, who ran International Medical Centres (IMC), employed Bush as a real estate consultant and paid him a $75,000 fee for finding the company a new location, although the move never took place, which raised questions at the time. Jeb Bush did, however, lobby the Reagan/Bush administration vigorously and successfully on behalf of Recarey and IMC. "I want to be very wealthy," Jeb Bush told the Miami News when questioned during that period.
In 1985, Jeb Bush acted as a conduit on behalf of supporters of the Nicaraguan contras with his father, then the vice-president, and helped arrange for IMC to provide free medical treatment for the contras. Recarey was later charged with massive Medicare fraud but fled the US before his trial and is now a fugitive."
Jeb Bush's most controversial connection to right-wing Cuban exiles may be convicted terrorist Orlando Bosch, who died in 2011.
"At the request of Jeb, President George H.W. Bush intervened in 1989 to release the convicted Cuban terrorist Orlando Bosch from prison and then granted him US residency. According to the Justice Department in George Bush Sr's administration, Bosch had participated in more than 30 terrorist acts. He was convicted of firing a rocket into a Polish ship which was on passage to Cuba. He was also implicated in the 1976 blowing-up of a Cubana plane flying to Havana from Venezuela in which all 73 civilians on board were killed.
CIA memorandums strongly suggest, according to Bardach's book, that Bosch was one of the conspirators, and quotes the then secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, as writing that the "US government had been planning to suggest Bosch's deportation before Cubana airlines crash took place for his suspected involvement in other terrorist acts and violation of his parole."
This is the company Jeb Bush kept during his rise to political power. It shows a stunning lack of judgment and tolerance for corruption that by itself should be enough to disqualify him from high office. But most voters will never hear of these episodes from Jeb's past. His last name alone ensures he can't be ruled out as a serious contender for the 2016 GOP nomination.
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