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Rick Scott Figures Some Dictators Aren’t So Bad — If They’ve Got Money

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Rick Scott Figures Some Dictators Aren’t So Bad — If They’ve Got Money

Rick Scott

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is now dabbling in foreign policy, trying to look like a tough guy in advance of his U.S. Senate run in 2018.

He recently warned Florida’s seaports that they could lose critical state funding if they make any shipping deals with Cuba. Scott later told reporters: “I don’t believe any port in our state, none of them, should be doing business with a brutal dictator.”

These would be stirring words if they didn’t reek with hypocrisy. The governor has been a gushing supporter of free trade with China, where human rights are trampled daily by the government.

In fact, under Scott, lots of Florida taxpayer dollars have been spent trying to drum up more business with the leadership in Beijing.

Here’s a peek at what goes on there, as detailed in Amnesty International’s 2015-2016 report:

Start with a “massive nationwide crackdown” on human-rights lawyers, whose homes and offices got raided. More than 240 attorneys and activists were detained or questioned by Chinese state security agents, and 25 were still in custody or “missing” at the time the report was compiled.

In a narrower purge, five women were arrested for “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” because they tried to start a national campaign against sexual harassment. Meanwhile, in the province of Zhejiang, Chinese authorities continued a very public program of destroying churches and tearing down Christian crosses.

And if it’s government brutality that really disturbs Gov. Scott, he should be aware that torture remains “widespread” in Chinese detention facilities, according to Amnesty and other groups.

One case cited was that of human-rights lawyer Yu Wensheng, who was abused in a Beijing prison from October 2014 to January 2015. He was handcuffed in a “restraint chair,” interrogated for 15 to 16 hours every day and denied sleep.

Horrifically, human-rights investigators also reported last summer that the Chinese government has been harvesting organs from thousands of executed prisoners, including many who were jailed for religious or political reasons.

Of course, China remains a key trade partner of the United States, and owns a jaw-dropping $1.2 trillion of our national debt. For years we have, for the sake of profit, overlooked Beijing’s suppression of dissent and persecution of activists and journalists.

President Trump complains loudly about Chinese monetary policy — not the treatment of political prisoners.

Enterprise Florida, a controversial pro-business consortium that gets 90 percent of its funding from state taxpayers, opened offices in Shanghai and Hong Kong in March 2014.

Its press release boasted that China was “Florida’s No. 1 largest import market” and “the No. 1 customer for the Port of Miami in overall tonnage.”

The board of Enterprise Florida is chaired by Gov. Scott, who at the time clearly had no qualms about our seaports accepting cargo from a communist regime.

Not long after Enterprise Florida opened its doors in Hong Kong, police in that city began rounding up pro-democracy protesters. In all, 955 people were arrested.

Not a peep of outrage was heard then from Scott. Yet now he surfaces, bristling with phony alarm because Port Everglades and the Port of Palm Beach were hosting a trade delegation from Cuba.

Officials at those ports had planned to sign memoranda opening future business discussions with Havana. “Disappointed some FL ports would enter into any agreement with Cuban dictatorship,” Scott tweeted. “I will recommend restricting state funds for ports that work with Cuba….”

Both Port Everglades and the Port of Palm Beach quickly backed away from signing cooperation papers. Last week the governor submitted a budget that included a threat to withhold infrastructure funds from any port that expands trade with Cuba.

The ports wouldn’t be breaking any laws. Exports of certain commodities and medical supplies to Cuba are legal, and since 2010 U.S. companies have shipped 4.8 million tons, about one-sixth of it from Florida ports.

How odd that Scott hasn’t confronted the major airlines that are now flying direct to the island from Florida, or the cruise lines seeking berths in Havana Harbor.

Maybe he forgot about them, or maybe just doesn’t want to piss off big corporations that might donate to his Senate campaign.

The same sort of human-rights crimes that occur in Cuba are happening throughout China and other countries with which we freely do business. For American politicians, lambasting Chinese leaders is risky, because China has lots of money, and manufactures lots of stuff we want: computers, clothes, sneakers.

It’s much easier to act indignant about the Cuban government, because Cuba is poor and doesn’t have much to sell us.

Thus appears Rick Scott, intrepid crusader for human rights.

But if there was serious money in old Havana, you can bet that Enterprise Florida would put an office there.

Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Readers may write to him at: The Miami Herald, 3511 N.W. 91 Avenue, Doral, Fla. 33172; email: chiaasen@miamiherald.com.

IMAGE: Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks at a press conference about the Zika virus in Doral, Florida, U.S. August 4, 2016.  REUTERS/Joe Skipper

Carl Hiaasen

Carl Hiaasen is an award-winning journalist, commentator, and novelist. Hiaasen has worked for the Miami Herald since 1976, and his writing focuses on environmental and corruption issues in his home state of Florida.

His latest book is Skink—No Surrender (2014).

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  1. Dominick Vila February 7, 2017

    The reason for Gov. Scott’s threat is the need to appeal to the anti-Castro, anti-communist, crowd in Little Havana (Miami). He needs their votes, and contributions, to have a chance to win his Senate bid in 2018. Similar overtures will be made to the evangelicals that dominate politics in God’s country.

    1. dbtheonly February 7, 2017

      Are they still so violently anti-Castro, given the guy died months ago? That play has to get old.

      But here’s hoping in 18.

      1. FireBaron February 7, 2017

        Considering the anti-Castro group were so focused on Fidel, now that he is dead, they have no clue what they stand for. Are they Americans of Cuban descent or are they Cuban-Americans waiting to go back home? Considering nothing remains of what their parents left behind when they came to the US, this Limbo-like status is driving them nuts. While Raul is still alive, they still have a target, sort of. However, once he finally departs this mortal coil, then what other excuses will they come up with to not return to “Cuba Libre” to help rebuild it?

        1. Dominick Vila February 8, 2017

          Financial opportunities in the USA that do not exist in Cuba, a country with very limited natural resources.

      2. Dominick Vila February 8, 2017

        Fidel died, but his brother Raul is very much alive, and ruling the country. Moreover, the Castro regime remains in place, and while much more moderate than it was a few years ago, it remains reticent to a transition to democracy. While the sentiments that prevail in the Cuban American community are influenced by events that happened long ago, they are also aggravated by what they consider a slow transition from dictatorial ruling to democracy. In other words, they are not happy with the progress that has been made since President Obama re-established relations with Cuba two years ago, and in spite of the fact that the regime is showing clear signs of softening.

      3. Aaron_of_Portsmouth March 14, 2017

        One would think. But then again, many in the South still believe there’s hope in winning the Civil War, or that Nat Turner’s ghost is intent on inciting rebellion against racism and slavery.

        1. dbtheonly March 14, 2017

          You’ve seen the movie, “Birth of a Nation”?

          A movie everyone ought to see once.

          When the Confederate Officer, hero, runs out to save a wounded Union Soldier; is that soldier a very young, and thin, Eugene Palette?

          1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth March 14, 2017

            A group of us arranged for film critics, a university student, and a professor to be on a panel to speak about the movie to an audience of about 60 people in our city. We saw clips from the movie, and opened the floor to comments after the panel have their impressions. I and others were visibly moved by the scenes that alluded to the rape of the slave woman, the response of “Nat” and the calm demeanor of the owner who grew up with Nat.

            Once a youth is conditioned to accept atrocities, he/she later becomes inured to the suffering of others. The same indifference is seen often enough in today’s America, understandably.

            I had to speak, as you may have guessed, expressed my opinion by first asking everyone in the room to look around at each other, and just think of how odd it is that humans derived from the same seed, are now seeing each other as separate entities, having no recollection of our common ancestry as Modern Humans, and even before when we were Neanderthals. I then went into a brief run-down on the findings of molecular biology and population genetics, as well as reciting from memory a relevant Baha’i quote on the theme of oneness of humanity.

            There will be follow-up meetings of a multiracial group in our community who meet regularly with topics of the day to explore together, discuss, and to encourage each other to take action by having conversations with other citizens in the region, to invite different people into our homes, and to step out of our comfort zones.

          2. dbtheonly March 14, 2017

            Thank you. Let me know what I can do to help.

            But I am curious to see if anyone agrees with me that it’s a slender Palette. His entire career was the short, squat, actor.

          3. Aaron_of_Portsmouth March 14, 2017

            I wasn’t familiar with Palette by name until you mentioned him, although I remember watch Robin Hood” in my youth. You have a keen eye.
            This group of us in Portsmouth are part of an alliance of 4 who meet regularly, along with a few others who meet with us on an irregular basis. The goal of our group, composed of former school teachers, a Chicago native who works on the staff at a Baha’i School, and myself, is to interface with other groups who are involved in activities to teach about the Black Experience, to present forums for “Tea Talks”, films to show for discussion, and similar events to bring the public together to have polite discussions regarding the social issues of the times. This multiracial group of ours are planning strategies to allow us to present resource materials to libraries, as well as trying to make connections with local schools so that we may continue to engage the high school students in conversations that would promote the work of overcoming the racial divide.
            One thing I personally am interested in, and continue to bring up, is the need to form one-on-one relationships with people who are of different racial/cultural backgrounds than ourselves, which others agree should be a parallel ongoing activity.
            Therefore, it would be of immense benefit to the more vulnerable members of society to have an ally like yourself, who would engage people, black and white, Native American, Hispanic, Muslim, etc., in conversation and befriend them, and speak out on their behalf. This way, your voice will carry more weight and make a deeper impact, like Tim Wise is able to do so admirably, when speaking with those who would more readily relate to you because of your background. Starting small, consistently, leads to far better results in the long run than big events and proclamation, although the latter serve a purpose.

          4. dbtheonly March 14, 2017

            Palette played the father in “My Man Godfrey”. Great movie. He played the sheriff in “Steamboat ‘Round the Bend”.

            No credit to me for picking it up in “Birth”. IMDB had it listed in his credits so I watched the movie looking for him.

          5. dbtheonly March 15, 2017

            Mark Twain wrote that there was something about slavery that put one’s sense of outrage to sleep. Good, kind, people just couldn’t see the evil surrounding them while living in a slave society. Twain was speaking of his Mother, but it seems applicable. How much, even into the 20th Century, was just missed because people’s moral values were asleep?

            I wouldn’t push the argument too far, but slavery damaged all in the system. Lincoln called it a national sin. Will we ever truly be able to rid ourselves of the ramifications?

    2. Thomas Martin February 7, 2017

      Another rich boy in the same light as Trump. Suck people in to vote for them and do what they wish after the election.

    3. Dan S February 7, 2017

      He’s running for the Senate next ? Oh man I hope by now Floridians have figured out he’s not a good voice for the Sunshine state. By 2018 I’m fairly certain anyone with an R after their name that have supported Trump will be soundly rejected at the ballot box

  2. Edward Allen February 9, 2017

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  3. Aaron_of_Portsmouth March 14, 2017

    Rick Scott, true to the GOP ethos, is primarily focused on money and power. To acquire money has become the primary reason for waking up each day, and maintaining political power is the only reason for living. Just another robotic human driven by animal impulses to stay in office.

    Our corrosive political system of America in action, working to serve the wishes of politicians, with ordinary citizens as an afterthought and useful as cannon-fodder.


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