WASHINGTON -- As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton joked about arresting Fidel Castro or funneling money to Cuban voters in Miami in exchange for allowing an ambassador to be confirmed by the Senate, according to emails made public by the Department of State on Tuesday night. The discussion between Clinton and Richard Verma, the State Department's legislative liaison, was regarding the nomination of Thomas Shannon to be ambassador to Brazil.
As President Barack Obama officially announced Wednesday the reopening of embassies between Cuba and the United States, the issue of Castro and diplomatic relations remains a sensitive one. And in Florida, where much of the exiled Cuban population live, the issue could become a heated topic during the 2016 presidential race. Even joking about funneling money to Cuban voters could be used against Clinton ,who is running for the Democratic nomination, by her Republican opponents -- especially Florida politicians Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush who have both been popular among Cuban voters.
Shannon’s nomination had been delayed for months by Republicans in the Senate who were unhappy with Obama’s foreign policy. The last hold out delaying the nomination was then-Florida Sen. George LeMieux, a Republican. A member of LeMieux’s staff emailed Verma on December 16, 2009 to say that the hold had been lifted. Verma, in turn, forwarded the email to Clinton on her personal address at 9:48 p.m.
“What took them so long? Did you promise your first born?” Clinton wrote back in an email 12 minutes later. Verma responded five minutes later. “Yes, I sold my soul to George Lemieux today. I am not proud of it,” he wrote.
Clinton responded, referencing the Miami neighborhood known as “Little Havana” that has a large Cuban population, “Does this mean you have to go to Cuba and arrest Castro or just shovel more $ into Little Havana?”
Verma answered “I suspect they would prefer more $ for Little Havana.”
Clinton then ended the jokes. Asking instead, at 10:37 p.m., whether Shannon’s nomination could be approved that same night. “Can we get him confirmed tonight?” she wrote. Shannon was confirmed by the Senate a week later, a day before leaving for the Christmas holiday.
Clinton's campaign did not respond to a request for comment.