Former Gov. Charlie Crist announced Friday night he supports ending the American embargo with communist Cuba. Republicans quickly pounced on Crist for switching his position on the issue.
Crist appeared on Bill Mahers show on HBO on Friday night and called for ending the embargo and his campaign released a statement on his position.
The embargo has done nothing in more than 50 years to change the regime in Cuba, Crist said. If we want to bring democracy to Cuba, we need to encourage American values and investment there, not block ourselves out and cede influence to China. It will take time, and we must do it in a way where American investment helps people, not the dictatorship. But the reality is that no state's economy is hurt more by America's Cuba policies than Florida. Changing these policies to allow Florida's farmers, manufacturers, and construction industry to sell goods and services in Cuba would boost Florida's economy and help businesses create more jobs in our state.
Crist agreed with Mahers assessment that a small Cuban community in South Florida had held hostage Americas Cuba policies. Maher said Florida politicians needed to stand up to the small Cuban community and, once again, Crist agreed. I think they need to, Crist told Maher.
During most of his many years as a Republican and during his bid for the U.S. Senate with no party affiliation, Crist had been a supporter of the embargo. During his debate with then-U.S. Rep. Jim Davis, D-Fla., in the 2006 gubernatorial race, Crist ripped the Democrat for visiting Cuba in 2003.
Scott and his team fired back at Crist on Saturday afternoon.
"The suggestion that Cuban-Americans need to be 'stood up to' is insulting, Scott said. Our Cuban community needs to be stood up for. Our nation is great because we were built on a foundation of freedom and democracy. That is not true in Cuba and we should not pretend it is. The importance of maintaining the embargo is that it stands for the Cuban people's right to be free."
Florida Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, also pushed back against Crist on Sunday. As the son of Cuban exiles, who are the victims of the Castro regime's oppression, I am deeply offended by Charlie Crist's shameful comments, said Garcia. Our community has endured great pain to now have to endure Crist's disrespectful statement. Note to Crist: The U.S embargo on Castro will not be lifted until Cubans are no longer accosted in the streets of Cuba or tortured in Castro's gulag; until the day that Cubans can assemble without fear and a free press exists; and until the day that they can cast a ballot knowing that they will not be physically beaten or intimidated.
It's an embarrassment that Crist has positioned himself on the wrong side of history at a moment when the Cuban people need the most solidarity, Garcia added.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org.