The Jeb Bush-led Hispanic Leadership Network, which has close ties to former Gov. Jeb Bush (a top adviser), sent out a screamer of a press release headlined "Obama Lays Welcome Mat for Communist at U.S. Front Door" because the president's administration granted a visa to Raul Castro's daughter. The subhead: Mariela Castro Espin's Visit "Sends the Wrong Message."
But the press release is the result of some mixed Republican messaging as well because the administration of Bush's brother, former President George W. Bush, gave Castro the right to travel not just once -- but three times.
"Mariela Castro visited once in 2001 and twice in 2002. I can’t discuss her visas specifically, but you can assume she needed one to travel," State Department spokesman William Ostick said in an email response to a Miami Herald inquiry.
But the Hispanic Leadership Network says there's a big difference between the Bush-era visits of Castro and the most recent approval by Obama. Here's the HLN statement:
"The situations are not the least bit similar as the human rights situation has deteriorated. An American citizen is locked up in a Cuban jail now for trying to provide internet access to Cubans, and in the last few months since Pope Benedict’s visit, Cubans have lived under even more fear as they cope with a large round up of dissidents and activists. Furthermore, Mariela Castro is now the daughter of the President of Cuba and a leader in the Cuban Communist Party."
The Republican National Committee doubled down in a press release "on Obama Rolling out the Red Carpet for the Castro Family." Earlier, it hosted a conference call to bash Obama over Ms. Castro. No mention of President Bush's commie complicity there, either.
Democrats latched on to the double talk.
"Republicans need to stop playing with people's emotions when it comes to Cuba," Obama surrogate Freddy Balsera said in a statement. "While they grab headlines criticizing the President and distorting his record on Cuba, they avoid saying that Mariela Castro actually received a visa to visit the US in 2002 under the Bush Administration. In fact, the top State Department Official in charge of Latin America at the time was a Cuban American. Where was their criticism then? Nowhere, because ultimately this is all about politics for them"
** This post has been updated