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Charlie Crist: Time to end the U.S. embargo against Cuba

 Democratic candidate for governor Charlie Crist has now done what would have been suicidal as a Republican and announced support for ending the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba. 

"The embargo has done nothing in more than fifty years to change the regime in Cuba,'' Crist said Friday night in a statement, after announcing his support for the shift in policy on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher show. The former governor was finishing up a week of appearances on the left-leaning talk show circuit to promote his new book.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott pounced on Crist’s latest Cuba remarks.

“The suggestion that Cuban Americans need to be 'stood up to' is insulting,” said Scott in a statement released Saturday afternoon. “Our Cuban community needs to be stood up FOR.”

“Our nation is great because we were built on a foundation of freedom and democracy,” Scott said. “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.”

Supporters of the 52-year-old embargo have long argued it gives the United States leverage and should not be removed until democracy returns to the island. Opponents argue that with the Castros still in control of the country, the communist regime has used the embargo as an excuse to continue its abusive human rights record and oppressive economic policies.

Florida's governor has no authority to lift or modify the embargo, which would take an act of Congress, but he can influence public opinion and the issue is considered a political litmus test for many hardline Castro opponents.

As the Republican governor from 2007-2011, Crist backed U.S. sanctions against Cuba and signed a state law hiking costs on agencies that book trips to the repressive regime.

“I think the current policy in place is responsible,'” said Crist on June 14, 2010, on a visit to Miami Beach. “I do support the embargo.”

Maher asked Crist about the Cuban vote and said "I don't see a lot of politicians from Florida having the courage to stand up to that small Cuban community."

Crist responded: "Well, I think they need to. The embargo's been going on what, 50-years now, and I don't think it worked. It is obvious to me we need to move forward and get the embargo taken away,'' he said to applause.

"From a selfish point of view, as a Floridian, I'd like to see that happen because a lot of construction would be required on the island and South Florida could be the launching pad for all of that and really create a lot of jobs," he said.

That's the kind of talk that traditionally gets Florida politicians in hot water, especially in Miami -- where anti-Castro sentiments run deep and the stories of human rights abuses in the communist nation sting like an open wound.

While polling on Cuba and the embargo among Florida voters is scarce, a Florida International University survey after the 2008 elections found that 55 percent of Florida Cuban-Americans wanted the embargo lifted.

Yet a 2011 FIU survey found the opposite was true when it came to Miami-Dade Cuban-Americans, 56 percent of whom favored keeping the embargo. That survey heavily sampled Republicans, however, who are less likely to vote for the Democrat anyway.

After the show, Crist sent out a statement, elaborating: "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,'' he said. "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 is not alone in expressing these new-found sentiments. Palm Beach sugar barron Alfy Fanjul, whose family fled Cuba a generation ago, made national news last week when he announced that he also believes the time has come to ease relations with his former country. Fanjul, who was a supporter of former President Bill Clinton, has quietly started visiting the island and meeting with top Cuban officials to explore investment options there.

“If there is some way the family flag could be taken back to Cuba, then I am happy to do that,” he told the Washington Post in a rare interview. 

Congresswoman Kathy Castor, a Democrat, last year came out in favor of ending the 52-year-old embargo. Crist rival, former state Sen. Nan Rich, who is also a candidate for governor, has also endorsed the change in policy. 

U.S.-Cuba relations have been at their loosest in almost two decades after President Barack Obama eased travel restrictions to the island with an executive order in January 2009.

The country announced last month that is has started land-based oil exploration and is in talks with several companies about developing the resource as an export.

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham visited the island to discuss the oil exploration plans in January and, upon his return, told El Nuevo Herald that one exemption to the embargo that he might endorse was a change to the restriction that requires that offshore drilling platforms working in Cuba have no more than 10 percent of U.S. components.

Graham said the embargo’s 10 percent limit “raises the question of an exemption of the standards of the embargo … an exemption to use others rigs,” adding that was only an option worth considering. It was Graham's first trip to Cuba.

No Florida governor in recent history has been in support of lifting the embargo. When Crist was governor, and his predecessors, each supported the policy as sound doctrine. Former Lieutenant Gov. Buddy MacKay, a Democrat and former Florida congressman, has long believed the embargo is an ineffective policy but, when MacKay was in office, then-Gov. Lawton Chiles disagreed and Chiles remained an advocate of it throughout his term.

For the last four years Cuba has imprisoned Alan Gross, a State Department contractor, for distributing satellite phone equipment to Jewish organizations on the island. Supporters of the embargo say the U.S. should not open discussions until Gross is released, at a minimum, and democracy is restored.


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/01/22/3886787/cuba-announces-new-plans-for-oil.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/01/22/3886787/cuba-announces-new-plans-for-oil.html#storylink=cpy
an option to use "an exemption to use others rigs,” said Graham, adding that was only an option worth considering.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/01/22/3886787/cuba-announces-new-plans-for-oil.html#storylink=cpySome have speculated that additional changes in policy could encourage more market-oriented reforms that have been underway since Cuban President Raul Castro took over for his ailing brother Fidel in 2008.But the Obama administration has refrained from pushing for additional changes until Cuba improves its human rights record and releases imprisoned U.S. contractor Alan Gross. The Maryland businessman was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2011 for attempting to establish an illegal communications network on the island. 

Comments

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Ed Jenkins

This scumbag crist is a horrible man who can never be trusted changes every position among his most extreme yet is supporting communist dictators. This democrat voter believes it is time to pull the plug on this disastrous candidacy and for the democrat party to find a new candidate who can win an election as this one right on schedule is beginning his traditional campaign meltdown.

Alberto N Jones

I wonder if Mr. Jenkins would like to argue in favor of the disgraceful, 50 year old embargo on Cuba, which have caused untold pain, suffering and death on innocent people, rather than cursing or shooting the messenger.

Mr. Crist may or may not be an honorable person, but what does Mr Jenkins know about Cuba's history and the criminal US embargo to support it?

Ed's therapist

Ed is a bi-polar; pay no heed.

D

Pablo the immature prick is back with his fake names. What kind of a moron are you making up a name with a spanish first name and american last you idiot, no one is falling for that one. Not surprised you came to support your hero fidel, why don't you get on your raft and join him you loser.

D's therapist

Who is this Pablo you speak of? Perhaps we should discuss him along with your many other issues at your next therapy session.

Maria Jose Pettibone

I believe that you can only make a friend of your enemy by using honey over vinegar. In as much as I remember the fear of the Cuban missile crisis and had many friends who left Cuba it is time to heal. Also, do not forget all of our Latin American neighbors, they deserve our attention too.

urinmymachine

Wow, finally a politician not afraid of saying the emperor has no clothes. We need more honest people in politics and he appears to have made a decision to do what is right, not listen to money or small minorities that hold us back. We should definitely re-elect him governor!

Jimbo

Bravo, Charlie, for denouncing this counter-productive foreign policy....unlike the incumbent who prefers to pander To a shrill, dying generation in one Florida County.

Alfonso Garrido Marín

Just my opinion - Alfonso Garrido Marín- U.S.A- Cuba Relations

"The unilateral imposed and undemocratic (for decades consecutive rejected by vast majority of the United Nations members) US-Cuba embargo it has been a completely failure as a political and economic instrument to his primary purpose of defeating the Cuba's political system since it was implemented more than 50 years ago. The only adverse effect has been in the dairy lives of the common people of Cuba, in term of lack of food, medicine, transportation and others necessaries utilities for them, and also harm its U.S. A. own agriculture's and tourism industries.
Why cannot U.S.A. reestablish normal relations with its next door neighbor (90 nautical miles from Key West, FL) and in the other hand has fully diplomatic and economic relation with communists countries like China and Viet Nam that killed more than 55,000 American soldiers and injured hundred of thousands for life? Why cannot U.S.A. permits its agriculture's businessmen sell their products to Cuba other than cash on delivery basis? Why the US airliners cannot fly on regular schedule basis as they do to the rest of the World?
The best ambassadors for spreading liberties, democracy and the American way of life are its own citizens, let them travel to Cuba as they do to any other country of our planet. The national interest cannot be subordinated to particular powerful lobbying and Media groups of South Florida.
In this actual time of economic crisis it is the right time to let the "Cold War Era" behind and enter in a new era of respectful bilateral relations of national sovereignty and negotiate trade agreements that allow the flow of goods and people as is done in other countries of the World.
I hope Mr. President Obama reestablish mutual respect relations with Cuba, which it is a good neighbor country with all other countries of the Americas and do not represent any threat to anybody and by the other hand has help multiple countries with teachers, medicine professionals and doctors whenever has been necessary, especially in natural disasters crisis. This Obama's legacy will be appreciated for history, in favor of the great nation which it is United States of America".

MarvinM

What I dislike is when people try to characterize someone's support for lifting the embargo as support for Castro/Castro's policies. Nothing could be further from the truth. Th truth is far more complicated than that easy soundbyte.

I sure hope the Scott campaign doesn't use such soundbyte to try to smear Crist should he become the Democratic candidate 'cause that would be transparently self-serving.

What kind of voter wold fall for such an ad? And what must Gov. Scott think of Floridians if he actually believes such a ploy would work to his favor?

Marcitos

Who are these people who want to spread the "American way of life" to Cuba or anywhere else? They must live in a much more peaceful, just, egalitarian,coherent, cohesive, uplifting and friendly U.S.A. with bountiful opportunities for work, secure retirement, secure housing, guaranteed education, unemployment benefits and freedom from government spying or police state intrusion than the rest of us. In their world they alone are the pure and honest? The Platt Amendment, the Monroe Doctrine and US support for dictators that murdered their own people are matters of history that don't exist to them. They often spew their hatred of "big government", yet they want that big government to continue to expand its worldwide attacks on other governments posing no threat to world peace or the U.S., per se. The set up is sooo Quixotic. I suppose delusional thinking abounds all over this planet awash in new super-storms, rising seas, tar sands and religious fanatics, but reading the daily newspaper reveals that we have far too much of the delusional mind set in this most powerful of all nations. You can't fund and support people like Bin Laden as the US did and then later when they become powerful call them the devil, support the dispossession of entire peoples in the middle east and call yourself a peacemaker. This thinking doesn't fit in a rational world, and it will undoubtedly do in our grandchildren and greatgrandchildren,if not the whole human race. Even former Gov. Crist and his type couch the desire to end the embargo in the currency of "the best way to bring democracy" to Cuba. Guess what: every country in the hemisphere thinks Cuba is just fine the way it is, except for the US and Canada. That's a fact that is only a closely guarded secret here.

Ana Gomez-Mallada

Attend Charlie "the Windsock" Crist's book signings all over Florida as he promotes his book (and himself). Like and Share if you agree that this unreliable clown should never hold public office again.

https://www.facebook.com/browardgop?ref=search&sid=100000897686105.3285180207..1#!/events/1404625649790148/?source=1

Pablo

I see from several postings that $cott and the RPOF are very, very scared of running against Charlie Crist, especially since they are releasing their attack dogs 7 months before the primary and already running negative TV ads with the millions of campaign dollars collected from their out of state carpetbagger contributors. Charlie has just barely started his campaign organization and already he has them running scared.

When $cott is retired in November, he can go to Cuba as a visiting lecturer, teaching their university students in the ways of Medicare fraud. jajajajaja

Mark Milligan

As a Canadian that travels yearly to Cuba I'm quite happy to enjoy a spot in the world that is American free.

Bill Thompson

Mark,

Perhaps you should try North Korea and Iran too. You might enjoy them and there are no Americans there either.

Hmmmm

Did Charlie forget which office he was running for?

Mrs. Ed Jenkins

Ed, honey -- you're hallucinating again. Come take your meds.

The embargo is silly. If we really wanted to protest places with a lack of freedom, they should put an embargo around Florida. These Nazi Republicans have gerrymandered the State legislature such that state policy does not mirror the public opinion of the state. It's time for a change.

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