Posted on Tuesday, 12.22.09
Florida's U.S. Senate candidates unified on Cuba
The four candidates for U.S. Senate affirmed their support for
democratic reforms in Cuba and took a tough line on American policy
toward the island nation.
BY WILFREDO CANCIO ISLA
The four leading candidates for Florida's open U.S. Senate seat in 2010
were in the same room for the first time Monday at the U.S.-Cuba
Democracy Political Action Committee's annual luncheon — where they
staked out their positions on the future of Cuba and its relations with
the United States.
“The quest for an open, democratic and free Cuba has to guide all of
the United States' actions with respect to Cuba,'' said Democrat Maurice
Ferré, the former Miami mayor who was the first to speak at the event at
the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables.
Ferré was joined on the dais by his rival for the Democratic nomination,
U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, and by the Republican hopefuls, Gov. Charlie
Crist and former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio.
The PAC favors maintaining economic sanctions against the Cuban
government. Among the more than 400 attendees at the luncheon were
leading Cuban-American business executives and politicians, including
U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario and Lincoln Díaz-Balart, and
local state representatives.
Ferré said the recent crackdown by Cuban authorities on dissidents and
civic activities were “deliberate steps'' by the Cuban government to
sabotage Washington's efforts to normalize relations.
“It is clear that Cuba uses confrontation with the United States as a
means to legitimize its totalitarian government and to justify decades
of repression,'' Ferré said.
“Do we still believe it when we say that no government has power that
its people have not given it?'' Rubio asked during a speech that drew
applause. “Or have we arrived at a point in our history when we think
that to sell rice and livestock to a tyranny is more important than
upholding the founding principles of this country? Are we prepared to
say that sending tourists to Havana is more important than many words
that the birth of this nation made possible?''
Meek emphasized his collaborative relationship with his Cuban-American
colleagues in Congress and said that as a member of the Democrat
majority he would have the attention of President Barack Obama on Cuba
He stressed that whenever the United States made a gesture toward
normalizing relations with Cuba, the Castro regime “did not move an
inch toward democracy, free elections or the release of political
He recalled that U.S. Sen. Bob Menéndez, D-N.J., was a key player in
early 2009 in supporting legislation that would maintain the Cuba embargo.
Crist closed the forum by talking about his personal history, shaped by
a family of immigrants who had pursued a dream of a better life, which
is “the dream of the Cuban people.''
“Freedom in not a Democratic or Republican issue, it is a fundamental
concept that unites us all in this nation,'' he said.
During the lunch, the U.S.-Cuba PAC acknowledged former U.S. Rep. Carrie
Meek, the 83-year-old mother of Kendrick Meek, for her support in the
cause of democracy in Cuba.
“Our immediate task is to support candidates who do not want the
unconditional lifting of sanctions against Cuba, and who put first the
issue of human rights and democratic reforms,'' said Mauricio
Claver-Carone, who is head of the U.S.-Cuba PAC.
Florida's U.S. Senate candidates unified on Cuba – South Florida –
MiamiHerald.com (22 December 2009)