Obama Tells Cuban-Americans He'll Meet With Cuba's Communist Leaders
Barack Obama is still in Florida. Today, he spoke at a luncheon for the largest organization of Cuban-American exiles -- a pretty conservative bunch. He told them he would meet with Cuba's new leaders.
The annual Cuban Independence Day banquet of the Cuban American National Foundation cheered Obama's avowed commitment to fostering democracy in Cuba. But the audience showed its wariness of his talk of meeting with Cuban leaders. Mere handfuls applauded that statement from among the crowd of at least 500.
....Foundation Chairman Jorge Mas Santos voiced the Cuban American community's enduring opposition to any U.S. president meeting with the Castro regime before political prisoners are released and free elections slated. The son of the foundation's late founder, Mas described any expectation of engaging Raul Castro in democratic reforms as "wishful thinking."
Did he win himself any votes today? He did say he would end the travel restrictions and limits on sending money home, but he would also maintain the embargo.
The Miami Herald reports: [More...]
Before Obama spoke, state House Speaker Marco Rubio -- a Republican and the first Cuban-American House speaker in Florida's history -- laid down a challenge to the Democratic candidate's commitment to meet with leaders, including Castro.
The freedom of the Cuban people should ''never be negotiated with the illegitimate leaders of that country,'' Rubio said to applause.
The GOP launched several preemptive attacks, including a memo headlined ''Obama: Weak on Cuba,'' and an Internet video highlighting what it said was a flip-flop on the embargo. Obama advocated lifting sanctions when he ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004, but now says the embargo should stay in place.
Cuban-American U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart of Miami assailed Obama in a prearranged phone call with reporters.
''Mr. Obama has a lot of explaining to do over the next few months in Florida,'' Diaz-Balart said, ``to try to assure people that his inexperience and naivete are not as worrisome as they seem.''
Obama also told the audience he's not really up to speed on Cuba:
''I don't presume to know everything that I need to know about Cuba, and I am here not just to talk but to listen,'' Obama said. ``This is just hello, this is not goodbye. I am going to be spending a lot of time in South Florida.''
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