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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Cuba: the latest McCain-Obama battleground

The presidential race has taken hard turn into foreign affairs and today, in Miami, Cuba takes the stage.

In a speech calibrated for Cuba Independence Day, John McCain will blast Democratic rival Barack Obama's more open stance toward relations with the island nation.

"Just a few years ago, Senator Obama had a very clear view on Cuba," goes McCain's prepared address, to be delivered at the Sheraton Miami Mart Hotel. "When asked in a questionnaire about his policy toward Cuba, he answered: 'I believe that normalization of relations with Cuba would help the oppressed and poverty-stricken Cuban people while setting the stage for a more democratic government once Castro inevitably leaves the scene.' Now Senator Obama has shifted positions and says he only favors easing the embargo, not lifting it. He also wants to sit down unconditionally for a presidential meeting with Raul Castro.

"These steps would send the worst possible signal to Cuba’s dictators – there is no need to undertake fundamental reforms, they can simply wait for a unilateral change in US policy. I believe we should give hope to the Cuban people, not to the Castro regime. My administration will press the Cuban regime to release all political prisoners unconditionally, to legalize all political parties, labor unions, and free media, and to schedule internationally monitored elections. The embargo must stay in place until these basic elements of democratic society are met."

(Florida Democrats on Monday said McCain's hard-line, Bush-style stance is out of touch. Expect additional reaction today, and more when Obama makes his own Cuba remarks later this week.)

Click here for excerpts of McCain's speech.

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 10:58am]


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