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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

UPDATED: Welcome to S. Fla., Sen. McCain

One of eve of John McCain's major speech on Latin American policy and trade in Miami, Joe Garcia, the former executive director of the Cuban American National Foundation and a candidate for Congress, held a conference call to deride the Republican hard-line stance on Cuba, and to warn that South Florida's robust Cuban-American community isn't the GOP bastion it once was.

Garcia "The majority of Cuban Americans favor breaking with the status quo of failed policy, and here comes John McCain selling the same failed policy of an administration that is not going to achieve any real change," Garcia (left) said. "People are weary of a policy that is big on rhetoric and short on accomplishments."

McCain campaign responds: "The keystone to Barack Obama's foreign policy agenda is his willingness to sit down unconditionally with dictators like Raul Castro and Hugo Chavez," spokesman Jeff Sadosky said. "This sort of naïve worldview emboldens our enemies, shows a fundamental lack of judgment, and we're confident it will be rejected by South Florida voters."

Garcia is running for the Miami seat now held by Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart. He said the Bush administration erred in clamping down on family travel and restricting remittances to the island dictatorship. Many Cuban-Americans also want the U.S. to do more to push the Castro regime toward democracy, he said.

Garcia said the U.S. should do more to engage Cuban's "civil society," working through churches and other non-governmental agencies to help dissidents and foster democracy.

He acknowledged some discomfort with the position of Sen. Barack Obama, who is getting close to clinching the Democratic presidential nomination. Obama has said he would continue the embargo but wants to engage with the Cuban government.

“At least I know where he stands,” Garcia said. “Are there parts of his policy that may cause headaches? Yeah, but I think he’s put that into the right context. I feel comfortable running with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.”

[David Adams, Times file photo]

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


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