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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Lopez-Cantera tries to distinguish himself on Cuba policies

On the eve of the Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate being together at the same event for the first time in South Florida, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera’s campaign is taking shots at a pair of rivals for allegedly not being tough enough on Cuba.

All five candidates have said they oppose President Barack Obama’s recent attempts to improve relations with Cuba. But Lopez-Cantera’s campaign put out a statement accusing both U.S. Rep. David Jolly and Manatee County land developer Carlos Beruff of backing Obama’s efforts on Cuba.

Jolly, a Pinellas County Republican, has said he supports easing some travel restrictions with Cuba, but has said Obama has been too aggressive in trying to normalize relations. Beruff was quoted in the Bradenton Herald in December of 2014 saying opening Cuba to the U.S. economy and culture would end the communist regime, but said earlier this year that Obama has botched those efforts by poorly negotiating with the Castro regime.

But to the Lopez-Cantera campaign, both are weak on Cuba.

“Supporting travel to Cuba, both Jolly and Beruff are taking the naïve approach that a dictatorship and its brutal regime can end overnight simply by pouring more money into the island nation and rewarding the Castros who continue to abuse their own citizens,” Lopez-Cantera spokeswoman Courtney Alexander said in statement to the media.

Beruff’s and Jolly’s campaign both responded by painting Lopez-Cantera as desperate candidate struggling to remain relevant in the race.

"It’s clear the Lieutenant Governor is getting desperate, which is not surprising to anyone who’s paying attention,” said Joanna Rodriguez, press secretary for Beruff’s campaign. “Several members of Carlos' family fought for a free Cuba, including his uncle who lost his life trying to bring down the Castro regime during the Bay of Pigs invasion. The fact that the Lieutenant Governor would try and insinuate Carlos has any sympathy for the Castro regime is a disgusting and disrespectful new low.”

And from the Jolly campaign:

"Poor Carlos just can't get David Jolly out of his head,” Jolly campaign manager Max Goodman said. “Regardless of his flimsy attacks and staff stumbles, we're flattered he's keeping such a close eye on our campaign to get Congress working again.”

The topic is bound to come up on Thursday, when all five Republican candidates meet in Boca Raton on Thursday at an event put on by America First, an organization created last year by Margi Helschien, a political consultant and former vice chairwoman of the Palm Beach County Republican Party.


[Last modified: Wednesday, June 1, 2016 4:34pm]


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