"The Cuba embargo needs to go, once and for all"
Hillary Clinton attacked Republicans presidential candidates on Cuba policy, voting rights and social welfare policy during a jaunt on Friday to Florida, the home state of contenders Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and a likely swing state in the general election.
During two appearances in Fort Lauderdale and Miami, where Clinton discussed race and engaging with Cuba, the Democratic frontrunner called out Bush and others who have opposed President Obama’s thaw with the isolated island nation.
Clinton did not mention Bush’s name in her first speech at the National Urban League’s annual conference in Fort Lauderdale, but dropped the name of his super PAC, “Right to Rise.”
“You cannot seriously talk about the ‘Right to Rise’ and support laws that deny the right to vote,” Clinton said. “I don’t think you can credibly say that everyone has a right to rise and then say you’re for phasing out Medicare or for repealing Obamacare. People can’t rise if they can’t afford health care.”
Tim Miller, a spokesman for Bush tweeted a quick response to Clinton’s criticism: “The DNC and Hillary scramble to attack Jeb today and misrepresent his record betrays their fear of his ability to broaden GOP support,” he tweeted.
A few hours later on Friday in Miami, Clinton made a case for continuing to open up relations with Cuba, calling on Congress and the White House to lift the embargo on trade with Cuba.
“It’s time for [GOP] leaders to either get on board or get out of the way. The Cuba embargo needs to go, once and for all,” Clinton said.
The 2016 Republican candidates “have it backward,” Clinton said. “Engagement is not a gift to the Castros, its a threat to the Castros. An American embassy in Havana isn’t a concession, it’s a beacon.”
Republicans argue that the United States should not normalize relations with Cuba unless the government makes significant steps to curb human rights abuses and open up the country.
Clinton’s campaign in the last few days has set out specific criticism of Rubio, Bush and Scott Walker’s position on Cuban relations with a detailed “fact check” of their past statements, arguing that a policy of isolationism has not succeeded in leading to democratization in the communist island nation.
Clinton proposed on Friday finding ways to increase business with Cuba as well as the rest of the Americas, saying that the United States too often looks “east and west, but we don’t look south” and calling Latin America a crucial part of American foreign policy. “Our economies, our communities and even our families are deeply entwined,” Clinton said.
Polls show that Clinton has struck on a winning issue in Cuba: a Gallup survey found that 59% of Americans support reestablishing diplomatic relations with Cuba.
“We cannot afford to let out of touch out of date partisan ideas and candidates strip away all the progress we’ve made,” Clinton said.