Sometimes a candidate can plan on certain calendar events to help them make their case, but often fortune and their opponents can lend a hand as well. That’s the case today, which happens to be Cuban Independence Day, which gives politicians at all levels a chance to connect to the Cuban-American community, especially in Florida. But when one of the two candidates in a race just gave a visa to a member of the Castro family to allow her to conduct activist politics in the US, well, that’s an opportunity a candidate simply can’t pass up. Mitt Romney released a video today celebrating Cuban democracy activists and scolding American politicians who act to undermine them (transcript by Andrew Malcolm):
In recent years and months, we have seen the deaths of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Juan Wilfredo Soto, Wilman Villar and Laura Pollan at the hands of the dictatorship. We have witnessed the continued incarceration of peaceful pro-democracy activists and the unlawful imprisonment of Alan Gross.
These injustices make painfully clear that the Castros’ grip on power remains as tight as ever. The regime touts so-called “reforms,” but the facts point to continued oppression. The Cuban people still live in constant fear of a brutal totalitarian regime that has demonstrated time and again its utter disregard for basic human dignity.
The fight for a free Cuba has gone on for far too long.
Romney got in a swipe at the Obama administration without naming names:
In recent years, we have seen the United States back away from pressuring the Castro regime, under the misguided view that placating them with an open hand would yield progress. That naiveté has invited only more cruelty and oppression in return.
The reference to “an open hand” is a direct slap at Barack Obama, who used that phrase often in the 2008 election as his way of differentiating himself from George W. Bush. The “open hand” approach resulted in a visa for Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban dictator Raul Castro, to visit the US and take part in political events in San Francisco and New York. That decision resulted in near-universal condemnation within American politics, with both a Democratic and Republican Senator of Cuban heritage (Robert Menendez and Marco Rubio) immediately issuing statements condemning the decision.
Romney probably planned to issue this kind of video statement for months. Florida is a tough swing state, and Cuban liberty is an issue that strongly resonates in the Sunshine State (and elsewhere, for that matter). Romney couldn’t have wished for more of an opening to draw a contrast this week, though. While Romney praises the martyrdom of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Juan Wilfredo Soto, Wilman Villar and Laura Pollan for their efforts to engage in the politics of dissent in Cuba, Obama allows the daughter of the dictator that killed these Cuban patriots to engage in American political events. It’s a disturbing contrast, and one that won’t be overlooked in Florida.