Friday, July 23, 2010

Rubio, Chamber split on embargo

Rubio, Chamber split on embargo
By DAVID CATANESE | 7/23/10 2:43 PM EDT

On one rare issue all four major Florida Senate candidates fall in line
on, GOP hopeful Marco Rubio and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are
agreeing to disagree.

Despite capturing the endorsement of the world's largest business
federation Friday, Rubio, a Cuban-American, said he opposes the group's
push to scrap the country's 48-year-old travel and commerce embargo
against Cuba.

In a conference call with reporters and bloggers, Rubio not only
acknowledged the policy disagreement but said his candidacy would
encourage the Chamber to rethink its position.

"What I do want Cubans to have is a government and political system that
respects their unalienable rights," he said. "Folks are buying into our
agenda, we're not buying into their agenda."

While the Chamber has actively lobbied for an end to the embargo, Rubio
said scrapping it would cost the United States leverage in negotiations
toward attaining a more open and democratic Cuba.

Chamber Vice President Bill Miller characterized it as "a respectful

Gov. Charlie Christ, who vacated the Republican primary to pursue an
independent Senate bid, has called the current embargo "responsible,"
and Democratic contenders Rep. Kendrick Meek and billionaire Jeff Greene
also support current law. The current government policy states that the
Cuban regime would have to take steps towards democracy and adopt market
reforms in order for the ban to be lifted.

But Rubio's campaign accused Crist of softening his stand on the broader
issue of travel restrictions for political purposes.

In Miami last month, Crist said, "I do support the embargo, and I think
that what the current administration has done by allowing families to
visit Cuba is compassionate."

But despite signing a bill that increased costs on travel agencies that
book trips to Cuba, the governor appeared more flexible on the issue
last month before a fundraiser with advocates who favor lifting sanctions.

"I want to listen to what they have to say," Crist said, according to
the Miami Herald.

Remarked Rubio spokesman Alex Burgos: "He shifted positions on easing
Cuba travel restrictions. He's shifted on many issues that altogether
call into question whether anything he says or does can be trusted."

The Chamber would not detail exactly how it would aid Rubio's bid, but
has scheduled a rally for him in Orlando for Saturday.

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