MIAMI -- Backed by an echelon of top Cuban-American endorsers, Mitt Romney laid out his own vision for an aggressive stance towards the Castro regime in Cuba, while laying into President Obama's policies, which he called "appeasement."
"This president has decided ... to give a gift to Castro, to allow remittances to come from the United States to go into Cuba and help the economy of Cuba. He's allowed more traveling into Cuba. Showing that olive branch, if you will," Romney said. "This president does not understand that by helping Castro, he is not helping the people of Cuba he is hurting them; he is not putting forward a policy of freedom, he is accommodating and encouraging a policy of oppression. And if I'm president of the United States, we will return to Helms-Burton and the law, and we will not give Castro any gifts!"
Speaking to members of the US-Cuba Democracy PAC, which lists as its purpose to "promote an unconditional transition in Cuba to democracy, the rule of law and the free market," Romney predicted the quick demise of Fidel Castro, who has ruled Cuba since 1959.
"If I’m fortunate to become the next president of the United States it is my expectation that Fidel Castro will finally be taken off this planet. I doubt he’ll take any time in the sky he’ll find a nether region to be more to his comfort," Romney said.
"This is a critical time. I think you realize that. We've waited a long, long time for the opportunity that is represented by a new president, and by new leadership, or by old leadership finally kicking the bucket in Cuba," Romney said. "I want to be the American president that is proud to be able to say that I was president at the time that we brought freedom back to the people of Cuba"
And while Romney himself never explained exactly what a Romney administration would do to bring about that freedom, his campaign released a detailed white paper at the close of his speech, outlining ten steps Romney would take -- including rolling back increased remittances and travel permits put in place by President Obama -- to put pressure on the Castro regime.
If he were not so lucky as to have the Castro brothers "kick the bucket" on his watch, Romney boasted of a negotiation background learned in the business world, which he says taught him the skills he would need to negotiate with "tyrants" like Fidel and Raul Castro.
For Romney, who a CNN/Time Magazine poll released today shows leading Newt Gingrich in Florida by only a 2 percent margin, winning the Cuban-American vote in this region of the state could prove crucial. In 2008, he came in third place in Miami Dade county, behind both John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. This cycle, a number of powerful, Cuban-American politicians, including Former Senator Mel Martinez an the Diaz-Balart brothers, who backed McCain in 2008 are supporting Romney instead.
A Univision News poll released Wednesday suggested that Romney has the early advantage among Florida Latinos heading into next Tuesday's GOP primary. Thirty-five percent of Sunshine State Latinos would vote for Romney in the primary, versus 20 percent who would support Gingrich.