Tags: Lieberman | McCain | miami

Lieberman: McCain Will Get Tough With Castro, Chavez

Thursday, 17 Jan 2008 10:12 PM

By Paul Crespo

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Sen. Joe Lieberman was dispatched to Miami’s Little Havana on Thursday to woo influential Cuban-Americans to back GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain.

Lieberman, a longtime friend of the Cuban-American community, said that McCain is the best candidate to champion the cause of freedom in Cuban and across the Americas.

“While change in Cuba will come from within, we need to help more,” Lieberman said. “McCain would make Radio and TV Marti more effective and provide more material support to Cuba’s pro-democracy dissidents.”

Most importantly, Lieberman said, McCain would be able get bipartisan support for these measures.

“Freedom in the Americas is a McCain priority -- and when he promises something he keeps his word,” he said.

And McCain will take on more than just Fidel Castro.

Across the board, “McCain will engender trust in our friends and fear and respect from our enemies,” said Lieberman. “With John McCain, [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmedinejad and [Venezuelan President] Hugo Chavez will face their toughest adversary. … Freedom isn’t something McCain learned in a book.”

Lieberman told the gathering of Hispanic leaders that he decided to strongly endorse McCain because he is “the best person of any party in America to be commander-in-chief.”

Echoing the comments he made to a group of Jewish Republicans on Wednesday night, Lieberman emphasized several times that Islamic extremism is the greatest threat to America today, and that McCain knows how to deal with that threat.

In Iraq, Lieberman noted, “McCain pushed [former Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld to change his strategy because it wasn’t working -- and President Bush heard him. He changed Rumsfeld, changed generals, changed tactics and sent more troops. Now al-Qaida in Iraq is on the run ... and Iraq is getting better every day.”

Iran is now the major threat we face in that region, Lieberman added.

But to his Hispanic audience he went on to say that while Islamic extremism is our biggest threat, it’s not our only threat. “A McCain administration would be on the front lines in the battle for freedom ... and that battle has to begin in your own yard,” he said, referring to Chavez and the leftist wave that has hit Latin America.

At the event were two former Cuban political prisoners who see McCain as a kindred spirit.

Lieberman pointed out one of them, Roberto Martin Perez, saying; “Roberto is what America is all about -- what John McCain is all about.”

Lieberman noted that Castro goons helped torture American POWs like McCain in Vietnam just like they did to Cubans like Perez, and emphasized that Raul Castro cannot be allowed to continue his brother’s regime in Cuba.

“McCain would keep the embargo on [the Castro regime] until political prisoners were released, press freedoms were enacted, political parties legalized and internationally monitored elections were held,” Lieberman said.

Lieberman’s powerful endorsement and his campaigning on behalf of McCain in South Florida will help McCain with two critical voting blocs here -- the Jewish vote and Cuban-Americans.

Manwhile, Lieberman’s consistently solid anti-Castro stance will also help him appeal to South Florida Cubans, who some have viewed as leaning toward rival Rudy Giuliani.

McCain also is supported by Florida’s three Republican Cuban-American members of Congress: Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and brothers Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Mario Diaz-Balart.

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