MIAMI – Flanked by Cuban-American leaders in a monument to Cuban immigration, Republican Mitt Romney today blasted President Obama’s negotiating ability with tyrants and said, if elected, “It is my expectation that Fidel Castro will finally be taken off this planet.”
Romney did not suggest a military invasion or assassination plot, only his expectation that the ailing, 85-year-old Cuban president will not survive Obama’s second term - or his own first and second terms in the White House.
“I doubt he’ll take any time in the sky; he’ll find another region to be more to his comfort,” Romney said of Castro, throwing red meat to an audience of several hundred who cheered his speech at the Freedom Tower in downtown Miami.
Besides his wife, Ann, those joining Romney on stage were Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, former Commerce secretary and Kellogg CEO Carlos Gutierrez, and former US Senator Mel Martinez.
More substantively, Romney argued that Obama had appeased the nation’s enemies by offering foreign policy concessions without getting them in return.
“Negotiations are not a matter of giving and hope; they’re a matter of giving and getting in return,” he said.
“We have to recognize that if we give, and we bend, and we accommodate, and we appease, evil people, they will not be good back, and they will be more evil to their people – and to us,” he said.
Romney accused Obama of giving “a gift to Castro” by expanding US travel to Cuba and by loosening restrictions limiting the flow of US funds to the island nation.
“This president does 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 repression,” said the former Massachusetts governor.
Romney pledged that, as president, he would “return to Helms-Burton,” which strengthened a Cold War US embargo against Cuba.
Pledging to “strike for freedom” in Ciba, Romney said: “This a crucial time; I think you realize that. We’ve waited a long, long time for the opportunity that is represented by a new president, and new leadership - or by old leadership finally kicking the bucket in Cuba.
“I want to be the American president that’s proud to be able to say that, ‘I was president at the time that we brought freedom back to the people of Cuba,’ ” he said.
Glen Johnson can be reached at Johnson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.