ABC News' Bret Hovell Reports: In Miami to commemorate Cuban independence day, Senator John McCain Tuesday promised that as president he would hasten the demise of the current Cuban regime, refuse to negotiate unconditionally with Raul Castro, and maintain the embargo on the island nation.
“I will not passively await the day when the Cuban people enjoy the blessings of freedom and democracy,” McCain said. “The Cuban people have waited long enough.
In a speech lasting just over fifteen minutes, McCain was interrupted by applause nearly twenty times by the largely Cuban audience receptive to his hard line on Fidel and Raul Castro.
“It is in our national interest to support their aspirations and oppose those of the Cuban regime,” McCain said.
The Arizona Senator also criticized his Democratic opponents for having a different plan on Cuba, singling out Senator Barack Obama, D-Ill., for according to McCain, having once supported the lifting of the U.S. imposed embargo on Cuba, and his willingness to meet with Cuban leader Raul Castro.
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“These steps would send the worst possible signal to Cuba's dictators -- there is no need to undertake fundamental reforms, they can simply wait for a unilateral change in US policy,” McCain said.
The discussion of talks with the Castro regime echoed of a back and forth McCain and Obama have had for days about sitting down with foreign leaders. McCain has repeatedly criticized Obama for what McCain describes as “unconditional” meetings that he says Obama is prepared to have with the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
He reiterated that criticism during a question and answer portion of the event in Miami.
“Senator Obama wants to sit down with [Ahmadinejad] unconditionally, face to face,” McCain complained. “It enhances Ahmadinejad. What are they going to talk about, the destruction of Israel?”
McCain took questions from the audience on a wide range of issues affecting Latin America, including cocaine exports out of Peru, political prisoners and Cuba, and what to do about Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.
“I think we maintain our advocacy for freedom and democracy everywhere,” McCain said. “I think we reward and work with our allies in the region.”