Rabid Bush promises to rid Cuba of 'tyrant' Fidel

Campaign News | Monday, 1 November 2004

Miami crowd cheers as President raises spectre of regime change in Havana

MIAMI October 31: US President George W. Bush vowed to "keep the pressure on" and rid Cuba of Fidel Castro, an appeal to the hard-line Cuban-Americans Bush counted on to win Florida and the White House.

"I strongly believe the people of Cuba should be free from the tyrant," Bush told a boisterous crowd of supporters here two days before the election, winning the rally's loudest cheers and chants of "Viva Bush" -- long live Bush.

"Over the next four years, we will continue to press hard and ensure that the gift of freedom finally reaches the men and women of Cuba," he said. "We will not rest, we will keep the pressure on, until the Cuban people enjoy the same freedoms in Havana they received here in America."

The crowd packed into the Coconut Grove Convention Center cheered, screamed and applauded, waving pro-Bush signs in English and Spanish and shouting "four more years!"

Like most Republican candidates in Florida, Bush's hopes of victory here rest in large part on the support of the state's sizeable anti-Castro Cuban exile community.

Earlier, the president's top political strategist, Karl Rove, shouted "Cuba libre" - free Cuba - to reporters travelling with Bush.

The president was to make three stops in this pivotal state before going to another critical battleground state: Ohio, without which no modern Republican has won the White House.

Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, and Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the president's brother, began the day attending Catholic mass at the Church of the Epiphany, where Monseigneur Jude O'Doherty all but endorsed his reelection bid.

"What a great privilege it is for all of us to pray with the most powerful man on the face of the Earth," said O'Doherty, who praised Bush's stances against abortion and euthanasia and for limiting embryonic stem cell research.

Before the president arrived in Miami, a small army of speakers - including Mexican-born actress and singer Lucia Mendez - extolled him and attacked Kerry as the crowd slowly swelled to a few thousand.

Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen pointed to elections in Afghanistan and plans for elections in Iraq and said that Bush was committed to "help bring about that same freedom, that same democracy ... to the oppressed and long-suffering people of Cuba."

Another speaker strongly suggested that terrorists hoped for a Kerry victory, pointedly asking "who do the enemies of America favor?" and then thanking Bush for the global war on extremist violence.


From the Independent newspaper London

Cubans should be freed, Bush tells Florida

By David Usborne in Fort Lauderdale

01 November 2004

President George Bush, trying to stop an erosion of Cuban-American support, came close to adding communist Cuba to the countries listed in his so-called "Axis of Evil" yesterday by proclaiming at a campaign rally that the "people of Cuba should be freed from their tyrant".

In any other setting, the words would have been heard around the world as a clear threat to Fidel Castro that his Caribbean nation is next in line for military intervention. Seen in the context of Mr Bush's quest to win the state of Florida on Tuesday, his utterance may not be taken quite so seriously as his statement in January 2002, when he branded Iraq, Iran and North Korea as members of his Axis of Evil.

In the district of Coral Gables just south of Miami, Mr Bush drew loud cheers from a crowd that was heavily Latin as he described a record of bringing liberty and democracy first to Afghanistan then to Iraq, where, he said, elections were still set for January. That led him to Cuba.

"In the next few years, we will press on and ensure the message of freedom finally reaches the men and women of Cuba," he declared, drawing chants of "Viva Bush! Viva Bush!" He added: "We will keep the pressure on until the people of Cuba receive the same freedoms in the manner people do here."

And, most belligerently, the President, who is in a neck-and-neck contest to secure Florida tomorrow, concluded: "I strongly believe the people of Cuba should be freed from the tyrant."

The support of Cuban Americans, who account for about 400,000 of the registered voters in Florida, is vital for Mr Bush. And he came to Miami yesterday aware that the traditional hold that Republicans have had for decades over the community may be crumbling.

Recent surveys have shown a swing of about 16 per cent among Cuban Americans away from Mr Bush to Mr Kerry, amid anger at measures introduced this year by the White House aimed at giving further discomfort to President Castro. A swing of that scale could represent 65,000 votes, a number far bigger than the razor-thin margin of 532 disputed votes that won Florida for Mr Bush four years ago.

The measures were meant to bolster the President's support in the community but instead backfired disastrously and led to deep divisions within it. Many Cuban Americans were furious at the restrictions on their ability to visit Cuba and send money to their families there.

Florida remains the single most important prize for both candidates, because it has 27 votes in the electoral college, which will determine who will live in the White House for the next four years. That is one tenth of the majority required to secure the presidency.

Yesterday the Mason-Dixon polling group suggested Mr Bush was set to draw 49 per cent of the vote in Florida against 45 per cent for Mr Kerry. Today, in the last day of campaigning, the President will speak in the swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Iowa, New Mexico and end up in his home state of Texas.


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