Newsday, New York
Giuliani says Cubans key in 2008 presidential election
By LAURA WIDES-MUNOZ
Associated Press Writer
June 21, 2007, 7:47 PM EDT
HIALEAH, Fla. -- Cuban-Americans are going to have a lot to say about who wins the 2008 presidential election, Republican Rudy Giuliani said Thursday during a campaign stop in this heavily populated Cuban-American city.
In a local restaurant known for its steaming espressos and cheese and guava empanadas, the former New York mayor told a crowd of more than 200 that Cuban-Americans were key to putting President Bush in the White House and hoped they would do the same for him.
Giuliani said Cuban turnout will likely sway a tough primary and whoever wins the primary in Florida will likely win the Republican nomination.
"I don't just need you in November, I need you on Jan. 29, 2008," he said of the Republican primary, which state officials recently moved up to have a bigger say in the election. "You're going to have a big, big impact on who the nominee is going to be."
Giuliani also spoke about the country's trade policy with Cuba, promising not to support lifting trade sanctions until Cuba has a democratic government.
He criticized what he called the romanticization of the Castros in Hollywood, especially given Cuba's repressive policies against homosexuals, who have strong political support in the film and TV industries.
He said he was able to distinguish between "those you can deal with and people who, the only way to deal with is to move them aside."
Giuliani did not mention Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has close ties with Fidel Castro, in his speech, but when asked later about his law firm's contract to lobby for the Chavez-backed Citgo Petroleum Corp., he defended the decision.
The Texas-based firm Bracewell & Giuliani has lobbied on behalf of the company's Corpus Christi refinery for years. Giuliani said he did not think the firm represented Citgo anymore and added that Citgo provides more than 4,000 jobs in the U.S. each year.
Giuliani said until someone can prove that democracy has come to Cuba, he will oppose lifting U.S. sanctions against the country. His comments came as Congress prepares to debate a bipartisan proposal to ease some trade and travel sanctions against the country.
Giuliani also promised to be strong against terrorists and told his audience that Democrats would be weak on foreign policy and push for bigger government.
"America can't show weakness to these Islamic terrorists," he said. "I don't think anyone understands that better than the Cuban community. You understand being strong in the face of dictators and terrorists."
For attorney Felix Lasarte, it was Giuliani's promises to stand firm against terrorists and his more moderate position on domestic policies that sparked him to bring his 9-year-old daughter, Victoria, to meet the candidate.
Although Lasarte's parents fled Cuba, he said he was most concerned about the Iraq war.
"I think of the Republican candidates, he's the only one who has a chance of winning because he's a centrist and doesn't polarize," Lasarte said.
Lasarte said he did not think the Citgo issue was relevant to the campaign.
"I think the record he had in New York stands on its own," he said.
Giuliani stopped his stump speech briefly as his cell phone rang, telling supporters it was his wife.
"See, I'm doing well," he said into his cell phone as the crowd cheered.
JG: There is no present Republican candidate for President that I would vote for. That does not mean that the Democratic Party would automatically get my vote, since I supported third party candidates for President in 1996 and 2000.
If the Democrats were smart, and I have strong doubts about that supposition, they would go with a Gore-Obama ticket, but both persons have not explicitly stated what is their Cuba policy. I would vote for Dodd or Kucinich, but their chances are very slim.
Because of the capitalists strong dislike for socialist Cuba, I am tempted to write-in NOTA for President.