As the campaign of Carlos Beruff unfolds, questions have emerged over statements he made before his candidacy and after. One such statement had to do with Cuba, an issue of particular interest in this campaign in this cycle.
In December 2014, after an American-Cuban prisoner swap, the Bradenton Herald claimed that Beruff told them that “he believes opening Cuba to U.S. economy and culture will be the end of the Communist regime in that country. He sees no reason for the two nations to remain locked in an embargo, least of all over the oft-cited issue of human rights,” given that Amnesty International reported that Cuba, unlike China, a valued trade partner, does not execute prisoners.
“If human rights are the only reason we’re not doing business with Cuba, then we’re doing business with a lot of countries we shouldn’t be doing business with,” he told the Herald, in what was the only direct quote of Beruff in the article.
Wednesday, Beruff struck a more hard-line tone, one more in sync with the right-hand lane of the Senate race, relative to human rights in a statement regarding the proposed Presidential trip to Cuba.
Beruff asserted that “The Castro regime continues to jail dissidents and suppress human rights while supporting our enemies…My family fought alongside thousands of Cubans to overthrow Batista and then Castro because they were a threat to the basic principles of democracy and human rights.”
We reached out to Beruff’s campaign for comment Wednesday evening on what seemed to be daylight between the two positions.
There was some skepticism about whether there was even daylight or not, with a belief that the quote was out of context and, perhaps, part of a larger push toward a liberalized Cuba policy.
Chris Hartline, on behalf of Beruff, offered the following.
“Like the media often does, Carlos’ comments were taken out of context and misinterpreted. His answer hasn’t changed. Everyone wants to see an end to the embargo, especially the Cuban people. But we can’t lift the embargo until the Castro regime is willing to stop persecuting the Cuban people and allows freedom of religion and speech,” Hartline said.
“It comes down to not trusting this President. He’s the worst negotiator in the world. It’s like playing poker with your cards out. We need to move forward with Cuba, but with a free and Democratic Cuba that treats its people humanely.”
Whether the other Senate campaigns press on this point or not remains to be seen. It is evident that multiple campaigns want to make a strong play for the Cuban-American population, and one can expect more ideological purity tests on this issue in the weeks and months ahead.