Officially the event today at a car dealership in Lighthouse Point was for Gov. Rick Scott and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera to yet again talk up Scott’s proposal to cut $500 million tax cut -- largely by reducing auto registration fees.
But during the presser after the event, the hot topic was about former Gov. Charlie Crist’s statement Friday night that he no longer supports the Cuba embargo.
The acoustics during the press conference -- outside a Sheehan dealership along noisy U.S. 1 -- were lousy, but here’s a partial transcript:
Scott: “America is built on freedom and democracy. Cuba is not free or Democratic. The embargo that’s in place is part of standing up for the Cuban individuals, Cuban families’ freedom. So we need to continue the embargo.”
Lopez-Cantera: “Charlie Crist’s comments just show his ignorance on the issue of what is going on in Cuba. As a Cuban American I was insulted by it. He should get a little smarter on what’s actually happening....”
Q: "What evidence is there that the embargo works?"
Lopez-Cantera: “The evidence you have down there, the Damas de Blanco, the Ladies in White, constantly rounded up and arrested and harassed. You have Alan Gross who is still in prison. Things like that that are still happening there. Those are the things that need to be getting attention and not this political stuff...”
Q: "So what does the embargo achieve?"
Lopez-Cantera: “The embargo represents this country’s solidarity with the people who are suffering on the island.”
Asked again about Crist’s statement, Scott replied “What he said about the embargo is insulting to the Cuban population. ....”
Q: “Is there evidence though that the Cuban-American population in Florida still supports the embargo?”
After his one-word answer, Scott was asked about signing a bill cracking down businesses that do businesses with Cuba and then writing a letter saying it wasn’t feasible to enforce it.
Scott: “I signed that bill because it stands with the Cuban population to fight the oppression of Cuba...”
(There was then some back and forth with a reporter that is not clearly audible on my recording but it got testy as a reporter said something about the reporter asking the questions.)
Scott: “I’m going give you the question but you can wait. I signed the bill because I stood with the Cuba population. Cuba has an oppressive government, there is no freedom down there. So the embargo is part of Americans standing with the Cuban population for freedom.”
Scott ended the press conference but as Lopez-Cantera was whisked to his car by a press aide, reporters tried to illicit some more answers. When asked if he supported in-state tuition for Dreamers, Lopez-Cantera replied: “The governor said he will consider it.”
Lopez-Cantera didn’t respond to follow-up questions asking for his opinion on it. A press aide then said “thank you so much” about seven times trying to cut off reporters as he got into the car.