By Patricia Mazzei, The Miami Herald –
MIAMI —Paul Ryan got the Cuban exile seal of approval Saturday at a campaign rally in Little Havana where he pledged to hold a hard line against the Castro regime.
The Republican vice presidential candidate did not mention that he once opposed the U.S. trade embargo against the island, but he said he had a change of heart — prompted by Miami’s current and former Cuban-American Republicans in Congress, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Lincoln Diaz-Balart and and Mario Doaz-Balart.
“They’ve given me a great education — lots of us in Congress — about how we need to clamp down on the Castro regime,” Ryan said Saturday. “We will be tough on Castro, tough on (Venezuelan President Hugo) Chavez.”
Ryan, a Wisconsin congressman, has voted against the embargo at least three times. The Midwest tends to see trade opportunities in agriculture with Cuba.
But Ryan took a different tack Saturday, criticizing President Barack Obama’s Cuba policy. The Obama administration has made it easier for families and certain groups to travel and send money to Cuba.
Ryan said he and presidential candidate Mitt Romney would take a different approach.
“We will not keep practicing this policy of appeasement,” Ryan said. “We will be tough on this brutal dictator.”
Ryan argued against Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan of “hope and change,” and criticized the president for telling Univision in an interview at the University of Miami that “you can’t change Washington from the inside.”
“Why do we send presidents to the White House in the first place?” Ryan said. “We send presidents to change and fix the mess in Washington. And if this president has admitted that he can’t change Washington, then you know what? We need to change presidents.
Ryan mostly avoided talking about Medicare — a key issue for elderly Florida voters. Ryan mentioned it only twice, toward the end of his 10-minute speech, accusing Obama of cutting Medicare to pay for the health-care law.
“We reject the fact that the president is compromising Medicare to pay for Obamacare,” Ryan said.
That statement is not quite accurate. The health-care law did not cut funding from Medicare’s budget, but did make changes to bring down future program costs.