Charlie Crist insists he still wants to travel to Cuba, even though his campaign canceled a planned visit earlier this summer.
Fusion’s Jorge Ramos asked the former Republican governor of Florida, who is now trying to reclaim his old seat on the Democratic ticket, whether scheduling the trip was a distraction from the campaign.
“No, it’s the truth,” Crist told Ramos during an interview. “I would like to go to Cuba, but I don’t have the time to do it now. And so I’m hopeful that after the election we might have the opportunity to go and learn.”
Crist sparked controversy when he announced his trip in May, following his party switch and subsequent change of heart on the U.S. embargo against Cuba, which he now opposes. His trip to the island nation could have alienated many Cuban-American voters in Florida’s Miami-Dade County.
After the trip was called off, incumbent Gov. Rick Scott (R) reportedly slammed Crist for “flip-flopping” on Cuba. Crist says his decision to cancel the trip wasn’t politically motivated, but had to do with timing and difficulties getting a permit from the U.S. State Department.
“The decision was that we ought to postpone,” Crist said. “I’ve got to stay focused on Florida. I’ve got to stay focused on November the 4th and this election.”
Ramos asked Crist whether he thinks Cuban President Raúl Castro is a dictator.
“Yes. I think he’s terrible. I think he’s terrible,” Crist said. “I mean, look at the suffering of the people on the island. Even though we’ve had the embargo now for over 50 years, they continue to suffer. And that’s my concern, the people on the island.”
Why would Crist want to visit a dictatorship, Ramos asked. Crist responded that he does not “want to go to a dictatorship.” Ramos noted that Crist does, by his own definition of Castro, want to visit a dictatorship.
“Excuse me,” Crist replied. “I would like to go talk to the people. Talk to the dissidents. Learn from them about what’s happening. See it first hand for myself and see if there’s a way that Florida and America might be able to help the people that are suffering on the island. Out of compassion, frankly.”
Crist: ‘I felt like a round hole in a square peg’ opposing Sotomayor
Crist told Ramos that he supports Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, despite the fact that during his failed 2009 Senate run he said he would vote against her nomination.
Crist named businesswoman and Democratic activist Annette Taddeo as his running mate. If the ticket prevails, Taddeo would become the first Latina lieutenant governor in Florida’s history. That prompted Ramos to ask why Crist earlier opposed Sotomayor’s nomination to become the first Latina on the nation’s highest court.
Crist said that he has “come around” on the issue.
“At the time, I was a Republican,” Crist said. “And at the time, I felt like a round hole in a square peg [sic]. It’s one of the reasons I’m not a Republican anymore. Those kinds of views and trying to have to be a good team player with that club is something I didn’t want to do anymore.”
Crist: Embrace child migrants from Central America
Crist said he thinks the federal government should “embrace” Central American children who have crossed into the U.S.
“We should embrace them,” Crist said. “All of them that we can, absolutely. They’re children, Jorge. We’re talking about children.”
He added, “It is OK to come here. We’re a nation of immigrants, it’s a wonderful thing to come to America.”