In the almost six decades that Fidel Castro has ruled Cuba, Republican presidential candidates have elbowed each other and fought to portray themselves as the toughest on Castro - until Thursday night when Rep. Ron Paul showed again that he is quite willing to be different. To a question suggesting that the United States has not been involved enough in influencing governments in Latin America, Paul called for an end to the half-century-old U.S. trade embargo of Cuba.
"Free trade is an answer, the answer to a lot of conflicts around the world," he said. ""I'm always promoting free trade. And you might add Cuba, too. I think we'd be a lot better off... trading with Cuba." Later in his answer, he added, "I believe with friendship and trade you can have a lot of influence. And I strongly believe that it's time we had friendship and trade with Cuba."
None of the other three candidates - who have been ardently wooing the state's influential Cuban community, most of whom are stridently anti-Castro - jumped in to agree. Former Sen. Rick Santorum indicated he did not agree with Paul's response but turned his answer into an attack on President Obama. The president, he said, has a policy of "siding with leftists, siding with Marxists" and seeking common ground with Castro and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.
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