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Ron Paul calls for diplomatic relations with Cuba

January 26, 2012|By Alana Semuels
  • Mitt Romney, left, and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas participate in a debate sponsored by CNN, the Republican Party of Florida and the Hispanic Leadership Network at the University North Florida in Jacksonville.
Mitt Romney, left, and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas participate in a debate sponsored… (Joe Raedle / Getty Images )

Ron Paul took a risky position in Florida in Thursday’s debate, calling for communication and diplomatic relations with Cuba, saying that people's positions have changed dramatically over the last few years.

Paul said that Cuba isn’t going to invade the U.S. any time soon, and that Americans weren’t looking under their beds anymore, worried. Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich followed by pledging to continue the economic embargo on Cuba and to take any action short of military invasion to upend the government of Raul Castro.

Paul’s position is a potentially dangerous one in Florida, a state with a influential voting bloc of conservative Republicans from Cuba who have long favored aggressive policies toward Havana.

But a study of Cuban American voters in Florida suggests that Paul might be right, and that voters' opinions about Cuba are changing. Support for tightening the embargo dropped by roughly half between 2004 and 2008, according to a study by Benjamin Bishin, a UC Riverside professor.

Cuban Americans’ support for easing the embargo increased to 43.4%, from 26.7% in 2004, and support for easing travel restrictions increased to 47.4% from 32.9%, Bishin found.  “Cuban Americans’ attitudes on issues of U.S. foreign policy toward Cuba seems to be in transition,” he wrote in a 2009 study.

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