TALLAHASSEE — A spokeswoman for Gov. Jeb Bush discounted charges aired Sunday by the president of the Cuban National Assembly that the Florida governor is conspiring to overthrow Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
Ricardo Alarcon, appearing on ABC’s This Week on Sunday, said Bush is urging his older brother, President Bush, to work toward Castro’s ouster. Cuba-U.S. relations have becoming increasingly strained in recent weeks since the arrests and trials of Cuban dissidents and the expulsion of 14 Cuban diplomats from Washington and New York.
“Well, you have, first of all, those in Miami that are calling for even a military action against Cuba, including the governor,” Alarcon said.
Later, he said: “I am convinced that not very far from President Bush and his entourage are people that are not just willing, but actively working toward that … The brother (Jeb Bush) was very open, calling publicly in Florida to do in the neighborhood, in the nation of Cuba, what you just did to Iraq.”
Alarcon said a March 28 demonstration in Miami which featured some members of Congress included a banner that said “Iraq now, Cuba next.”
Bush’s press secretary, Alia Faraj, said Sunday that the governor has been consistent on his views toward Cuba.
“Gov. Bush has been very clear in his position that he does not condone Castro’s repressive regime,” she said. “Americans should continue to show their support for the brave men and women who continue to seek change through continued support of an economic embargo and travel restrictions.”
Bush was in Austin, Texas, for the law school graduation of his son, George P. Bush.
The U.S. government’s expulsion Tuesday of the 14 diplomats was described by Cuba’s Foreign Ministry as a step toward provoking confrontation between the two countries. A senior Bush administration official said seven diplomats ordered home from the Cuban mission in Washington engaged in three kinds of improper activities: monitoring and surveillance, association with known criminals and the attempted recruitment of spies.
The removals came as Cuba endures heavy world criticism for the recent sentencing of 75 dissidents to prison terms ranging from six to 28 years on charges of collaborating with American diplomats to subvert the socialist system. The dissidents and diplomats deny the charges.
The communist island also was criticized for the April 11 firing-squad executions of three men convicted of terrorism in the attempting hijacking of a ferry filled with passengers. No one was injured in the hijack attempt.
Castro said last week that the firing squad deaths were the result of a conspiracy started by the U.S. government and the “terrorist Mafia in Miami,” a term often used by him to describe Cuban exile groups.