WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney called on President Barack Obama Thursday to disavow the "galling" endorsement by Fidel Castro's niece, who is visiting the United States from Cuba, the Republican's campaign said.
The Obama administration caused a stir when it issued a visa to Mariela Castro, the daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro, and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Romney said it was a mistake to let the "daughter of a dictator" visit US shores.
But her comments Wednesday praising Obama's support for gay marriage, saying she would vote for him if she were a US citizen, and lamenting that a "small group of delinquents" was preventing the warming of ties between Washington and Havana, fueled further outrage.
"It is galling that an envoy from a Communist regime would come to our country and lecture the American people on who to vote for while the regime refuses to hold free and fair elections and systematically violates the human rights of its people," Romney campaign adviser Alberto Martinez said in a statement.
"The decision by the Obama administration to welcome Mariela Castro to our shores -- a decision that has received rightful criticism from both Republicans and Democrats -- continues to be an egregious affront to the people of Cuba and those who love freedom everywhere."
Mariela Castro, speaking on Wednesday to about 200 people gathered at a San Francisco gay rights center, applauded Obama's loosening of US-Cuba travel restrictions.
But she said more needed to be done to "remove the economic and social blockades" that have characterized the US-Cuba relationship since her uncle Fidel seized power more than five decades ago.
The 50-year-old trained sexologist, a staunch advocate for gay and transgender Cubans, is credited with helping to push through reforms on the Communist-ruled island, such as health plan coverage for sex-change operations.
Romney has come down hard on Obama's Cuba policies, and pledged that if he wins the November election, the Cuban "regime will feel the full weight of American resolve."
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