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Marco Rubio says he’ll invite dissidents around the world to be his guests at his inauguration

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In New York City this morning, Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio offered a three-point plan to deal with Iran and Cuba, and said if elected president, he will invite dissidents from those two nations and other countries with repressive governments to his inaugural address.

Criticizing Secretary of State John Kerry for the fact that no Cuban dissidents were invited to today’s official flag-raising ceremony as the U.S. Embassy in Havana, the GOP presidential candidate said, “I will make this pledge here and now: As president, as a symbol of solidarity between my administration and those who strive for freedom around the world, I will invite Cuban dissidents, Iranian dissidents, Chinese dissidents, and freedom fighters from around the world to be honored guests at my inauguration.”

Kerry says he will meet dissidents at a gathering later in the day at the chief of mission’s residence, as well as having an “open, free walk” in Old Havana. “I look forward to meeting whoever I meet and listening to them and having, you know, whatever views come at me,” he said.

Rubio also slammed President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by name in his speech, saying that they believe the Cuban people are suffering because not enough American tourists visit the country, “when the truth is the Cuban people are suffering because they live in a tyrannical dictatorship.”

“The same president who visited a U.S. prison to talk about inequities in our criminal justice system is silent about the fact that minor offenses in Iran and Cuba are punishable by indefinite detention, torture, or even death – and these offenses often include nothing more than speaking out with the wrong political opinion,” he said.

And Rubio said that Obama has misplaced his priorities when it comes to Cuba and Iran — by focusing his criticisms at Republicans like himself who oppose resuming diplomatic relations with Cuba and his nuclear deal with Iran, instead of attacking the leaders of their repressive governments.

Rubio then invoked his three-point plan in dealing with both countries.

On Iran, he said if elected president, he would reimpose sanctions on Iran and ask Congress to pass “crushing” new measures that target human rights abusers and Iran’s leaders involved in financing and overseeing Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism.

He would also end sequestration for the military, ensuring that the U.S. military would be positioned to signal readiness and “restore a credible military option” in the Middle East.

And he would impose “crippling” sanctions back on Iran, and will demand that Iran “terminate” its nuclear program. “Iran will never be allowed to build a nuclear weapon if I become president – not now, not decades from now,” he declared.

On Cuba, he says on the first day of a Rubio administration he would give the Castro brothers a choice — either continue repressing your people and lose the diplomatic relations and benefits provided by President Obama, or carry out meaningful political and human rights reforms and receive increased U.S. trade, investment, and support. He would also return Cuba back to the extremely small list of state sponsors of terrorism that the State Department revoked earlier this year (along with Iran, Sudan and Syria).

And he says he would do “everything in my power’ to support Cuba’s pro-democracy movement.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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