Newt Gingrich would deploy covert U.S. forces to Cuba to help topple the Communist regime led by Fidel Castro, the Republican presidential candidate said Monday.
The former House speaker said as president he would implement a policy "aggressively to overthrow the regime" of Fidel and Raul Castro. The Communist dictator brothers have ruled America's southern neighbor since 1976, with the latter officially taking over as the island nation's president in February 2008.
"A Gingrich presidency would not tolerate four more years of this dictatorship," Gingrich said during a debate on NBC. Asked whether he would use covert U.S. military troops to bring about his desired regime change, the tough-talking candidate said he would use "every asset available to the United States, including covert operations ... to minimize the survival of the dictatorship."
Gingrich hit Obama for being "infatuated with [the] Arab Spring" while being unable to look "90 miles south and see a Cuban Spring." The Arab Spring is the pro-democracy movement that swept across northern Africa and the Middle East, forcing from power hard line rulers like Egypt's Hosni Mubarak.
The debate came just two days after Gingrich's surprisingly decisive South Carolina primary win over rival Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts chief executive also got in a shot on the president, calling Obama's easing of some Cuba travel restrictions "reckless." In yet another policy difference between Gingrich and Romney, the latter did not call for a U.S.-led covert mission to oust the Castro regime. Instead, Romney said he would work with pro-democracy groups and then "work aggressively" with new Cuban leaders to urge them to create a more democratic nation.
The Cuban issue is a controversial one in Florida, where the GOP candidates are campaigning hard ahead of next Tuesday's primary there. Miami, for instance, is home to a large Cuban population, and many flee the island nation each year bound for Florida.