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McCain Talks American and Latin American Politics

(CBS)
From CBS News' Dante Higgins:

MIAMI -- John McCain stopped by the Versailles Restaurant, a Cuban-American hangout where he talked politics and touched on U.S. relations with Latin American countries.

When he arrived, McCain stepped up to a service window in the parking lot and ordered himself a cortadito, a Cuban coffee. He swigged it back and gave two thumbs up.

"I'm very obviously enthusiastic over our recent victories. We're coming to Florida with some wind at our back. We've got some hard campaigning in the next 8 days or so. I'm confident we can win here in this very important state...Our base begins here in Miami with the Cuban-American community," he said.

After a short walk through the parking lot and a portion of the restaurant, McCain addressed a wide range of issues from the war in Iraq, immigration and the economy. But this audience asked about his views on policies and relationships with Latin American countries like Venezuela and Cuba.

He said he would move to indict Cuban leader Fidel Castro for his participation in the Cuban missile crisis. "I would be prepared to open that investigation immediately. It seems to me that the radio intercepts show very clearly that the shoot down of that airplane was orchestrated as an act by the Cuban government."

When asked if he would relax rules for Cuban exile families to visit their families back in Cuba, McCain said had reservations and wasn't sure how to resolve the issue but promised to rely on consultants close to this issue. "I worry about in that case is where does it begin and where does it end. We want every humanitarian assistance to be provided," he started.

"I understand Cuba, I was there in the Cuban missile crisis, I understand these issues, but it would be entirely inappropriate for me not to rely on the knowledge and background of the people who live it every single day. The challenges of trying to rid that wonderful and beautiful island of one of the most repressive regimes in history that not only has done what they've done to the Cuban people, but they continue to try to be state sponsors of terrorism."

McCain told reporters he viewed Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as a threat.

"I believe that Hugo Chavez is a threat in the region. ... The best way that we can handle Mr. Chavez in my view is to become independent of his oil. ... So my job as president of the United States is to get this country of ours into oil independence," he said.