Florida governor Rick Scott, who is running for U.S. Senate, said during a campaign rally Friday that the country should be firmer in its relations with Cuba, before acknowledging the existence of climate change.
Standing in front of more than a dozen Cuban-Americans at the Goodlet Theatre in Hialeah, Scott said the federal government should return Cuba to the list of state sponsors of terrorism and should indict former Cuban leader Raul Castro for crimes against humanity.
The rally on Friday commemorated the anniversary of the drowning of 41 Cubans who tried to flee the island in 1994.
Supporters—some of whom survived and lost relatives to the drowning—cheered as Scott called on the federal government to deny access to the U.S. to any Cubans who have been accussed of repressive actions. He also blamed Cuba for the recent instability in Venezuela and Nicaragua.
"I believe that until Cuba is on a path toward democracy, countries like Venezuela and Nicaragua will remain on a path toward totalitarianism," said the Republican governor who is currently running for the seat held by Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.
Following the rally, Scott told reporters that as senator he would work to address environmental problems affecting Florida, including climate change.
"There's money in the budget for climate change down here," said Scott, who reportedly once banned the use of the term in state communications and publications. He added that he would try to address "issues" with Lake Okeechobee and water quality.
Scott also said a recent executive order he issued concerning beach access does not contradict a law he signed in March.
The law, which took effect in July, made it harder for local governments to prevent private property owners from denying the public access to their beaches. If a city wanted to allow public access to a private beach, it would have to sue the private owner.
But the executive order gives local governments broad authority to guarantee that all beaches—including private ones—are open to the public. The order calls for the Department of Environmental Protection to create a website where people can complain about restrictions to beach access.
"The law has confused some people," Scott said, adding that it does not conflict with the executive order. "What I wanted to do is through that executive order make sure everybody understood—I'm going to fight to make sure people have access to our beaches."