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Marco Rubio may have embellished family history

Marco Rubio: did the potential Republican VP candidate lie about his family's Cuban history in order to appeal to his Floridian constituency?

By LAURA WIDES-MUNOZAssociated Press / October 21, 2011

Marco Rubio speaks after winning his Senate bid in Coral Gables, Fla. Nov. 2, 2010. Rubio is being accused of stretching the truth about his family's Cuban history.

Lynne Sladky/AP/File


In Florida, where Cuba and Fidel Castro can be highly combustible political issues, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is defending himself against allegations he embellished his family's story in saying his parents left the island after Castro came to power.

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So far, prominent members of the Cuban American community are standing by him, including the head of one of Miami's oldest and most respected exile groups, who said Friday that he is willing to give the rising GOP star and tea-party favorite a pass.

The 40-year-old freshman senator has always publicly identified with the exile community and has a strong following within it. In a campaign ad last year, he said: "As the son of exiles, I understand what it means to lose the gift of freedom." Rubio's biography on his Senate website previously said he was "born in Miami to Cuban-born parents who come to America following Fidel Castro's takeover." It has been changed to say Rubio "was born in Miami in 1971 to Cuban exiles who first arrived in the United States in 1956."

But The Washington Post reported that Rubio's parents actually left Cuba in 1956, nearly three years before Castro seized power in a revolution against dictator Fulgencia Batista. Rubio's father was a store security guard when he and his wife left, according to Rubio's staff, and came to the U.S. for economic reasons.

Rubio responded to the story with a statement saying his parents had tried to return to Cuba in March 1961 but quickly left because they did not want to live under communism.

"After arriving in the United States, they had always hoped to one day return to Cuba if things improved and traveled there several times," he said. "In 1961, my mother and older siblings did in fact return to Cuba while my father stayed behind wrapping up the family's matters in the U.S. After just a few weeks living there, she fully realized the true nature of the direction Castro was taking Cuba and returned to the United States one month later, never to return."

In addition, Rubio has said publicly on previous occasions that his parents left Cuba before the revolution.

Rubio's staff said it would change his Senate website.

The issue is magnified because of the formidable political clout of the Cuban exile community in Florida and the fierce passions in Miami that still surround Castro and the communist island, and because Rubio is often mentioned as a potential vice presidential pick. Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich have said he would make a great running mate.

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