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Apruebo este mensaje: Gingrich and Romney spar in Spanish

With less than a week to go before the Florida primary, the battle for the state's Hispanic vote is intensifying. Romney currently has a 15-point lead over Gingrich among Latino voters in the Sunshine State, but 1 in 5 Hispanic Republicans are undecided. And Newt's not giving up on them. 

During the GOP debate on Monday night, Gingrich recommended more covert operations to overthrow the Cuban government and suggested that Fidel Castro is going straight to hell after Mitt Romney explained that he would "thanks heavens" when Castro finally "returned to his maker." (In an op-ed today, Castro retorted that the Republican race was the "greatest competition of idiocy and ignorance" in history.) On Wednesday, Gingrich ridiculed Romney's positions on immigration during an interview with the Spanish-langugage television network Univision.

Gingrich may have gone a step too far, however, in releasing a Spanish-language radio ad that called Romney "anti-immigrant" and accused him of "using Castro phrases" -- a reference to Romney mistakenly describing a Castro catchphrase -- patria o muerte, venceremos! -- as a slogan for a free Cuba in 2007. Gingrich, the ad explained, has "committed himself to the Hispanic people" by supporting the U.S. embargo on Cuba and the prosecution of the Castro brothers for shooting down planes operated by a Cuban exile group.

The ad angered Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who noted that "neither of these two men is anti-immigrant," and the Gingrich campaign decided to pull the ad today in response. When asked about the spot during his own Univision interview on Wednesday, Romney criticized Gingrich for using "terrible terms" (a video that touches on most of the themes in the radio ad and appears to be endorsed by Gingrich still exists on YouTube).

Still, the Romney campaign has been lashing out at Gingrich in Spanish as well. Earlier this month, Romney released ads in Florida in which Craig Romney affirmed his father's commitment to reinvigorating American values (in pretty decent Spanish, no less) and Cuban-American Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen praised Romney for standing up to the "despotic forces" of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez.

But the Romney campaign went on the offensive today, attacking Gingrich for being soft on travel restrictions to Cuba and calling Spanish the "language of the ghetto" in 2007 (Gingrich later apologized in Spanish for the remarks, though it was never entirely clear that he had been referring to Spanish in his original comments). Gingrich, the narrator declares, is no Reagan conservative:

Gingrich said that he would not change the failed policy of Barack Obama on travel to Cuba that has served to fill the Castro regime's coffers and increase repression on the island. I don't think Reagan would agree with Gingrich.... And Reagan would never have offended Hispanics, as Gingrich did, by saying that Spanish is the language of the ghetto.

And Gingrich doesn't appear to be shrinking from the attacks, either. According to the Miami Herald, the former House Speaker began airing a Spanish-language television ad last night that emphasizes his dedication to the Hispanic community and Ronald Reagan's values:

Aren't presidential campaigns just bizarre? One week you're criticizing your opponent for speaking French, and the next you're fiercely competing to see who can speak more Spanish.

Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

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Boston Globe: We 'overreached' on Charles Taylor-CIA story

Last week, I wrote a post linking to a front-page story from the Boston Globe on links between former Liberian President, now-war crimes defendant Charles Taylor and the CIA. The piece reported that, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the Globe, the U.S. government had confirmed that Taylor had worked with U.S. spy agencies while he was a rebel leader fighting to overthrow the Liberian government.

Today, the Globe has issued a near-retraction of the story: 

A front-page story on Jan. 17 drew unsupported conclusions and significantly overstepped available evidence when it described former Liberia president Charles Taylor as having worked with US spy agencies as a “sought-after source.’’ The story, based on a response by the US Defense Intelligence Agency to a long-pending records request from the Globe, described the agency’s response as having “confirmed its agents and CIA agents worked with Taylor beginning in the early 1980s.’’

But the agency offered no such confirmation; rather, it said only that it possessed 48 documents running to 153 pages that fall in the category of what the Globe asked for - records relating to Taylor and to his relationship, if any, with American intelligence going back to 1982. The agency, however, refused to release the documents and gave no indication of what was in them.

One of the grounds for that refusal was suggestive, citing the need to protect “intelligence sources and methods,’’ but that, by itself, fell well short of a sufficient basis for the published account. There has long been speculation that Taylor had such a role, speculation fueled in part by Taylor’s own suggestion in trial testimony that his 1985 escape from prison in Plymouth, Mass., may have been facilitated by CIA operatives. But Taylor, now standing trial before a UN special court on charges of rape, murder, and other offenses, denies he was ever a source for, or worked for, US intelligence.

The Globe had no adequate basis for asserting otherwise and the story should not have run in this form.

The fact that these "records relating to Taylor and to his relationship, if any, with American intelligence" exist but the CIA won't release them is only going to increase the curiosity about what they contain. The correction is unlikely to stop the rumor mills in Monrovia, Washington, or The Hague.