By LAURIE KELLMAN, Associated Press Writer
MIAMI (AP) - George W. Bush (news - web sites) is showing off his statesmanship with a double dose of foreign policy, taking a hard line against Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and meeting with Mexico president-elect Vicente Fox.
``My word to you, Mr. Castro: Let your people live in freedom,'' Bush told about 500 people Friday at Florida International University.
``I challenge the Castro regime to surprise the world and adopt the ways of democracy,'' Bush said. ``Until it frees political prisoners, and holds free elections and allows free speech, I will keep the current sanctions in place.''
That statement prompted a standing ovation from only part of the heavily Hispanic audience here.
The Texas governor moves on later Friday for a meeting in Dallas with Fox, during which he intends to get a better idea of the president-elect's proposal to eventually open Mexico's 2,000-mile border with the United States.
``I don't think he's fully explained open borders,'' Bush said. ``I believe we ought to enforce our borders.''
But Bush also said he would carry a message of optimism and good will to the elected leader a day after Fox met with President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore (news - web sites).
``My pledge will be: Should I become the president, I'll work and have a good, long-term relationship with (him) and continue a good relationship with Mexico,'' Bush told reporters aboard his campaign plane Thursday.
Mexico is one nation with which the Texas governor has had extensive foreign policy experience, and he sought in his speech to broaden his agenda to nations that lie elsewhere in that region - especially those moving toward democracy and free trade.
Bush got a warmer reception for the rest of his speech, during which he promised to help other Latin-American countries propel their economies to democracy and foster trade where he says the Clinton administration has let it flounder.
Clinton and Gore ``dropped the ball'' on new trade deals with some Latin American nations, Bush said. And he pledged to succeed where Clinton failed in persuading Congress to pass so-called ``fast track'' trade legislation that could be passed or rejected without amendment.
``Without it, as we have seen, America is slow to move, and other nations are unwilling to negotiate with us seriously,'' Bush said. ``The Clinton-Gore administration has no strategy.''
In remarks aimed at Latin American countries south of this heavily Hispanic city, Bush sought to prove he can lead countries toward Democracy.
``As long as you are on the road toward liberty, you will not be alone,'' he said. ``As long as you are moving toward freedom, you will have a steady friend in the United States of America.''
Leaders like Fox and a new American president, Bush said, could shape a new era in U.S.-Latin American relations.
``It is a revolution of freedom - of trade, and democracy, and the rule of law,'' Bush said. ``If we are wise and committed, a new generation of leaders can affect its character.'' If elected president, Bush said he would:
-Push for a summit a few weeks after Election Day with Mexican leaders to keep relations between the countries ``moving forward.''
-Ask Congress for $100 million for ``micro-credit'' organizations in Latin America, with help from World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank to provide small, no-collateral loans to the poor who set up businesses.
-Hire more border patrol agents and reform the Immigration and Naturalization Service to crack down on illegal immigration and drug trafficking.
-Establish an ``American Fellows Program'' in which young men and women from those nations would be invited to work in the U.S. government.
-Call on Latin American governments to lift barriers of bureaucracy and over-regulation that prevent the poor from creating legal small businesses.
In his speech, Bush did not mention the controversy over castaway Elian Gonzalez, who went home to Cuba June 28.