Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist called this week for the United States to abandon its decades-old trade embargo with Cuba.

"The embargo has done nothing in more than 50 years to change the regime in Cuba," Crist said in a statement to CNN. "If we want to bring democracy to Cuba, we need to encourage American values and investment there."


Crist, a former Republican, is now running as a Democrat to retake his seat from GOP Gov. Rick Scott. Eliminating the 52-year-old embargo, he said, would be a great economic stimulus for Florida, which sits roughly 100 miles from the communist island nation.

"As a Floridian, I'd like to see that happen because a lot of construction would be required on the island, and South Florida could be the launching pad for all of that and really create a lot of jobs," Crist said Friday on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher" program, where he initially called to break the embargo.

"It is obvious we need to move forward and get the embargo taken away," he added.

The issue of Cuba's embargo has long-divided policymakers in Washington. Many Republicans, siding with popular Cuban-American sentiment, tend to back the tough restrictions, arguing that any effort to ease sanctions would only benefit the abusive Castro regime. 

Democrats tend to disagree. They've called to scale back the restrictions, arguing, like Crist, that the sanctions have failed to pressure the regime to improve its track record, particularly when it comes to human rights. 

In 2011, President Obama eased some travel restrictions to Cuba. More recently, the administration has signaled that no further steps would be taken until Cuba makes progress on its human-rights record.