MIAMI – Gov. Jeb Bush (search) criticized his brother's administration for returning 12 suspected boat hijackers to Cuba to face prison.
Although the governor said he has not spoken directly to President Bush, he told The Miami Herald he has asked several high-level officials in the administration to review what happened and why.
"Despite the good intentions of the administration to negotiate the safety of these folks, that is an oppressive regime, and given the environment in Cuba, it's just not right" to have sent the Cubans back, Gov. Bush said Thursday in an interview aboard his plane from Tampa to Miami.
"There's an expectation that I'm going to be in lock step with the administration, and that tends to happen," the governor added. "But from time to time I have to disagree, and this is one of them."
The governor said neither he nor his brother knew about the U.S. government's decision to send the 12 back to Cuba (search) until it was too late.
"Early on, I was under the impression they would be sent to a third country," the governor said.
The governor's remarks come as the president and the Republican Party face rising anger among Cuban-American exile leaders, who said last week's repatriation of the boaters is the latest offense by a GOP president who has failed to fulfill campaign promises to toughen policies targeting Fidel Castro (search)'s government.
The governor hinted at a major announcement of some kind by his brother's administration in the coming months related to Cuba policy.
"I think this can be rectified," he said.
In negotiations with Cuba last week, the U.S. government agreed to return the would-be migrants if their lives would be spared. The Cubans, suspected of hijacking a boat and three of 15 passengers, could each be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.
The governor was careful during Thursday's interview to defend his brother's overall record on Cuba policy. He blamed the lack of action on the national security team's focus on terrorism and war.
"One incident is not what will be remembered about the record of my brother's administration," the governor said.