By Kevin Liptak
(CNN) -- Rafael Cruz, a pastor who left Cuba as a teenager amid the nation's revolution in the 1950s, told a crowd of evangelical conservatives this weekend that President Barack Obama's policies mirror those of Cuban communist dictator Fidel Castro.
Cruz, whose son Ted serves as a U.S. senator from Texas, linked Obama and Castro through their promises to citizens, describing Castro as a "young charismatic leader who rose up talking about hope and change."
He was speaking at the Family Leader conference in Iowa, which also featured speeches from his son Ted, former Sen. Rick Santorum, and real estate mogul Donald Trump.
During his remarks, Rafael Cruz described seeing "socialism at work" during President Jimmy Carter's administration, arguing that his experience in Cuba gave him the ability to identify socialist policies at work.
"I hear people all the time say, 'This will never happen in America.' It is happening in America," Cruz said. "It is happening in America, and our rights are being eroded more and more and more every day."
During the Cuban revolution, Rafael Cruz actually sided with Castro in fighting the rightist dictator Fulgencio Batista. Ted Cruz, during his run for Senate last year, explained in an interview with the Dallas Morning News that his father "didn't know Castro was a Communist, what they knew was that Batista was a cruel and oppressive dictator."
Rafael Cruz, who left Cuba to study in Texas, later became a critic of Castro's.
During his Iowa speech, he called on pastors like himself to rally support behind conservative policies, saying it was "high time pastors stop hiding behind the pulpit."
And he argued that changes in social policy - like growing approval of same-sex marriage - were linked to a socialist agenda.
"Socialism requires that government becomes your God," he said. "That's why they have to destroy the concept of God. They have to destroy all loyalties except loyalty to the government. That's what's behind homosexual marriage. It's really more about the destruction of the traditional family than about exalting homosexuality."
Later this month, Cruz will join former Sen. Jim DeMint, the president of the conservative Heritage Foundation, on a tour to advocate defunding Obama's health care law.
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