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PANAMA CITY (CBSMiami) – President Barack Obama and Cuban Leader Raul Castro sat down and spoke at the Summit of the Americas on Saturday in what is being called a historic conversation.
“We are now in a position to move on a path toward the future,” Obama told Castro. “Over time it is possible for us to turn the page and develop a new relationship between our two countries.”
Through a translator, Castro said he agreed with Obama, but that patience is key.
“We might disagree on something today on which we could agree tomorrow,” said Castro.
Twice the leaders rose and shook hands. Both leaders are working to normalize U.S.-Cuba relations.
“I pledge to construct a new era of cooperation between the countries,” said Obama. “That President Raul Castro and I are seated here is a historic moment for the continent.”
This also marked the first time Cuba has taken part in the Summit of the Americas.
The talk in Little Havana surrounded that historic handshake and meeting. Some sounded hopeful about the meeting. “I’m not against it,” said Christiane Grimal, who has family in Cuba.
Jorge Tomkinson said he was strongly against the meeting. “This is a big lie as always, as always,” he said, adding, “The benefits are for the Castro family and I don’t know what Obama wants from that deal.”
Grimal disagreed, saying normalizing relations is a step in the right direction.
“This has been going on for way too long and the only people who have suffered and paid for that are the Cuban people,” said Grimal.
Often, opinions divided along generational lines
Paul Palermo lived in Cuba until he was 11. He said his mother was one of the first Cuban refugees and her opinion about normalizing relations with Cuba is very different than his.
Palermo explained, “My mother believes it’s not going to help the Cuban people. It’s going to help only the American businesses, but I think it’s going to trickle down. It’s got to.”
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said, “Unlike other countries where you can say ‘If you have economic engagement it leads to a greater society,’ in Cuba that will not happen. Everything is state-owned and state-controlled so all that money will not help the Cuban people get free.”
Ros-Lehtinen was not happy to see the president extending his hand to Castro.
“To validate and legitimize that regime by that handshake sickens me and it sickens former political prisoners and people from all walks of life,” she said.
Whether they feel disgust or hope about this meeting between Obama and Castro. People in South Florida say their thoughts are with those still living in Cuba.
“Wherever there’s peace is better than not I think. I hope it works out for the Cuban people,” said Palermo.