MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Some Cuban-American politicians are criticizing a historic change in relations with the island nation.
On Wednesday, the senior U.S. diplomat in Havana handed a letter from President Barack Obama addressed to Raul Castro confirming the decision to restore diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S.
Last December the president announced that the US would move to restore ties with the communist country after more than half a century.
The restoration relations isn’t sitting well with presidential contender Marco Rubio.
“It remains unclear what, if anything, has been achieved since the President’s December 17th announcement in terms of securing the return of U.S. fugitives being harbored in Cuba, settling outstanding legal claims to U.S. citizens for properties confiscated by the regime, and in obtaining the unequivocal right of our diplomats to travel freely throughout Cuba and meet with any dissidents, and most importantly, securing greater political freedoms for the Cuban people,” Rubio said a statement. “I intend to oppose the confirmation of an Ambassador to Cuba until these issues are addressed. It is time for our unilateral concessions to this odious regime to end.”
Fellow Republican, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, questioned who Cuba’s embassy in Washington DC would really represent.
“If a Cuban embassy opens in Washington, it will not represent the Cuban people. It will represent the Cuban intelligence services that perpetuate human rights abuses against the Cuban people. It will serve the interests of the military generals that illegally smuggle weapons to our adversaries. And, most directly, it will serve the dictators that will continue to impoverish and oppress the Cuban people.
“There was little doubt that the Obama administration would pursue its goal of opening an embassy in Cuba no matter the sad reality on the ground. Since Obama’s December 17th announcement, the State Department has failed to forcibly condemn the increase of repression on the island now that the Castro regime feels emboldened to continue its attacks against the Cuban people,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in a statement.
She concluded with opening a U.S. embassy in Cuba “will do nothing to help the Cuban people and is just another trivial attempt for President Obama to go legacy shopping.”
Florida’s other U.S. Senator, Bill Nelson, disagreed.
“I still distrust Castro, but we have to get that regime to open up, stop human rights abuses, and give the Cuban people their basic freedoms. I think reopening the embassies is a necessary step in the long process toward achieving that goal.”
The announcement of restoration of diplomatic relations was delayed several weeks because the US wanted to make sure its Ambassador to Cuba would be allowed to travel freely to meet with Cubans of all walks of life, including dissidents.
Andy Gomez, a political analyst, told CBS4’s Marybel Rodriguez he believes Cuba will benefit.
“It’s a good thing for Cuba because it’s not only opening relations with the US, but also opening up relationships with the entire world,” Gomez said.
He also believes the US will benefit–but not overnight.
“From the US point of view absolutely it is in a positive step but what happens next we’re going to have to wait and see–it will be a long process. It will not be over July 20. It just begins,” Gomez said.
At Versailles Restaurant in Little Havana, Cuban-Americans had mixed reactions along generational lines; for the most part, it appeared the older generation were against it while the younger generation approved of the change.
Manuel Abad, who came from Cuba four years ago, says he knows firsthand what the Cuban people are going through and he believes with the reopening of the embassy, the excuses over.
“We are definitely moving in the right direction it’s just hard to get past the fact that there are still human rights violations and it doesn’t seem that there’s an even give and take,” said Jessica Perez.
“It’s a wise decision if you’re a business, political social. Cuba’s not what it used to be 50 years ago,” said Jose Mostelier.
But not everyone was as supportive.
“I don’t forget and I don’t forgive. Some of my best friends are dead from this individual and there’s no coming back from it,” said Leon Rozio.
“I think he’s giving too much away. We didn’t get anything out of it. And I don’t agree with it,” said Tony Vegas.
“I think it’s a waste of money. The Castros will continue to manipulate the situation, get more money for them, and the Cuban people will starve,” said Emilio Rangel.
Jim Cason, the Mayor of Coral Gables who was head of the US interests section in Havana several years, feels the American flag flying over teh embassy will not change the relationship between Cuba and the US.
“I don’t think this will make a difference. The only thing that will make a difference is if Cuba allows their own people to participate in the future of Cuba,” Cason said.
“That betrayed the Cuban people, that helps the Castro brothers and what ever they want to do, it’s good for them,” said Miguel Saavedra.
“The question is not whether they open an embassy, its how they use that embassy and how they use the government in Cuba to represent the Cuban people,” said Ramon Saul Sanchez with the Democracy Movement. “The Cuban government is willing to become friends with its sworn enemy, but is not willing to listen to its people that are demanding their rights be respected, for their families to be reunited, for their homeland to become the land of all the Cubans.”
While the opening of embassies marks a major milestone in the thaw between the U.S. and Cuba, significant issues remain as the countries look to normalize relations. Among them: talks on human rights; demands for compensation for confiscated American properties in Havana and possible cooperation on law enforcement on U.S. fugitives sheltered in Havana.