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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Monday marks a major step in the effort to normalize relations with the Cuban government, and South Florida is reacting to the historic change.
Following formal restoration of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States since 1961, the Embassy of Cuba will officially reopen in Washington, D.C. on Monday.
“This is a major step in the effort to normalize relations with the Cuban government and people and begin a new chapter with our neighbors in the Americas,” said President Barack Obama.
Monday’s Cuban embassy opening in the nation’s capital will be marked by a flag-raising ceremony. That will be followed shortly thereafter with remarks by Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.
Approximately 500 guests have been invited to this event, including 30 who will be traveling in from Cuba.
Addressing deputies in Havana days ago, Cuba’s President Raul Castro said the path to normal relations between the two countries would be “long and complex.”
These are Castro’s first public comments since officials announced that the two countries’ diplomatic missions would enjoy full embassy status starting July 20th.
“In this way the first phase of the process initiated on 17th of December will have concluded,” said Castro. “A new stage will begin, long and complex, on the road towards normalization of relations, which will require the will to find solutions to the problems that have accumulated over more than five decades.”
In Miami’s Little Havana, patrons at popular Cuban restaurant Versailles had varying opinions on the renewed relations.
Some noted the Castro regime’s past deeds cannot be overlooked, especially when human rights violations continue on the communist island.
“The real Cuban people, the poor, don’t have any benefits,” said Sonia Quinones.
“There is just hunger, diseases, lack of opportunities to speak freely,” said Dr. Orlando Silva.
Others believe the renewed relations will eventually give way for a better life for the people there.
“I’m hopeful and I know it’s going to happen that things are going to get better, absolutely. This is the greatest country in the world and our influence will help that country,” said Henry Garcia.
“I think because when you open for relationships you start to open for new ideas also. So new ideas will start to go into Cuba and I think it’s going to be more pressure for human rights,” said Antonio Oliveira.
Florida senator and presidential candidate Marco Rubio speaking on CNN once again voiced his opposition for the renewed relations between the two nations.
“This recognition somehow sends a message to dissidents around others around the world that the United States accepts the Cuban form of government today as a legitimate form of government. I do not,” said Rubio. “I believe the people of Cuba deserve what everyone else in the Western hemisphere has democracy.”