By Michael Hill
It’s a breaking of the ice in a relationship that soured and froze during the Cold War. Today, the presidents of Cuba and the United States shared a stage and a commitment.
“And just as I continue to call on Congress to lift the trade embargo, I discussed with President Castro the steps we urge Cub to take to show that its ready to do business. This includes allowing more joined ventures and allowing foreign companies to hire Cubans directly,” said President Barack Obama.
“We defend human rights. We consider that the , political, economic and cultural rights are indivisible, interdependent and universal,” said President Raul Castro.
President Obama is the first U. S. Commander in Chief in 90 years to visit the communist country 90 miles from Florida as he “engages” Cuba and restores diplomatic and other relations.
Back home, the high-level trip draws harsh criticism.
“As I listen to the press conference, I hear that the issues of human rights and democracy are gingerly being touched when they should be the core of our advocacy on behalf of the Cuban people,” said Sen. Bob Menendez.
Critics bemoan Cuba cracking down and arresting 200 dissidents protesting on Sunday.
“The wave of repression increased so that way Cuba could show President Obama there’s no dissent, which is not true,” said Woodliff Lake Mayor Carlose Rendo.
Rendo’s parents left Cuba when he was 2 years old in the ’60s, a few years after a relative took part in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion to overthrow Fidel Castro.
“The committees for the defense of the revolution… Would constantly, you know, harrass us and bother us telling us that we’re worms,” Rendo said.
While Mayor Rendo says he sees no good coming from the president’s trip, Ulrich Dieguez does because a major American hotel chain just struck a deal with the Cuban government.
“For our business, I think it’s good because a lot of the Americans they want to have American Hotels. The hotels in Cuba is not as good as we’re acustomed to in the states,” Dieguez said.
The president of the New Jersey Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Carlos Medina, has some mixed feelings.
“So, when you’re dealing with a regime that doesn’t have freedom. It’s hard to have organic business relationships. So, I struggle with it. I’m optimistic yet I’m very cautious” he said.
Among those eager for change with Cuba, New Jersey State Police.
“Four dangerous fugitives terrorists are living free and protected on the island,” said Col. Rick Fuentes.
New Jersey State Police took out ads in the Miami Herald seeking the return of fugitives and warning tourists about terrorists and they include convicted New Jersey cop killer Joanne Chesimard.
“When you go away you worry about suntan lotion and flip flops you don’t want to look over your shoulder of possibly being killed,” said State Troopers NCO Association President Peter Stilianessis.
Despite the varying opinions, there’s near unanimous agreement that the president is doing a lot of “giving” but not achieving any “getting” from Cuba in a warming relationship that seems one-sided.