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Protesters – ‘It’s not the time’ for more Cuba ties

Protesters: ‘It’s not the time’ for more Cuba ties

MIAMI (AP) — Cuban opposition leaders from the island joined Cuban
American politicians and activists on Saturday, pledging to oppose
Barack Obama’s plan to normalize relations with the communist
nation and disputing the notion that their community is split by a
generational divide.

“The opposition will continue fighting, with or without Barack Obama,”
Cuban activist Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, known by his nickname “,”
said to cheers.

The gathering at a Little Havana park drew more than 200 people, largely
older Cuban exiles who chanted “Obama, traitor!” and waved U.S. and
Cuban flags. Some expressed disappointment that the protest was not
larger; the demonstrators filled about half the park.

“The mentality is, ‘Hey, we’re going to be able to buy Cuban cigars and
rum.’ Well, it’s not a happy thing for us,” said Armando Merino, 68, who
came to the U.S. at age 14. “I’m here because for the Cuban people, my
family in Cuba, they are not able to protest.”

The protest featured two high-profile Cuban dissidents: Garcia Perez,
who spent 17 years in jail for his activities and has gone on hunger
strikes to protest the treatment of political prisoners, and Berta
Soler, spokeswoman for the island-based Ladies in White, a group of
Cuban mothers and wives of dissidents in the 2003 government
crackdown there.

Soler said a normalized relationship between Cuba and the U.S. would
“perfect the repressive mechanism of the Cuban government.”

“Cuba needs , and that depends on the Cubans,” she said.

The Cuban-American speakers included former Florida Congressman Lincoln
Diaz-Balart and state Sen. Anitere Florida. Both argued that Obama’s
gestures would do nothing to improve the prospects of a democratic Cuba.

“The worst infamy is the pretext he used: He says it’s to help the Cuban
people,” Diaz Balart said to chuckles from the audience.

Flores, 38, one of the youngest Cuban American politicians in a state or
federal office, rejected what some recent polls have shown: that while
many older Cubans stand firm in their opposition to ending the ,
younger generations are increasingly in favor of loosening sanctions.

“Our generation feels as strongly and in some cases even more strongly
than our parents,” she said.

After Obama’s announcement this week, a poll conducted for the Miami
Herald and Tampa Bay Times showed that Cuban-Americans were almost
evenly split on whether to support his plan, with 48 percent saying they
disagreed with the president and 44 percent agreeing.

The poll showed large divides between younger and older Cuban-Americans
and whether they were born on the island or in the United States. Those
born in the U.S. strongly supported Obama’s plan while those born in
Cuba strongly opposed it. Cuban-Americans under 65 also supported the
plan while those over 65 were strongly against it.

Rey Anthony Lastre, 18, said he believed more young people weren’t at
the protest because they “don’t have the same way of expressing their

Freddy Suastegui, 31, of Miami, listened to the speeches with his
family. He said the latest decisions disregard the work being done to
promote change in Cuba.

“What diplomacy is going to happen if the Castros aren’t promising
anything and we’re going to go ahead and infuse them with more cash?” he
said. “That just makes the regime stronger and the people weaker.”

View gallery
A protester wears a hat with the colors of the Cuban flag at a protest
in the Little Havana neighbor …
Miami is no stranger to protests from the Cuban community. Of the
estimated 2 million Cubans living in the United States, the majority
resides in South Florida and many remain closely attuned to developments
on the island.

Thousands took to the streets after federal agents seized Elian Gonzalez
in a prolonged international custody dispute and returned him to Cuba in
2000. Hundreds paraded Little Havana when ceded power to
his brother Raul in 2006.

But protests and parades have become smaller and more sporadic.

“I think there are a lot of people sitting on the sidelines, tired,”
said Andy Gomez, a Cuba expert and retired of Miami professor.


Associated Press writer Kristen Wyatt contributed to this report.

Source: Protesters: ‘It’s not the time’ for more Cuba ties – Yahoo News;_ylt=AwrBJR82uJZU8kkAwCnQtDMD

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