National News

Cubans, Americans call for change

Posted October 14, 2015
Updated October 22, 2015

— The desire for change in Cuba can been seen from two sides – from farmers, investors and Cuban families in the United States and from the government and people in Cuba.

Although much has already changed in Cuba since the U.S. announced the beginning of a new relationship with the country, many say there is still work to be done.

“I was born in the revolution, and I never thought it would be possible to see the American flag fly again at the embassy,” said anthropologist Ernesto Valdez.

The U.S. embassy reopened its doors in August.

When Pope Francis made a visit to Cuba in September, he called for service and religious freedom.

The U.S. is calling for more change, including more Internet access for all Cubans.

In recent months, the Cuban government has set up Wi-Fi hotspots in parts of Havana. This marks the first time Cubans have been able to gain access to the world online. For some, this is an opportunity to reconnect with the friends and family members that left Cuba decades ago.

These new opportunities could change life in Cuba and could include more American tourists on the island.

Ariel Negril is a tour guide with Havana Holdings Company.

“We are already booked through Dec. 31,” Negril said.

Havana Holdings has seen about a 50 percent increase for tourists from last year.

“Every day, we are receiving more and more Americans, and in the future, an avalanche is coming. It could come if restrictions are lifted,” he said.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a Republican presidential hopeful, and many in the Cuban-American community have expressed concerns over political prisoners, human rights and freedom of speech on the island.

“Our current president has made no such effort to stand on the side of freedom,” said Rubio, who is of Cuban descent. “He has been quick to deal with the oppressors but slow to deal with the oppressed, and his excuses are paper thin.”

Even if it is a new day in the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba, there is more work to be done on both ends.

Alfonso Sama of Morrisville agrees. He was born in Havana but left the country to start a new life more than 50 years ago.

“When they change, really, really change, then yeah, but Cuba is not free yet,” Sama said.

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