With flags of the United States and Cuba, and cries of “freedom, freedom!” and “Obama traitor!” anti-Castro protesters gathered Saturday at a park in Miami to express their rejection of the measures of normalization of bilateral relations announced by the president.
The Cuban-American exiles and opponents island leaders vowed to continue l uchando to prevent the trade embargo is suspended and that the ties between the two nations to narrow. Some emphasized the unity of the exile community and denied the existence of a generational divide, although most of the more than 200 demonstrators were elderly. There were also some handfuls of young people.
At least two prominent opposition leaders on the island were present: Berta Soler, the opposition group Ladies in White, and Jose Luis Garcia Perez “Antunez” who spent 17 years in prison.
“We are very disappointed that President Obama thinks this way relations will benefit the people of Cuba. He was wrong … it is for the repressive machinery of Castro against the people of Cuba will increase,” said Soler from a podium. “Our freedom depends on the Cubans. We must join together to reach freedom. Down with Castro” he said, and was strongly applauded and applauded.
The protest was held on a sunny day at the José Martí Park neighborhood of Little Havana, an enclave of Cuban exiles. It was organized by the Cuban Democratic Directorate and the Assembly of the Resistance with over 40 organizations from exile and opposition within the island.
“What has President Obama enters the definition (of infamy) and exceeded,” said Republican former Congressman Lincoln Diaz Balart. “The worst infamy is the excuse you use. He says he does to help the people of Cuba … (but measures) will continue filling the pockets of Castro”.
Besides condemning these initiatives Obama, protesters expressed their support for democracy and resistance activities on the island and its rejection of the release of three Cuban agents who were serving sentences in the United States, which were exchanged by the US contractor Alan Gross and the Cuban spy working for Washington and was imprisoned in Cuba.
Many of those present raised banners reading “We are all resistance”, “Obama’s message to Castro. Stop taking American hostages working Americans and get three spies and an embassy” and “Injustice demands justice” among others.
The protest took place three days after Obama ads and although it was organized and convened in advance, was not first.
Immediately after the president unveiled measures tend to normalize diplomatic and trade relations with the island, many Cuban exiles came to express their displeasure spontaneously.
“We came to show the world and President Obama that the rights of the Cuban people cannot be sold,” he told the AP María Eugenia Cosculluela, 69 years before the start of the event. “The president has invalidated an absurd order without asking anything in return,” he said referring to human rights.
From the podium, Garcia Perez “Antunez” said he felt sad and urged all Cubans, those in Miami and those on the island, to join together to achieve democracy in their country.
“It’s a betrayal, disloyalty, cowardice. Barack Obama has bowed to the murderers,” said García Pérez, noting that “now more than ever” is obliged to return to the island.
“Barack Obama has he sent a message to the siblings of the resistance who are alone … has committed such a high treason is unforgivable,” he said, noting that now “the oppressors feel protected by Barack Obama.”
Although to a lesser extent, also publicly expressed some Cuban Americans who support openness with the island.
Cuban Americans are divided almost evenly around the support for the US embargo and Obama’s efforts to normalize relations between the two countries, according to a survey published by the newspapers The Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald and Tampa Bay Times.
The poll, conducted by consulting Bendixen & Amandi International 400 Cuban-Americans, also shows that they are also divided over whether Obama should have exchanged prisoners with the socialist government of Raul Castro. However, the majority of respondents disapprove of Obama’s foreign policy and its strategy towards Cuba, according to the study.
Of the nearly 2 million Cubans living in the United States, most reside in South Florida and maintains ties with the island.
Although there have been mass demonstrations of the Cuban community in Miami, in recent years have been small and sporadic.
Adolfo Jimenez, 83, arrived early to the park to loudly condemn the actions of Obama.
“That is not freedom, is to enslave more communism,” said the old man, who lives in the United States since 1966.
Relations with Cuba reflect changes in Florida
For decades, politics in Florida was a simple matter: any position other than the greater intransigence against Fidel Castro was the surest way to lose an election.
The unexpected decision by President Barack Obama to restore diplomatic relations with the communist island is a sure indication that this has changed. Some suggest that it is a ploy to divide the Cuban-American community strongly supported the Republican Party.
“They want to attract Cuban Americans to what they consider a Hispanic bloc supporting the Democrats,” said former Sen. George LeMieux. “If there is an end to tensions with Cuba, if that is your goal, it seems that they think will be the end of one of the reasons why Cuban-Americans have been aligned with the Republican Party.”
This community is a much smaller percentage of the Hispanic population in Florida 15 years ago. Additionally, although the measures of Obama toward Cuba has angered the older Cubans, especially those of the first and second generations of exile, is not as likely than younger people to decide their vote solely on the basis of this factor.
Adding up all the factors, it has become politically safe in Florida changing policy toward Cuba, said Democratic pollster David Beattie.
“No end to understand the meaning of a measure which had no sympathy,” Beattie said. “Somehow, politicians begin to align with the state as a whole”.