President Obama’s visit to Cuba has garnered strong reaction from Cuban Americans in the U.S.
Senator Ted Cruz has called the trip a mistake, but the reviews are mixed around North Texas.
“A lot of people criticize Obama. I don't criticize Obama,” said Ernesto Velez, owner of the Havana Café.
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Located in Dallas, Velez has been running the restaurant for 3 years. It’s the latest of many opportunities he said he’s found since fleeing Cuba for the U.S. 20 years ago.
“All my life I grew up thinking the United States was the worst enemy of Cuba, and really it's not,” he explained. “It's a great thing for the Cuban people.”
However, back in Cuba, Velez’s family has a different view of the trip. Following decades of isolation from the U.S., Velez said they don’t believe change is possible, at this point.
“They say, ‘Oh, it's another president coming. That's it?” he explained. “There’s no hope.”
But he’s hopeful their view will change with easing restrictions on travel and commerce. Recently, the Obama administration announced that individuals will be able to travel to Cuba under the “people to people” category, an effort to encourage more interaction between people in the U.S. and Cuba. The move comes before another restriction is lifted-air travel. Soon, commercial flights will be restored between the U.S. and Cuba.
“My hope is that someday they can understand what is democracy,” said Velez. “You have to tell them, the Cuban people, we are here to help you.”