- The Washington Times - Monday, March 21, 2016

Florida’s lieutenant governor joined hundreds of demonstrators in Miami’s Little Havana Sunday morning to protest against President Obama’s trip to Cuba.

More than 200 demonstrators gathered in the core of Little Havana to call on Mr. Obama to end relations with Cuba. Protesters held up signs with pictures of family members still imprisoned in Cuba, while others waved Cuban flags and banners that bashed Mr. Obama for “coddling the Cuban government,” The Miami Herald reported.

“Today is a sad day for me,” Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, the son and grandson of Cuban exiles, told the Herald. “I never thought that I would see a president of the United States of America landing Air Force One in a communist Cuba. I grew up learning firsthand what it was like to flee communism and oppression.”

Mr. Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro are expected to sit down Monday at Havana’s Palace of the Revolution to discuss a path toward normalizing relations. 

Mr. Lopez-Cantera, a Republican running for U.S. Senate, said the visit is nothing but a photo op that the Castro regime set up to legitimize themselves.

“There hasn’t been any reduction of oppression,” he told a local CBS News affiliate. “As as matter of fact, there’s been an increase in oppression, an increase in political arrests and an increase of political beatings against people who are simply seeking to have rights that we take for granted here in America. Freedom of expression, freedom of the press, free elections, the end of human rights violations and the release of political prisoners.”

Coral Gables Commissioner Vince Lago agreed that the Cuban government has “made it clear that they welcome American investment, and they welcome President Obama but there will be no change in the way Cuba conducts business,” he told the Herald.

“It’s an embarrassment,” he added. “The Cuban government has harassed and jailed hundreds of Cuban dissents in preparation for Obama’s visit. It’s been 90 years since an American president went to Cuba. This is not the time or the place for the democracy of the U.S. to bend at the knees of the Cuban government.”

Sylvia Iriondo, president of M.A.R. por Cuba (Mothers and Women for Anti-Repression) in Miami, said she is ashamed of the president.

“When I heard that he was going to walk through the streets of Old Havana with his family, I could not help to think about the countless number of Cuban families that were uprooted, separated and destroyed because of the Castro regime,” she told the Herald. “When I heard that President Obama was going to be photographed watching a baseball game in a stadium in Havana, I could not help but think that for the Cubans in the island, life is not a baseball game, or for that matter, any game.”

Just before Mr. Obama’s arrival, more than 50 demonstrators with the “Las Damas de Blanco” group were arrested in the streets of Havana. The group, which stands for “The Ladies in White,” is made up of wives and relatives of jailed anti-Castro activists who march to Mass each Sunday, as they have for nearly four years. Video showed police pulling and dragging the women as they chanted for freedom, CBS News reported.

“I hope tonight somebody talks to Obama about what happened in Havana today,” Miami protester Angela Bueno de Godinez told CBS News. “That’s impossible. A disaster.”

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