Cuban-American Texans react to president’s announcement

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Fifty years of Cold War and cold shoulders has come to an end after President Obama reestablished diplomatic ties with Cuba.

The president delivered the historic announcement Wednesday from the White House. Under an agreement with Cuba, the US will open an embassy in Havana and review that country’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.

As part of the deal, Cuba also released American Alan Gross. He had been in a Cuban prison for five years for trying to help Cuban Jews get better web and phone access. The president says now is the right time for change – but he is also facing some tough critics.

“I believe we can do more to support Cuban people and promote our values through engagement after all these 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked. Its time for new approach,” said Obama.

“There will be no elections no democratic opening, nothing, zero,” said Sen. Marco Rubio. “All they’ve done here today is make it easier for the Castro regime and their system of government to now become permanent forever on the island of Cuba. This president has to be the worst negotiator we’ve ever had.”

Under the agreement, travel restrictions will be eased to Cuba, but tourists will still be banned from visiting the country.

Here in Texas, there are more than 45,000 Cuban-Americans.

Miladys Chaviano lives in Austin. She missed her grandmother’s funeral and could not navigate restrictions for returning to Cuba. Pictures are often her only connection.

“This year I lost three persons in my family and I can’t go,” she said. “My grandma, my cousin and my uncle, and I can’t go.”

Her Cuban passport is filled with receipts showing she has had to pay hundreds each time she goes home.

Charles Hale, Chair of Western Hemisphere Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, says hurdles like these break families apart and hurt business. “None of those ties could really be fully realized when there is so much difficulty moving back and forth.”

Chaviano saw the president’s announcement Wednesday and opportunities could open up for her and her two young children.

“I wanted my daughter to know what is she coming from. You from Cuba. You no from here,” said Chaviano.

As Cold War policies thaw, Milady hopes her daughters can spend time with their family.

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