Following President Donald Trump's appearance in Little Havana on Friday to announce changes to the U.S. policy toward Cuba, “resistance” leaders and exiles who fled the communist country praised the move, gathering in solidarity to thank Trump.
There was a celebratory feeling inside the Miami Hispanic Cultural Arts Center, four blocks from where Trump made his announcement, as the leaders welcomed what they called a new era in U.S.-Cuban relations.
Trump called for more restrictions on U.S. travel to Cuba and a ban on business dealings with its military, which controls a vast array of business holdings in the country.
Antonio Rodiles, a Cuban dissident who arrived from the island on Tuesday, said under former President Barack Obama, the U.S. treated the communist regime passively, as if it were a “legitimate” government.
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“This new policy marks a big change despite what some have said,” Rodiles said.
Sylvia Iriondo, a Cuban exile and the president of Mothers and Women Against Repression, said Trump's policy would take away resources used by the Cuban regime “to beat, to repress, to curtail, to censor and to incarcerate people who dare to speak out.”
A critic of Obama's policy toward Cuba, she said Trump showed an urgency to restore Cuba as a democratic country.
“President Trump today reached out his hand to Cuba,” she said, adding that he legitimized the fight for freedom.
Miriam de la Peña, whose son was killed in international airspace by the Cuban Air Force while attempting to rescue Cuban rafters, said she was honored Trump spoke of the 1996 incident and vowed to bring those responsible to justice.
“There will be no impunity,” she said of the death of Mario M. de la Peña, who was a member of the Miami-based Brothers to the Rescue nonprofit group, which coordinated rescues spotting Cuban rafters over international waters with the U.S. Coast Guard.
She said Friday was a “very grandiose day for freedom” — and on the flip side, “not a very good day for dictators and tyrants.”