Some South Floridians displeased with new Obama, Castro relationship

US Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen disappointed by relationship

MIAMI – It's a move not seen in decades -- a U. S. president shaking hands with a Cuban leader.

Related: Obama, Castro hold historic meeting, vow to turn the page

As historic as the meeting between President Barack Obama and Raul Castro may be, the symbol of a newly restored relationship doesn't sit well with many people in South Florida.

Not surprisingly, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is disappointed by it.

"To validate and legitimize that regime with that handshake sickens me, and sickens former political prisoners and people from all walks of life," Ros-Lehtinen said.

Local 10 caught up with people at Versailles restaurant to hear their opinions about the new dialogue between Castro and Obama, along with the handshake.

"Our president is smiling with Castro and saying that's OK. You think it sends a negative message? I think it does," said Alejandro Ramirez.

"Very sad, thinking we have a president, knowing there's so many people fleeing communism, and you're so friendly with the Cuban president that's a communist?" said Lourdes Milian.

"It's a PR on both sides, but I'm glad Obama did it. He has nothing to lose. So his effort is appreciated by me," said Gilda Santalla.

"If there were no dialogue, how would the world advance?" Javier Duque said in Spanish.

Castro called on the U.S. on Saturday to lift its decades-old embargo, a move Obama is amenable to, but the people Local 10 spoke to didn't feel the same way.

"Why would we end the embargo to this government when this government won't end the embargo against its own people? It doesn't make any sense to me," Ramirez said.

"If the embargo is lifted, it's not going to benefit the people of Cuba, it's going to benefit Castro, which is a dictatorship," said Katia de Los Reyes.

Despite some optimism, the displeasure is obvious. U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz Balart agreed with Ros-Lehtinen, tweeting, "The mtg between #Castro + #Obama is an insult to all Cubans struggling for freedom + those who have lost their lives in fight for #libertad."

"How can the U.S. treat Cuba like other Democratic countries? The president should stand up for American principles and not give a hand to Raul Castro," said Ros-Lehtinen. "Raul Castro hasn't had to change anything and nothing is expected of him, and in return he'll get the riches he desperately need and doesn't deserve."

Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez tweeted in Spanish to say the most shameful parts of the Summit of the Americas are the acts against Cuban government dissidents and the speeches from Castro and Nicolas Maduro.

Still for some, this single symbol of friendship provides some hope.

"It is better to try a little bit of communication, especially for the people in Cuba, than continue not to talk to each other," said Santalla.

Follow Liane Morejon on Twitter @LianeMorejonTV

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