Cuba Policy Change Draws Praise And Anger

Dec 18, 2014

Changes proposed by President Obama to ease the Cuba trade embargo sparked strong reaction in New Orleans. Views came in favor — and strongly opposed — to resuming diplomatic relations.

Cuban-born Ana Lopez is director of Tulane University’s Cuban and Caribbean Studies Institute. She said she cried tears of joy as the president announced his plan to open an embassy in Cuba and ease trade and travel restrictions after more than 50 years.

“It was one of the most historic days of my life. I didn’t think I would live to see this day,” Lopez said. She has long opposed the embargo she says hurts the Cuban people.

“It is time for us to realize that we’ve been pursuing a policy for 50-plus years that has not worked.”

She says free trade will be embraced by Cubans, who have been told that the scarcity of goods is the fault of the American embargo.

“The moment that you have a Wal-Mart in Havana, it will be, like, okay. It’s over,” she said.

Lopez and her family left Cuba after the revolution. So did the family of New Orleans attorney George Fowler. The two could not disagree more.

“It’s a sad day for Americans,” said Fowler.

He says the prisoner exchange announced yesterday amounts to negotiating with terrorists, and the president can’t act alone on the embargo.

“This Congress is, I don’t think, is going to be prone to support President Obama. The changes are cosmetic at best," he said. "You might be able to buy some Cuban cigars.”  

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise predicts there will be fight over the White House plans.