Is it time for the U.S. to end the embargo with Cuba?
President Barack Obama made history today when he became the first U.S. president to visit the island nation of Cuba since Calvin Coolidge in 1928.
It's seen as an important step toward normalizing relations between the two countries. Many Cuban Americans, like Felix Sharpe-Caballero, are following the developing relationship between the two countries very closely.
Sharpe-Caballero was born in Cuba and moved to Detroit when he was three years old after his father, who worked at the Guantanamo Naval Base, won political asylum and moved his family to the U.S.
Sharpe-Caballero has stayed in touch with many of his family members who still live in Cuba and makes regular visits and is still very much connected to the country of his birth. He joined Stateside to talk about how we got to this point, the latest developments and what's next between the U.S. and Cuba.
I believe that with time, possibly in two to three years, depending on who is elected president, the embargo will come to an end. And if it doesn't, then shame on the United States of America.
"The people of Cuba have made a sacrifice for 60 years to remain diligent and committed to the country's overall purpose of establishing a sovereign nation," said Sharpe-Caballero, who has worked in Detroit and in the Michigan state government throughout his professional life. "Quite frankly, they've grown tired of waiting. They've gone through a great deal of stress and challenges, including a 10-year famine from 1990 until 2000, and many other things. And so they are finally recognizing that this is an opportunity for them to again to be validated as a part of the world human dynamic."
The famine he spoke of refers to the period after the fall of the Soviet Union. Cuba lost its financial support, which led to a decade-long famine. That, despite the fact that Cuba lies 100 miles off the coast of the United States. Sharpe-Caballero said the U.S., because of the embargo, "did not even move to drop a bag of rice." He described that lack of humanitarian support "un-American."
There are politicians and some Cuban-Americans who still oppose the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba, but Sharpe-Caballero says those people are a small minority.
"The great majority of Cuban-Americans, much like the great majority of Americans, 80% or more, are supportive of normalizing relations," said Sharpe-Caballero. "The small minority of Cuban Americans, who have for a long time served as a voice of the Cuban population here in the United States, reside in Miami, Florida."
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Despite the steps that are being taken diplomatically with President Obama's visit, the current political climate in the United States will likely prevent the embargo from being lifted in the near future. However, Sharpe-Caballero feels the blockade, as many call it, has failed to accomplish anything, and he is confident its days are numbered.
"There are very strong forces who are supportive of the ending of this embargo," said Sharpe-Caballero. "I believe that with time, possibly in two to three years, depending on who is elected president, the embargo will come to an end. And if it doesn't, then shame on the United States of America, because the rest of the world will move forward."
Listen to the full interview below to hear more about the history of Cuba and the preparations took place ahead of President Obama's visit to the island.