Local Cuban Americans react to Castro's departure

By: Stephen McLamb
By: Stephen McLamb

KNOXVILLE (WVLT) Fidel's departure is welcome news to many Cuban Americans.

Volunteer TV's Stephen McLamb sat down with some of them and has more on what this really means.

A university history professor believes this is a time the United States can play a role for the good of Cuba, if it plays it's hand right.

Even some Cuban Americans I spoke with are optimistic.

Knoxville's Taste of Havana restaurant hosts Cuban owners, people who made the trip to Florida.

For Carlos Machando, his father brought him over at the age of eight.

"He never saw eye to eye with Fidel, so there was conflict."

With Fidel Castro on the way out, Machando is now optimistic.

"Everybody is waiting for Cuba to be free. Hopefully, one day it will be and everybody can go back and forth like it used to be before."

But it's been nearly forty years since he left Cuba.

His cook, Jose Jorge, is 67.

He arrived in the US just seven years ago.

With Manchando as his interpreter, he says there is no freedom of speech in Cuba.

"If they catch you talking something bad or saying something bad about Fidel you go in, they will put you in jail."

Except for tourists, Jorge says Cuba rations food to it's people, especially beef.

"Beef for nobody. Only if you are pregnant, six months into it. That's when they give you."

Todd Diacon says, "could be the last round of the Cold War."

But a UT history professor says now that Castro is gone, the United States could open Cuba's door gradually.

Diacon says, "pursues a policy of opening of trade, withdrawing the US embargo, but no pressing property rights."

And that's what the people at A Taste of Havana are hoping for.

"Freedom for everybody to be able to go to visit your family, come back."

Machado believes the door will open in Cuba because Raul is not as tough as his brother Fidel.

Ultimately, Jorge hopes to bring his family to the United States and be able to travel freely between the two countries.

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