Thursday, 18 December 2014 18:04

Locals hail warmer relations with Cuba

Written by  Kelsi Loos News-Post Staff
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A Frederick restaurateur whose family fled the Castro regime in the 1980s said he was pleased by the news that the U.S. would reinstate diplomatic ties with Cuba.

"I think it's a great idea," said Maikel Gattorno, co-owner of Sabor de Cuba. "It needs to be opened."

While tourism and trade will still be restricted, it will be easier for people to visit Cuba for educational, developmental or humanitarian purposes and those who do visit will now be allowed to bring back an allotment of the island's famous rum and cigars.

"If I had the proper license, I would love to sell cigars," Gattorno said. "I would love to be able to carry Cuban rum and make my mojitos with Cuban rum."

While some politicians, most notably Cuban-American Sen. Marco Rubio, have criticized the move as appeasing a totalitarian government, Gattorno said it might actually help make the government more open.

"I think they've actually made some small steps," he said, noting that more Cubans have been comfortable speaking out against the government.

Pastor Isaac Gonzalez of the Frederick church Iglesia Renovación Familiar left Cuba in 2006.

As a religious leader, he said, he avoids politics because he has to work with people of all types and tries to remain neutral.

He said in a phone interview that he is simply praying for peace between the U.S. and Cuba.

"There are a lot of people that love here and a lot of people that love there," he said in Spanish.

Jorge Ribas, of the Mid-Atlantic Chamber of Commerce, said he hoped the move would improve trade and security.

"What we're trying to do is make sure that we maintain friendly relations with all countries in the world," he said.

Ribas, whose heritage is Ecuadorean, said he opposes communism, but opening diplomatic ties with Cuba could open a new market for food and construction material exports.

"For us, it means that we can export food," Ribas said. "(Cuba, Japan, Puerto Rico are) islands. They don't have enough land to support their own people."

Ribas added that a warmer relationship was a good long-term security strategy because many countries throughout the hemisphere oppose the U.S. embargo on Cuba.

Softening those sanctions, he said, will make the United States more respected and more secure in the Americas and abroad.

Contact Kelsi Loos at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; follow her on Twitter: @KelsiFNP.

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