TRENTON – State Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) spoke out on Wednesday after President Barack Obama announced a major shift in American policy towards Cuba after more than 50 years of hostility. The proposed changes will include the restoration of regular diplomatic relations with Cuba, suspended in 1961, and the opening of an American embassy on the communist-ruled island.
“When I came from Cuba as a boy with my mother, our goal was to find the American Dream. We wanted to succeed through our own hard work, think what we wanted to think, speak what we wanted to speak and enjoy the fruits of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We found that and more in America, and I will forever be grateful,” said Prieto, 54, who arrived in America when he was 11 years old on a U.S.-sponsored “freedom flight.” “Tragically, those in Cuba, even after all these years and to this very day, have never tasted such freedoms. That’s why I do not agree with normalizing diplomatic relations with Cuba.
“This is a very emotional and personal issue for me. I lived under the regime that, for all intents and purposes, still exists in Cuba. I know first-hand the regime’s poor record on human rights. I’ve seen with my own eyes the regime’s resistance to democracy. I fear normalizing relations will do nothing more than strengthen the regime and cement its permanency,” Prieto added. “As Americans, we must hold true to our ideals, and until we see progress in Cuba toward democracy and human rights, we cannot help give this regime credibility.”