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EL NUEVO DIA
[Puerto Rico]]

It’s premature to speak about normalizing US-Cuban relations

One of the so-called five heroes of Cuba offers his views on Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba
Saturday, March 19, 2016 – 12:00 AM By Benjamín Morales Meléndez / EspecialELNUEVODIA.COM
By Benjamín Morales Meléndez / Especial ELNUEVODIA.COM
gerardo-bird

Gerardo Hernandez Nordelo says he feels no bitterness about the visit of US President Barack Obama to Cuba.
HAVANA, Cuba – Gerardo Hernandez was imprisoned in the US on charges of espionage and returned to his country as a result of an agreement that was part of the negotiations that allowed announcement of the resumption of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States on December 17, 2014.
He is very aware of this visit, because he has firsthand knowledge of US society and closely follows the evolution of relations between Cuba and the United States.
El Nuevo Día spoke with Hernandez in Havana. These were his answers in a short interview during the International Information Technologies Fair.
END: How do you feel about the US president coming to your country?
GHN: The first thing I feel about Obama’s visit is anxiety due to the historic moment we are living and for the privilege of living these times here. Some people say to me: “Don’t you feel a bit bitter because the president of the country that kept you in jail is coming here and is received amicably?” I say: “No, nothing like that; it’s very important for me that these steps are being taken in order to normalize relations between the two countries, although it is no secret for anyone that much remains to be done.
END: What is the impact of this visit of President Barack Obama?
GHN: “There are many things and pending issues to be talking about normalization, but obviously this is an important step and this visit is a historic moment, especially if you consider the number of years since a president in office came to Cuba. Also, if you take into account that he will be received by our president Raul Castro, I think there is also symbolism there, because for many years Cuba has repeatedly been saying that we are willing to talk with anyone and resolve our disputes with anyone, as long as it was on the basis of mutual respect; and that is exactly what is happening now. Conditions were set by the other side: that no Castro could be in power; that elections had to be carried out in such and such way… None of that has happened and yet we sit to talk about the opening of Cuba and about our differences on a basis of respect for sovereignty.
END: Is it time that this visit be reciprocal and that President Castro visits the White House?
GHN: I would like to see that, I think that diplomatically the gesture would be mandatory. People who have lived with a hateful discourse for many years will be opposed and will criticize President Obama for that; but I think Obama’s visit to Cuba makes it increasingly possible that President Raul Castro visits the United States.
END: Do you think that the presence of candidates like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz affects the relations between Cuba and the United States; to what extent?
GHN: Their messages will not have an influence on the majority of the US people. They are playing their political cards because in those campaigns nothing that happens is casual. They are wrongly relying on Florida as a center of power of the extreme right which opposes rapprochement between Cuba and the United States. I say wrongly because all the polls show that a majority in Florida support the normalization of relations with Cuba. They are still betting on that, thinking that Florida´s recalcitrant sector could give them the win, but I do not think it´s the case.
END: Would you like to be able to speak with Obama? What would you say to him?
GHN: I don´t think it would be possible, but it would not displease me. Despite the fact that many of the promises made by President Obama have remained unfulfilled and much more was expected of him, he has obviously played a historic role. With regard to Cuba we must recognize his merit for having taken very courageous and important steps. I would like to meet him.
END: Is it right that Cuba will present a petition on behalf of Puerto Rican Oscar López Rivera?
GHN: Our country, our people, our government have always been supportive in the general sense of the Puerto Rican people and in particular about the release of Oscar López Rivera. If that could be done it would be very good; because Oscar deserves to be free after so many years in jail.
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