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. 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.
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.
My parents left Cuba for a better life, not because they wanted to, but because they knew they would not be able to flourish if they remained. They left their families and the only home they knew, hoping that one day Cuba and its people would be liberated. Instead, they have watched in frustration as the Castro regime has tightened its grip and continued to deny the Cuban people the most basic civil liberties.
As much as I want to believe that this move could be the beginning of a democratic awakening in Cuba, I simply don't see that happening under the current regime. Restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba gives the Castro regime legitimacy and threatens to embolden the regime. This is an alarming thought considering their atrocious human rights record. The people of Cuba deserve better than having the Castro regime recognized as a partner worthy of doing business with while they still have to live under its oppressive rule.
By 34-year old New York Assemblywoman, Nicole Malliotakis (R-Brooklyn/Staten Island):
President Obama's proposal will make it increasingly difficult to make progress in the quest for a free Cuba and fail the Cuban people who have looked to the United States as a source of hope for democracy. Normalizing relations and restoring diplomatic ties with Cuba without obtaining assurances of human rights improvements and economic opportunities for the Cuban people is a bad deal.