Cuban Exile Community Divided Over Obama Changes

MIAMI (AP) -

Some Cuban exiles in Miami are outraged, but others are elated that President Barack Obama secretly arranged prisoner exchanges with Cuban leader Raul Castro as part of an effort to normalize relations.

Obama’s moves are “a betrayal not only of the Cuban people but of the American people,” said businesswoman Remedios Diaz-Oliver, a board member of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC that lobbies for a hard line against the Cuban government.

“This is Bay of Pigs Two,” she said, comparing it to the ill-fated U.S.-backed invasion of the island in 1961, when President John F. Kennedy failed to provide promised backup to Cuban exile fighters.

But some younger Cubans were thrilled.

“This is like a new age. It has reinvigorated the talks surrounding U.S.-Cuba relations, and for me that’s the more important thing,” said Daniel Lafuente, the 27-year-old founder of tech hub LAB Miami.

Lafuente grew up hearing tales of suffering from his exiled mother and grandfather, and watched the Arab Spring uprisings with dismay because U.S.-Cuba policies seemed so frozen in the past.

“Now there’s going to be a greater enthusiasm for trying out new means of interacting economically, socially, culturally. It’s a really big step. Cuba is back on the map,” he said.

Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood has been the heart of the Cuban exile community for half a century, the go-to place for protests against Cuban leaders Fidel and Raul Castro and demonstrations in favor of the U.S. embargo on trade and travel with the island.