Cuban Americans share mixed reactions about President Obama’s trip to Havana

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UNION CITY, N.J. — As President Barack Obama continued his historic trip to Cuba, there have been strong reactions in Cuban communities in Northern New Jersey.

"It's amazing. I'm so excited," Vania Quiala, 38, said Monday as she finished lunch at a Cuban restaurant in Union City. She watched President Obama and President Raul Castro speak in a joint press conference.

Quiala, who came to the United States in 2003 when she won a visa lottery, said she hopes this is the beginning of an improved relationship between the countries.

The leaders stood side by side and spoke about human rights, the trade embargo and democracy.

"The blockade stands as the most important obstacle to our economic development and the well-being of the Cuban people," President Raul Castro said.

While Mr. Obama called on Congress to lift the trade embargo to Cuba, he said, "After more than five very difficult decades the relationship between our governments will not be transformed overnight. We continue as President Castro indicated to have some very serious differences including on democracy and human rights."

First-generation Cuban-American Daniel Perez said he would not watch the leaders speak Monday.

"I have seen the struggles first-hand, family disappeared in the night. Really hard situations that have not been address by the U.S.," Perez said.

New Jersey resident Tony Calcagno came to the United States from Cuba when he was 12-years-old. He said he also does not agree with Mr. Obama's trip to Cuba.

"No one should be speaking to a totalitarian regime that has repressed so many people over 60 years with nothing in return," he said.

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