Bay Area divided over Castor’s Cuba trip

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La Gaceta, Ybor City’s trilingual newspaper, published Friday a full-page ad congratulating Congresswoman Kathy Castor on her “historic trip to Cuba” with the signatures of about 300 people — drawing attention to the divided feelings of Bay Area residents on national Cuba policy.

The ad was written and donated by Patrick Manteiga, publisher of La Gaceta and descendent of a Cuban-American family. He did so in the hope of demonstrating what he sees as public support for more normalized relationships with Cuba including the removal of the communist nation from the list of state sponsors of terrorism list and the end of trade and travel embargos.

Signers onto the ad include a number of prominent Bay Area Democrats including Clerk of Court Pat Frank, State Sen. Arthenia Joyner, State Rep. Betty Reed,  and County Commissioner Kevin Beckner.  The only elected Republican reported to have signed the ad is County Commissioner Mark Sharpe.

Yet while in Manteiga’s words only “a very small minority responded in a very harsh manner to Castor’s trip and her subsequent statements” this perception does not reflect the feelings of many Cuban Americans — particularly those whose families left following the Castro takeover, and others, who see such trips as an affront considering Cuba’s track record of human rights abuses and its relationships with other dictatorial regimes.

There have been a number of high-profile trips to Cuba in recent months, including the anniversary vacation of Jay-Z and Beyonce, who went under the auspices of a person-to-person exchange as sanctioned by the US government but whose trip appeared to be nothing more than tourism — which remains strictly prohibited.

In a statement to 10 News Rep. Ros-Lehtinen said; “While in Cuba, wouldn’t it be positive if members of Congress had a press conference calling for the Castro regime to lift restrictions on freedom of speech, of the press, to assemble and calling for the release of all political prisoners… And they should say it to the faces of all the regime officials with whom they meet. That would be their last vacation to Cuba. There is a reason why certain members of Congress like Chris Smith are continually denied entry to Cuba. They challenge the regime. Sadly, not all have this courage.”