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Practical World True News Magazine
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Practical World True News Magazine

#Cubalibre,#elcomunismoestamuerto : Orlando's Cubans hope Castro's death brings change

It was after 1 a.m. Saturday when a phone call from Miami woke Cesar Calvet.

His wife's aunt was calling from Miami, where people were celebrating in the streets. Fidel Castro, Cuba's long-ruling dictator, had died at age 90. 

                                                                 
                     

"I said, 'oh my gosh,' " said Calvet, who first came from Cuba to Orlando in 1961. "I took me a moment to assimilate what she was saying."


Calvet, 71, fled the island at 15 as part of Operation Peter Pan, the emigration of thousands of unaccompanied minors from Cuba. He returned briefly at 20 as a U.S. Marine to serve on the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base for about 6 months, but hasn't been back since.

The banker said he wanted to be optimistic about Cuba's future, now being led by Fidel's brother, Raul Castro. 

                                 

"We have two daughters and we'd love to show them Cuba, but not until human rights are restored," he said. "...With him no longer around as the idol, then changes will come about. To what degree? Good question. But I feel that changes will come about."

Castro's death came just days before the first scheduled commercial airline flight from Orlando International Airport to Havana, operated by JetBlue. JetBlue is planning to run the flight as planned, a spokesperson said Saturday.

Charter flights between Orlando and Cuba have been available since June with certain conditions like education, religious activities for family visits.

Dr. Manuel Coto of Orlando escaped to the U.S. when he was in his 20s. He knew what he would remember Castro for.

"For damaging the whole country, destroying the most beautiful country in the world," Coto said Saturday. "He was a criminal. Nobody can deny that."

Former U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, who for years saw his parents try grapple with life after Castro's regime, woke up at about 7 a.m. to a barrage of text messages.

"Really and truly, the first thing that came to my mind was how so much I wished that my parents had outlived Fidel Castro," Martinez said. 



Martinez also came to the U.S. under Operation Peter Pan at 15. He said he had a happy childhood in Cuba, but that life changed dramatically when Castro rose to power.

"I remember vividly life before and life after, and the turmoil and the anxiety that you feel as a child when there's a revolution taking place around you," he said.

His Catholic school closed, and he started hearing about firing squads. He was worried that his father, a veterinarian, would be taken away like other members of the professional class.

His parents eventually joined him in the U.S., he said. When his father first came to the U.S., he sat with the foster family taking care of Martinez and whispered about the situation back in Cuba. 



Martinez said he is "cautiously hopeful" about Cuba's future. But Castro, he said, should be remembered as a violent ruler.

"This is a man who might by some be viewed as a huge revolutionary hero he really should not be viewed differently from any other dictator," he said. "He managed to hold onto power because of his cruelty."
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