Mixed opinions on having flights to Cuba from New Orleans
09:43 PM CDT on Friday, October 23, 2009
Susan Edwards / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS – Sal Longoria was only four-years-old when he, his parents
and two sisters left Cuba for America. They settled in New Orleans, but
Longoria's never forgotten his roots, or his relatives that stayed behind.
"I've actually been back to the island twice to visit family, and I'd
like to go back, soon," he said.
It may get easier for Longoria and other Cuban Americans to do that.
Earlier this year the Obama administration started allowing unlimited
travel to Cuba for Cuban Americans to visit relatives. Now, as the Nagin
administration returns from Cuba, one focus for them: making New Orleans
one of a handful of cities offering chartered flights direct to Cuba.
"Miami has five charter flights a day, and they are full," said New
Orleans City Council member Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.
City leaders say as relations improve between Cuba and the United
States, such a move would help position the city for trade opportunities.
"In the past we've let Houston and other areas get ahead of us. This is
an opportunity to see if we can position ourselves to pick up the flight
here," said Morrell.
"If there's going to be an economic impetus and benefit from charter
flights and trade, why give it to Louisiana or New York, why not do it
from New Orleans," said Longoria.
But some Cuban Americans see any affiliation with Cuba as potentially
disastrous and dangerous.
"They are going to make a big mistake," said Jose Nieto, a
Cuban-American who has been in the United States since 1972.
Nieto insists a relationship with Cuba will doom the United States in
the long run.
"We are talking about having a relationship with a country that supports
terrorists. They don't care about human rights," he said. "Everything
that Cuba can do against us they will do."
Longoria thinks stronger ties to Cuba could only benefit both countries.
"Anything that makes it easier for Cubans here to visit relatives there
not only strengthens the human family but is a step toward what we all
want for Cuba, which is a free Cuba," he said.
The request to offer such flights was made in August.
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wwltv.com (23 October 2009)