In December of 2014, President Barack Obama ordered the restoration of full diplomatic relations with Cuba; relations that were severed after Communist Fidel Castro and his rebel army overthrew the U.S.-supported government of Fulgencio Batista at the end of 1959.
In the intervening time, the island nation that is 90 miles from the Florida coast, has suffered economic hardships despite at one time being aligned with the Soviet Union.
For the first time in nearly 90 years a sitting U.S. president traveled to Cuba, when Air Force One touched down on March 20 for a three-day visit, which incorporated Obama’s third bilateral meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro, a state dinner and attendance at a baseball game between the Cuban National team and the major league Tampa Bay Rays. Calvin Coolidge was the last U.S. leader to visit. He entered Havana Harbor on a battleship in 1928.
Herald: How did you get chosen to accompany the president?
The congressman said that the New York City area is home to the second largest Cuban American population in the U.S., with southern Florida being the largest.
Herald: What do you say to the Cubans who fled Cuba when Castro came to power and their families here who think Cuba doesn’t deserved a relationship with the U.S. based on its human rights record?
Meeks: “In 55 years nothing has changed and to improve conditions and the government for the Cuban people you better try something different, and for individuals who care for Cuba that has started to change.”