Here in New Orleans, locals are split on how they feel about improved relations between the United States and Cuba. One thing is for sure, if the trade embargo between the two countries is ever lifted, the potential impact on New Orleans would be huge.
Gary LaGrange can hardly contain his excitement. As head of the Port of New Orleans he predicts the end of the embargo on trading with Cuba in the very near future, after President Obama's remarks Wednesday. "We've always thought that we could get our foot back in the door, keep our foot in the door and pick up some new business and additional business that we obviously haven't seen in many, many years," LaGrange said.
Prior to 1958, the port was the leading trading partner with Cuba and LaGrange thinks if that relationship is restored, it could bring millions of dollars to the state.
Musician Bill Summers, whose visited the island countless times, hopes a lifted embargo would also bring much needed resources to Cuban citizens. Summers explains, "They don't throw anything away. They're used to the struggle of making life work."
Summers witnessed the extreme poverty in Cuba firsthand. "The people that I stayed with, I remember I stayed with them one time, their water had been off for two months, they hadn't had running water for two months," Summers said.
Although he has some concerns about the U.S. re-establishing diplomatic relations with the country, overall, Summers thinks it's a good move by President Obama. "I think it's time and I think that he's making the right move by doing what he can to open it up," Summers commented.
Cuban American George Fowler on the other hand, disagrees wholeheartedly saying, "This is all about Castro, and I mean Fidel Castro and Raul Castro, cutting a deal with President Obama and they got their way as usual."
Fowler thinks the agreement will not only line Raul Castro's pockets thanks to the goods Americans will able to purchase there and bring back home, but it will also, put Americans at risk. "All the terrorists have to do now is arrest or kidnap an American anywhere in the world, and then they know that the U.S. government, at least under President Obama, will cut a deal," Fowler said.
Although the trade embargo is still in place, about eight years ago, Congress approved some trading rights with Cuba. Gary LaGrange says in that time, the U.S. has sent building supplies, communications equipment and humanitarian aid.