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The news of Fidel Castro’s death sparked crowds and spontaneous celebrations in Miami early this morning that continued throughout the day. Even though Fidel Castro’s passing may have little immediate effect in terms of returning rights and freedom to Cubans on the island, Cuban-Americans in Miami say they’re hopeful. NPR’s Greg Allen reports.
GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Outside La Carreta restaurant in Miami’s Westchester neighborhood, the crowd started gathering around midnight. By the time Margarita Barca got there at 2 a.m., hundreds of people were cheering passing cars, banging pots and pans and waving Cuban and American flags. When she came back today, the party was still going on.
MARGARITA BARCA: A lot of people screaming and being happy. And we’re not happy because a person died. It’s because of what it represents to all of us. So we are celebrating freedom for our parents, our grandparents that were not able to see this moment.
ALLEN: Reaction from elected officials in Florida was more measured, but still filled with optimism that Castro’s death may herald positive changes for Cuba. In a phone call this morning, Florida Governor Rick Scott says he told President-elect Donald Trump Florida will help his administration in any way to support a pro-democracy movement in Cuba. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American whose parents fled the island, said the dictator has died, but the dictatorship has not. Rubio called on the incoming administration to support Cubans in their struggle for freedom and basic human rights. In Miami, former Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart said Castro’s death is a step forward, but he said now is not the time to lift U.S. pressure on the communist regime.
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LINCOLN DIAZ-BALART: Let’s keep in mind the successes, the opportunities, the fact that what is inevitable – inevitable – is freedom for Cuba.
ALLEN: Outside La Carreta restaurant in Miami – many in the crowd said they’re wary of the recent agreement between the U.S. and Cuba to improve relations. A Fidel impersonator dressed in green military fatigues, chomping a cigar drew cheers with selfies as he made his way through the crowd. There were elderly and middle-aged people, also children, many brought by their parents to witness an important page in history. Many from that first generation of Cuban exiles those who came as adults in the early ’60s now, like Castro, have passed on. But Suzanne Suarez says her Cuban-American heritage remains important to her and her children.
SUZANNE SUAREZ: My parents were both born in Havana. I was actually born here, and my kids were born here, so my kids are second generation. But if you ask my kids where they’re from, they say Cuban. We feel it. We – that’s who we are.
ALLEN: Suarez was thinking of her parents today, and she joined in the celebration.
SUAREZ: There’s a saying in Spanish that says no bad thing lasts a hundred years. Well, this one lasted 57. You know, I’m hoping that this will be a breakthrough. I’m hoping that this will be enough, and that things will change.
ALLEN: Suzanne Suarez, one of many in Miami and around the country, waiting now to see what impact Fidel Castro’s passing will have on Cuba and its relations with the U.S. Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.
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