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letters | AN OPENING TO CUBA?

Time to bury old grudges over Cuba

 Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro cast his ballot at a polling station in Havana Feb. 3 in Cuba’s general election. It was his first extended public appearance since 2010.

CUBADEBATE VIA REUTERS

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro cast his ballot at a polling station in Havana Feb. 3 in Cuba’s general election. It was his first extended public appearance since 2010.

Regarding your Feb. 9 editorial US-Cuba relations, “Cuba’s reforms pave way for new US policy, too”: As a former Coast Guard aviator, my only Cuban experience was flying missions in and out of Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. Then, 14 years ago, as a corporate pilot, I was fortunate to fly senior members of the Catholic Church into Havana. They were attempting to continue the work started by the visit of Pope John Paul II, who had met recently with Fidel Castro. The people and culture made an indelible impression, with their music, optimism, and not-so-secret hope that someday relations with the United States could be different.

Yes, the residual failures of communism were evident, the newest American cars I saw were ’59 Chevys, doctors were working driving cabs, and people were generally lacking the comforts that we enjoy. But everyone has health care. Literacy is at about 98 percent. One feels extremely safe on the streets.

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As I sat in an old hangout of Castro and Hemingway, the El Floridita bar, smoking one of their finest cigars and sipping a Mojito, I had to wonder: How different are we all really? And why can’t we get beyond our 1950s mentality toward a former enemy and start to do what is right to make positive changes for Cuba and America?

Only time will tell if we, as a nation, can rise above old grudges.

Stephen M. Berniche

Winchester, N.H.

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