Assemblyman Tim Eustace, the former mayor of Maywood, recently returned from a trip to Cuba.
Eustace traveled with nine other legislators from New Jersey including Assemblymen Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen), Paul Moriarity (D-Gloucester), John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester) and Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer) as well as Assemblywomen Holly Schepisi (R-Bergen), Cleopatra Tucker (D-Essex), and Sheila Oliver (D-Essex), and state Sens. Shirley Turner (D-Mercer) and Nia Gill (D-Essex).
The three-day trip took place at the close of January.
President Barack Obama is in favor of lifting Cuba travel embargo.
“Since President Obama is moving towards normalizing relationships with Cuba, several states have expressed curiosity in medical research, exchange of medical students, education, jobs, manufacturing, etc. It was a fact-finding trip to look into several of those things,” said Eustace.
He added that each legislator financed his own trip.
There were 22 people on the trip altogether.
Eustace expressed that he thought it went very well but said it was very quick and that, “We basically got to see what they wanted us to see.”
“We spoke to legislators, educators, scientists and business people,” added Eustace.
The trip has had its critics, however.
Some Cuban-American New Jersey politicians were vocal in their objections to a change in relations toward Cuba.
Among them was New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Menendez’ parents came from Cuba in the 1950s. He expressed some thoughts on the mid-December swap of a U.S. agent released from prison in exchange for the release of three Cuban spies.
According to northjersey.com, Menendez said of this exchange, “It invites dictatorial and rogue regimes across the world to use Americans serving overseas as bargaining chips.”
Menendez said he would not support changes in the embargo on Cuba, which can only be lifted by Congress, unless he saw Cuba guaranteeing free elections, a free press, freedom of religion and private enterprise, according to northjersey.com.
Eustace stated that he was understanding of the variety of opinions on the issue.
“Understandably, there are lots of opinions as to how we should go forward in Cuba, and I respect everyone’s opinions about that,” said Eustace.
Eustace said he was not a Fidel Castro fan.
“There was a history there. Cuba had asked for America’s help before they went to Russia. The more we know about history, the better prepared I think we are for the future,” added the assemblyman.
New Milford Councilman Ulises Cabrera is a Cuban-American with a more favorable view toward the trip.
“I think that their trip to Cuba was in the best interest for New Jersey, and I see nothing wrong with it,” he said.
Cabrera said that his parents came from Cuba in 1966.
“The embargo has done nothing but keep Castro in power,” he said. “Opening up communication will eventually lead to a more open society.”
“This is an opportunity for Americans to learn about history and, hopefully, progress,” added Eustace.
Susan Joy Clark, NorthJersey.com
February 11, 2016