UNION CITY - New Jersey’s senior senator is slamming President Barack Obama’s plans to visit Cuba.
The president and first lady are scheduled to visit Cuba March 21-22.
Sen. Bob Menendez called the trip “totally unacceptable.” He held a news conference in Union City Thursday alongside law enforcement officers and political prisoners speaking out on relations with the communist country.
“Since Castro seized power and instituted his dictatorship, American presidents…did not rush to the island to shake hands with an oppressive dictator,” Sen. Menendez said.
The senator held the conference in Union City due to the city’s large Cuban population. Many of them fled to the United States to escape Castro’s regime and are not happy with the renewed relationship.
New Jersey’s law enforcement officers are also unhappy with the president’s announcement. New Jersey State Police want Cuba to return Joanne Chesimard, aka Assatta Shakur, who was convicted of killing New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster. Chesimard has taken refuge in Cuba since the 70s.
Also living in Cuba is William Morales, a terrorist bombmaker linked to the murder of a New Jersey man named Frank Connor in 1975. His son, Joe Connor, has criticized Cuba for harboring Morales.
However, not all of New Jersey’s lawmakers think renewed relations with Cuba are necessarily a bad thing.
Assemblyman Tim Eustace visited Cuba and says connection will promote trade, exchanging ideas and healing.
“This has been going on for 60 years,” he says. “We're neighbors, at some point we should move on. Whatever we were trying to do didn't work.”
President Obama will be the first American president to visit Cuba since the 1920s.