San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said Wednesday he is cautiously optimistic after President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced that the nations will begin working to end 53 years of hostility.
Gascon, who grew up in Cuba, released a statement to The San Francisco Examiner saying that the breakthrough in U.S. and Cuba relations brings about “mixed feelings” for The City’s top prosecutor.
“On the one hand, I am pleased to see the president engaging in meaningful dialogue with Cuba. Our policy over the last few decades has clearly not worked and has kept the Castro regime in power,” reads Gascon’s statement. “On the other hand, I am conflicted because a free media and a more open democratic process do not appear to be part of the equation as of yet.”
Gascon continued that he is hopeful that such concepts will eventually infiltrate Cuba.
“We will have to wait and see what will transpire from all of this. Without an open democratic process, and a free media, the Cuban people will not get the freedom that they rightfully deserve,” Gascon said.
Other San Francisco residents with close ties to Cuba expressed relief at Wednesday’s historic announcement that they said is long overdue.
“This is a great day. It’s a real step forward,” said Bill Hackwell, a national organizer with San Francisco-based International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5. The group had been fighting for the release of five Cuban intelligence agents who until Wednesday had been jailed in the U.S. since 1998.
“It’s something that’s time has come; it was overdue,” Hackwell added.