Knoxville man from Cuba talks about easing sanctions

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – President Obama’s announcement that the U.S. will ease relations with Cuba is drawing strong responses from all over the country. In Miami, protesters gathered to voice their anger over the decision, saying they don’t trust the Castro government and that dealing with Cuba feels like a betrayal by their adopted country.

Of course, not everyone from Cuba feels that way. WATE 6 On Your Side spoke to one Knoxville man thinks the decision to thaw relations is a step in the right direction.

“I had a very happy life until the government came along,” said Ramon Leon, a retired UT business professor.

He’s talking about the Castro takeover of Cuba when he was just 11 years old.

“We found out the government had taken over my father’s business,” Leon said.

Leon flew by himself to Miami in 1962 to stay with relatives.

“My parents decided to send me to America because they saw no future,” he said.

The rest of his family came over four years later and didn’t see Cuba again.

“I’ve never been back. I just couldn’t handle it,” Ramon said.

Leon lives with a sort of survivor’s guilt.

“I’m constantly counting my blessings,” he said. “I’m always thinking about these kids that used to play with me in Cuba and they have nothing.”

That’s why he approves of President Obama’s plan to ease sanctions.

“Fifty years have shown that doesn’t work,” Leon said.

Leon is hopeful more interaction with the outside world will improve the lives of everyone still in Cuba, including some of his own relatives.

“People are more important than government. As long as the people are going to live better, that’s enough,” he said.

Leon is hoping to finally go back to Cuba for a visit sometime next year, more than 50 years after he left. He wants to be part of making a positive change in his home country.

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