Cuban native in Nashville among journalists covering historic Obama trip

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama,_194078

President Barack Obama, center, first lady Michelle Obama greet children and families of Embassy personnel during an event at Melia Habana Hotel, in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, March 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

NASHVILLE (WKRN) – When President Barack Obama landed in Cuba on Sunday, he made history by being the first sitting U.S. President to visit the country in 88 years.

Among the dozens of journalists to record the event was Sheyla Paz, a Cuban-born journalist who now lives in Nashville and owns a TV production company, Paz Communications Inc.Related:Obama in Cuba: Historic Castro summit a key test for detente

“There are no more words to say how I feel,” She said via web chat from Cuba. “I had to step out of the filing room because I started getting very emotional editing my pieces.”

The White House invited Paz to be a part of the press corps that will be with the president during his two-day visit.

During the trip, she will cover the joint press conference President Obama will hold with Cuban President Raul Castro.

Castro’s older brother Fidel was in power for decades, during which relations with the United States soured. Obama will not meet with him.

For years, the economic sanctions Cuba has faced from the U.S. left the economy and Cuban people struggling, according to Vanderbilt University Professor of Caribbean Studies Dr. Paul B. Miller.

“I think this is going to be tremendously helpful and a source of hope and inspiration for the Cuban people who have suffered so much over the last sixty years,” Dr. Miller said. “That is not only because of their political situation, but because of their economic situation.”

Paz has spent time interviewing Cubans about what the president’s trip means to them.

“They feel very hopeful,” She said. “I ask them if they think this is a good thing and they say yes, that it is a step in the right direction.”

She continued, “They are very happy and very welcoming.”

Paz’s family, including her mother, still lives in Cuba. She said improved relations with the United States and an easing of economic restrictions will mean a better life for all Cubans.

“It is going to be a nice change,” she said. “Now that we can send more money to our family, it is going to help them get more food, more medicine and more everything.”

Critics of the trip said the President is ignoring the corruption that has plagued the country.

Republican Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz wrote in an op-ed for Politico, “In Cuba, Obama Will Legitimize the Corrupt and Ignore the Oppressed.”

GOP front-runner Donald Trump tweeted about Cuban President Raul Castro not meeting President Obama at the airport, saying it showed “No Respect.”

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