7’s Top 7: Changes in Cuba

(WSVN) - 2016 was a year of big news coming out of Cuba. From a presidential visit, to the death of Fidel Castro, Craig Stevens takes a look back in tonight’s 7’s Top 7.

It was the news many in South Florida had been waiting — some nearly 60 years — to hear.

Craig Stevens: “You are watching 7News live coverage of the death of Fidel Castro.”

The announcement was released to the world by his brother Raul.

Raul Castro (translation of): “Today, the 25th of November, 2016, at 10:29 p.m., died the chief commander of the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz.”

Cuban-Americans here celebrated as the word spread.

Cuban-American woman: “My family lost everything, so I know that this is closure for them.”

Thousands filled the streets of Little Havana, Southwest Miami-Dade and Hialeah, many with pots and pans.

Cuban-American woman: “Get ready, Miami. There is going to be a big feast. People are celebrating.”

Cuban-American man: “Just that fact that Fidel died already, that’s what my family been waiting for.”

Others were hopeful for the future of Cuba.

Cuban-American woman: “We are not celebrating death. We’re just celebrating freedom from a country.”

But for some, his death brought back the agony of what many exiles and their loved ones endured: pain, imprisonment and murders under his dictatorship.

Cuban-American man: “I mean, it’s hard to grow up with no father.”

Cuban-American woman: “I just feel everybody is here for the same reason. We want changes on that freaking island once and for all.”

And change did come — months before Castro’s death.

President Barack Obama: “This is a new day. Es un nuevo dia.”

In March, a historic trip. President Barack Obama visited Cuba to discuss improving relations between the countries after more than a half-century of bitterness.

It would be the the first visit from a sitting U.S. president in 88 years.

President Barack Obama: “In the United States, we have a clear monument to what the Cuban people can build. It’s called Miami.”

As the president rolled out of Cuba on Air Force One, one of the world’s greatest rock legends rolled in.

The Rolling Stones: “Hola, Cuba!”

The Rolling Stones put on a free concert in Havana, something people on the island had never seen before. They belted out tunes that were once banned.

Mick Jagger: “Hola, La Habana. Buenas noches, mi gente de Cuba.”

And there was more to come in Cuba. An American cruise ship pulled into the Port of Havana.

Fathom Adonia passenger: “I love Cuba, and I’ve been waiting to go.”

Carnival’s Fathom Adonia was the first American-based cruise ship to dock in Cuba in 40 years.

But for exiles, getting on board would not be so easy. The Cuban government denied them visas for the trip.

Orlando Gutierrez-Boronat: “This clearly shows that the discriminatory policy against Cuban-born U.S. citizens by the Castro regime remains in place.”

An agreement was worked out and Cuban-Americans were allowed on board.

Change also arrived by air. U.S. Airlines were allowed to fly to the island.

JetBlue passenger: “Our friends had been here, so they said, ‘Why don’t you go to Cuba before it becomes too Westernized.”

JetBlue would be the first to take off from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in August.

JetBlue passenger: “It was an indescribable feeling to be a part of this.”

Since then, American Airlines and a small commuter airline have followed.

Now, as we head into 2017, the future of U.S.-Cuba relations remains uncertain. President-elect Donald Trump has indicated he could reverse course, unless the U.S. gets what he calls a “better deal” that includes more political freedom for people on the island.

Tuesday night on 7’s top 7, we look back at the police shootings that rocked the country in 2016.

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