LUMBERTON, MS (WLOX) - Luis Monterde came to America in 1960 to attend college. The native Cuban became an American citizen in 1972, and today he runs B & M Blueberry Farm and Packing Facility on Highway 11 in Lumberton.
Farming is in Monterde's blood. He and his brothers grew up working on their father's farm in Cuba, where he raised cattle and sugar cane. It's a life he left behind decades ago because of government control. Monterde said even to this day Cuban leaders control everything down to wages workers are allowed to earn.
"Castro and the socialistic government totally control the Cuban economy," Monterde said.
Monterde believes President Barack Obama's trip to Cuba will do little good to bring about change in Cuba, or improve relations between the two countries. He said as long as the Castro brothers are in power, change will be slow to come.
"Because evil is real, oppression is real, persecution is real. Will Obama be able to change all of that? I don't think he will. He's putting forth the effort for whatever reason, but he will not change that," said Monterde.
Monterde pointed to the arrests of several islanders who staged a protest against the Castro regime just hours before President Obama landed in Cuba.
"Obama flew into Cuba yesterday and the Cuban government was putting in prison yesterday dissidents. So that shows you they are not going to change their ways.They always have to be in full control," explained Monterde.
Monterde would like to be able to fly back to Cuba to visit relatives he hasn't seen in more than 30 years. But he doesn't hold much hope that will happen anytime soon.
Monterde also said he felt it was very disrespectful that Cuban President Raul Castro didn't meet President Obama at the airport.