A President Has Come to Havana Carrying… / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner
Posted on March 27, 2016
14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 26 March 2016 – Spanish
children used to play a game of imagination, listing the things carried
in ships from the colonies: “A ship has come from Havana carrying:
pineapples, lace, sugar,” whatever. It was a playful exercise in which
fantasy and vocabulary mixed as a teaching tool.
Barack Obama, without knowing it, revived the game. For the United
States President his trip had four declared objectives: unilaterally
bury the Cold War in the Caribbean; officially eliminate the diplomatic
strategy of containment or isolation and replace it with one of
engagement or rapprochement; reinforce ties with Cuban civil society,
especially with the emerging private business sector; and strengthen the
democratic opposition that seeks a peaceful evolution of the regime
For the Cuban regime the visit was another step to ending the old trade
embargo, and achieving the coming of American tourists and investments;
the promise of soft credits when the law permits it; and the possibility
of alleviating the difficult economic situation that Cuba is facing with
the end of the subsidies from Venezuela, which the economist Mesa Lago
has, in the past, estimated to total thirteen billion dollars a year.
Raul Castro had not the least intention of modifying his communist
dictatorship. At the end of the day, as Fidel Castro himself has
reiterated a hundred times, the regime established itself based on
ideological convictions and not as a response to US hostility. The
sequence was the inverse.
Nor is it in his plans to bury “anti-Yankeeism,” one of the central
elements of 21st Century Socialism. For him, for Nicolas Maduro, for Evo
Morales, even for Rafael Correa and Daniel Ortega, the Cold War is not
over, as is evident in their good relations with Iran, North Korea and
For United States exporters and investors Obama’s approach was fairly
tempting. Money, as we know, is cautious. They accompanied him with more
curiosity than real interest. As long as the embargo law continues, any
exports to Cuba must be paid for in advance, a measure healthy up to
now, because the island has a bad reputation as a payer. Throughout the
57 years this government has lasted, almost every business or country
that has extended it credit has been defrauded.
The only businesses that are profitable in Cuban are those engaged in
tourism, because they are paid ahead of time and in dollars. Everyone
also knows that it is very dangerous to do business where there are no
independent courts. In Cuba, as in all totalitarian governments, the
judges are an appendage of the central power.
The democrats of the internal opposition have been the main
beneficiaries. There were thirteen people from diverse groups, as befits
any people aspiring to respect for differences of opinion. Obama met
with them for almost two hours, listened to them, supported them, and
then devoted the main part of his speech to demanding that Raul Castro
respect human rights and the need for plurality required by a society
affected for so many years by the sclerosis of a single way of thinking.
The moment when he turned to the general and told him, “do not fear the
voices of Cubans who want to express themselves freely,” is and will be
for a long time a landmark in the struggle against the dictatorship.
Will the strategy of engagement work? Obama himself is skeptical, and
rightly so: the Cuban dictatorship is not going to change. It is proudly
communist and the Constitution awards the Party exclusive leadership of
society. For the dominant elite, human rights – specifically the freedom
of expression and association to which Obama referred – are subterfuges
of the hated bourgeoisie to extend its social control, and those who
demand these rights are criminals.
In this case, is there a sense of a change in tactics? It is difficult
to know at this point. For now, the dissidents are encouraged. They
believe that Obama’s trip is a turning point. We wait, with fingers
crossed. It is part of the game.
Source: A President Has Come to Havana Carrying… / 14ymedio, Carlos
Alberto Montaner | Translating Cuba –