Ladies in White

Consensus and Dissent in the Face of Trump’s Cuba Policy

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 19 June 2017 – Over the weekend the
official media have repeated ad nauseam the declaration of the
government in response to Donald Trump’s speech about his policy toward
Cuba. The declaration’s rhetoric recalls the years before the diplomatic
thaw, when political propaganda revolved around confrontation with our
neighbor to the north.

Beyond these words, many on the island are breathing a sigh of relief
because the main steps taken by Barack Obama will not be reversed. The
remittances on which so many families depend will not be cut, nor will
the American Embassy in Havana be closed.

On the streets of Cuba, life continues its slow march, far from what was
said at the Artime Theater in Miami and published by the Plaza of the
Revolution.

Julia Borroto put a bottle of water in the freezer on Saturday to be
ready for the line he expects to find waiting for him Monday outside the
United States Embassy. This 73-year-old from Camagüey, who arrived in
the capital just after Trump’s speech, remembers that Trump had said “he
was going to put an end to the visas and travel, but I see that it isn’t
so.”

The retiree also had another concern: the reactivation of the wet
foot/dry foot policy eliminated by Obama last January. “I have two
children who were plotting to go to sea. I just sent them a message to
forget about it.”

The hopes of many frustrated rafters were counting on the magnate to
restore the migratory privileges that Cubans enjoyed for more than two
decades, but Trump defrauded them. Hundreds of migrants from the island
who have been trapped in Central America on their way to the US were
also waiting for that gesture that did not arrive.

Among the self-employed, concern is palpable. Homeowners who rent to
tourists and private restaurant owners regret that the new policy will
lead to a decline in American tourists on the island. The so-called
yumas are highly desired in the private sector, especially for their
generous tips.

Mary, who runs a lodging business in Old Havana, is worried. “Since the
Americans began to come, I hardly have a day with empty rooms.” She had
made plans on the basis of greater flexibilities and hoped “to open up
more to tourism.”

On national television there is a flood of “indignant responses from the
people” including no shortage of allusions to sovereignty, dignity and
“the unwavering will to continue on the path despite difficulties.” The
Castro regime is seizing the opportunity to reactivate the dormant
propaganda machinery that had been missing its main protagonist: the enemy.

However, away from the official microphones people are indifferent or
discontented with what happened. A pedicab driver swears not to know
what they are talking about when he is asked about Friday’s
announcements, and a retiree limits himself to commenting, “Those people
who applaud Trump in Miami no longer remember when they were here
standing in line for bread.”

Of the thirteen activists who met with Barack Obama during his trip to
Havana, at least five expressed opinions to this newspaper about the
importance of the new policy towards Cuba.

José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), was
at that table in March 2016 and was also mentioned on this occasion by
Donald Trump during his speech. The activist had planned to be in Miami
for the occasion, but at the airport in Holguin was denied exit and was
subsequently arrested.

“It is the speech that had to be given and the person who could have
avoided it is Raul Castro,” the former political prisoner asserts
categorically. Ferrer believes that Obama did the right thing whenhe
began a new era in relations between the two countries but “the Castro
regime’s response was to bite the hand that was extended to it.”

In the opinion of the opposition leader, in the last 20 months
repression has multiplied and “it was obvious that a different medicine
had to be administered” because “a dictatorship like this should not be
rewarded, it should be punished and more so when it was given the
opportunity to improve its behavior and did not do so.”

Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White, was also prevented from
flying to Miami to attend the event. For her, the words of the American
president were clear and “if the Cuban regime accepts the conditions
that Donald Trump has imposed on it, Cuba will begin to change.”

Soler believes that the Cuban government’s response is aimed at
confusing the people, who “do not know exactly what is going on.” She
says that Trump wants to maintain business with Cuba “but not with the
military, but directly with the people,” something that the official
press has not explained.

Opponent Manuel Cuesta Morúa, who manages the platform #Otro18 (Another
2018), is blunt and points out that “returning to failed policies is the
best way to guarantee failure.” The measures announced by Trump, in his
opinion, do not help the changes, and they once again give the Cuban
government “the excuse to show its repressive nature.”

The dissident believes that the new policy tries to return the debate on
democracy on the island to the scenario of conflict between Cuba and the
United States, “just when it was beginning to refocus the national
scenario on communication between the Cuban State and its citizens,
which is where it needs to be.”

The director of the magazine Convivencia, Dagoberto Valdés, believes
that there is a remarkable difference between the discourse itself
“which seems a return to the past with the use of a language of
confrontation, and the so-called concrete measures that have been taken.”

For Valdés there is no major reversal of Obama’s policy. “The trips of
the Cuban Americans, the embassy, ??the remittances are maintained… and
the possibility of a negotiating table remains open when the Cuban
Government makes reforms related to human rights.”

Journalist Miriam Celaya predicted that the speech would not be “what
the most radical in Miami and the so-called hard line of the Cuban
opposition expected. What is coming is a process and it does not mean
that from tomorrow no more Americans will come to the Island and that
negotiations of all kinds are finished,” she says.

In her usual poignant style, she adds that “regardless of all the
fanfare and the bells and whistles, regardless of how abundant the
smiles, and no matter how much people laughed at Trump’s jokes, it
doesn’t seem that the changes are going to be as promising as those who
are proclaiming that it’s all over for the government.”

Celaya sheds light on the fact that the official statement of the Cuban
government “manifests its intention to maintain dialogue and relations
within the framework of respect.” This is a great difference with other
times when a speech like that “would have provoked a ‘march of the
fighting people’ and a military mobilization.”

Instead, officialdom has opted for declarations and revolutionary
slogans in the national media. But in the streets, that rhetoric is just
silent. “People are tired of all this history,” says a fisherman on the
Havana Malecon. “There is no one who can fix it, but no one who can sink
it.”

Source: Consensus and Dissent in the Face of Trump’s Cuba Policy –
Translating Cuba –
translatingcuba.com/consensus-and-dissent-in-the-face-of-trumps-cuba-policy/

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