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Obama came and saw

Obama came and saw

by Victoria Alcalá

Cuba has been unable to rest since the 20th of March. We started out with Obama’s visit until the 22nd and we kept on going on the 25th with the Havana concert of The Rolling Stones. Thank goodness we had two days for a bit of a breather!

We may have never welcomed a genuine rock and roll classic, but it wasn’t the first time a US President has visited our Island. It was Calvin Coolidge, or “Silent Cal” as the American press dubbed him, who came in 1928. In those days, relations between the governments of Cuba and its northern neighbor were fairly uneventful even though the Cuban President Gerardo Machado had extended his mandate “a la cañona” by having any opposition murdered left, right and center.

This time was different. On December 17, 2014, presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro proclaimed what until then had seemed impossible: reestablishing the diplomatic ties that had been broken over 50 years ago and heralding the start of a long and winding road towards normalization of relations between the two countries. The presence on the Island of the first Afro-American in the White House bore testimony to the seriousness of the agreement and per se, represented something positive for Cuba. From the reestablishing of diplomatic relations until the present, we were visited by the Italian Prime Minister and the presidents of France and Austria, we favorably negotiated the Club of Paris debt, and Cuban rights over the Havana Club trademark were recognized, just to mention a few of the events that seemed to be a strange version of the “China Syndrome.”

Political analysts have been endlessly studying what was said, what wasn’t said and what could be read between the lines of every utterance of this very eloquent US President, so very different from his illustrious but silent predecessor who didn’t have the advantages offered by teleprompters. I would prefer to go by what I heard him say: that the United States was extending a friendly hand to the Cubans, that Cubans should be able to decide their future without any meddling, that areas for working together should be found and that we should be respectfully discussing our differences, that he would continue to ask Congress to eliminate the “embargo” (blockade we call it over here…). His words seem to erase, with the flick of a pen, centuries of imperial gluttony. He also talked about his concept of freedom, democracy and human rights and he clearly talked about intentions to “empower” those of us who would like to make up a new social class.

Whether or not he will do what he promised, or whether his successor in the Oval Office will maintain the same intentions, only time will tell. For the time being, there will be some new business, less fear for US allies to invest in the country of yesterday’s “diabolical” Castro Brothers, waves of tourists who want to see the island before its culture becomes absorbed by the US (it seems that they don’t know that Cuba was a neo-colony and its culture was strong and authentic enough to survive then) and perhaps there will be better opportunities to connect with the rest of the world. We Cubans have to be prepared for these new breezes blowing in and to come to terms with the announced Trojan horse. Obama came and saw: but did he conquer? I don’t think so.

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