Cubans advised to stay home and watch Obama’s visit on TV
Juan Juan Almeida, 17 March 2016 — Obama arrives in Havana on March 20. However, arbitrary arrests continue and we see only the most minimal progress on the issue of human rights and respect for basic freedoms.
The truth is Raul Castro is not pleased by all the enthusiasm surrounding his visitor, who on Havana’s streets is more popular than George Clooney.
An employee at the Cuban Export-Import Corporation — a man who is a current official and former officer in the Revolutionary Armed Forces — notes, “They are telling us is it not important to go and greet Obama and that we can see the events better on television, that everything will be very formal without a lot of fanfare.”
Though Obama arrives in Havana on March 20, arbitrary arrests continue and we see only the most minimal progress on the issue of human rights and respect for basic liberties.
Although many of our fellow citizens do not want to acknowledge it, or do not understand it, one thing is clear: The agenda of the President of the United States extends far beyond the borders of one island.
Fifty-years of conflict have produced no significant results, so Washington and Havana have decided to stop being each other’s worst enemies and to become respectful neighbors instead.
I do not know why they could not see it before. It has been a constant throughout history. The Greeks and Romans were always inventing new and ingenious ways to gain influence with their rivals.
Confrontation only works when there is a lot to be gained. Perhaps that is why a few hours before his arrival surveys indicate that Barack Obama is more popular on the streets of Havana than George Clooney.
In fact, Raul Castro is not pleased by all the enthusiasm surrounding his visitor.
His press kit has always been divided into two parts. One is aimed at Cuba and Cubans. The other is aimed at his principal target audience, international public opinion, which has involved garnering favorable newspaper and magazine headlines for one’s own benefit.
With more than 2,400 arrests in the first months of this year, the rhetoric that Cuba and Cubans hear remains an eternal constant: We will change, we will continue to repress, we have the power, the country is my ranch and its businesses are run by my soldiers, the Yanks won’t even put up a fight.
For those beyond the front door, for the world, the message is clear and needs no further clarification: You can be a dictator, you can repress, you can enjoy the earnings generated by properties you have illegally seized from the United States and your reward will be a visit from the president of the United States.
But beyond its swaggering, troglodyte bravura, the Castro leadership is relying on Pepto Bismol.
These days, the island’s government is trying to behave harmoniously, maintaining a demure posture in response to American attempts at reconciliation.
Forced to abandon its long-held image of David against Goliath, it has ordered various faithful lieutenants to inform businesses and ministries — in no uncertain terms — that workers need not abet or attend public events where President Obama will be present.
I was told by an employee at the Cuban Export-Import Corporation, a man who is a current official and former officer in the Revolutionary Armed Forces, “They are telling us is it not important to go and greet Obama, that we can see the events better on television, that everything will be very formal, without a lot of fanfare.”
Message received. Over and out!