The morning of December 17 had not heralded anything new for Silvio, who is 43 years old. The previous night, after crawling a kilometer and half tied to a stone of considerable proportions along a narrow carriageway road to the Sanctuary of San Lazaro, south of Havana, to fulfill a religious vow and to pray for the health of his wife, his sons and his ailing mother, he thought that his quota of emotions was already exhausted.
“Imagine, all night under a cold damp, praying to St. Lazarus. I arrived home at dawn. About 10 o’clock in the morning I called a cousin who lives in Hialeah [Florida] and he tells me that they had made a swap between the three imprisoned Cuban agents in the United States, for Alan Gross and a spy in the CIA who had been 20 years in a Cuban prison.
“Then at noon, President Raúl Castro in a televised message announces that the relations between the two countries, the financial flow, and communications will resume, in addition to the release of the agents. It was a surprise. It suddenly appears that Americans are no longer enemies,” says Silvio while waiting for a taxi.
Undoubtedly, the news of the day in Havana, and on the island, has been that the United States and Cuba have ended its own particular Cold War.
The opponent Antonio Rodiles is still digesting the news. “Everything has been sudden, surprising. For the moment one will have to analyze it in order to understand its full scope.”
Felicia, an engineer at ETECSA [Cuban Telecommunications Company], the only telecommunications company in Cuba, says that she had a meeting in the morning with her boss, where they told her that President Obama, thanks to the management of the Government of Cuba, had freed the three spies imprisoned in United States.
“They did not tell me that it was an exchange. I learned that after listening to the words of Raúl Castro. I think this is good. After all, between the two countries, there has never been a war. It was an artificial conflict created by Fidel and fueled by each different US administration. At some point it had to conclude,” says the Havana engineer.
After 56 years of a long journey through the desert, stormy relations between both countries seem to be returning to calm. There are still loose ends. The theme of the economic embargo now is gaining ever more strength for the Olive Green Autocracy and the indefatigable and powerful anti-embargo lobby based in the United States.
But the ball is in the court of Raúl Castro. If he really wants a serious relationship, based on trust, he has to offer something in exchange so that the surly Congress, with both Houses run by the Republicans, will unravel the embargo.
That means taking a substantial 180 degree turn with respect to battered and stepped-upon Cuban dissidents. In recent decades, they have suffered 25 years, imprisonment, banishment, beatings and verbal lynchings for demanding democracy and political freedoms.
General Castro will have to do more than free dissidents. It was positive gesture, to release the peaceful opposition Sonia Garro, her husband, and a political activist.
But what must change is the current scene. It is in the hands of the Cuban Government to sign the UN covenants and legalize the differing political tendencies.
It is difficult that after a year of secret negotiations between the two nations, they have not reached an agreement on the issue. According to the Cuban President, this is only a first step.
Gradually other issues will be discussed which remain on the agenda of one and the other country. The General can make history. His brother was the creator of the Revolution and he ruled with an iron fist for 46 years.
During that time, Raul was the Minister of Defense and he supported the autocratic policies of Fidel. Now, Castro II can put Cuba on the rails along a democratic path.
He has the unique possibility of changing the course of a nation overwhelmed by a leaky economy and a population exhausted by the excess of political discourse and the long embargo, which is not the key element of the current socialized misery in Cuba, but the great pretext used by the Havana regime
Waiting for new reports about the thaw between the two countries so close geographically and so distant politically, people standing on the island hope that a change of strategy will benefit everyone.
Puzzled and surprised, freelance journalist Jorge Olivera believes that it is too early to assimilate the good news. “We have to wait to see if this translates into real change and definite openings for political dissent. I hope that all the drama that we have lived with for so long has reached its end.”
Photo: Flags of Cuba and United States inside a private taxi that circulates around the streets of Havana. Taken from América TeVé [television from Miami].
18 December 2014