Note: This post was published the day before Obama announced the end of the “wet foot-dry foot” policy.
Ivan Garcia, 12 January 2017 — Seated in front of a computer and surrounded by wooden shelves filled with DVDs pirated from US channels, Marcos, who earned a degree in biology three years ago, has half a dozen clients who are reviewing an extensive list, including CDs, flash memories, TC shows, novels and films.
To mitigate the heat of an unusually tropical winter, a noisy Chinese fan in a fixed position expels a stream of air that the customers appreciate. In his stall you can find the latest audio-visual material produced in the United States.
“Whatever you want, Quantico, Designated President, Black List and others that are on US TV right now. I also copy 2015 movies, documentaries and under the table I sell ‘skin’,” says Marcos, referring to pornography, in high demand in Cuba.
In the little stands that sell DVDs, in barber shops, bus stops and in the old fixed-route shared taxis, they talk about baseball, football, the bad economic situation of the country and, at times, Donald Trump.
By chance, a client who wants to buy the four seasons of House of Cards, compares Claire, the wife of the fictional president Frank Underwood in the serial, with the Clinton marriage in real life.
“That witch looks like Hillary. To my taste, Fired and House of Cards are the best serials on American television,” Marcos says and then launches into a spontaneous discussion of the man who is expected to be the next inmate of the White House.
“Forget about what his policies will be like toward Cuba. Trump could be the worst thing that could happen in the United States in a long time. It’s true that la yuma (the USA) is more a business than a country. But politics is not a business. The guy is silly, egotistical, and supports an outdated isolationism. The United States is going to be set back ten years in strategic matters and geopolitics due to his intentions to ally himself with Russia and weaken NATO,” analyzes Hiram, who often travels to Miami to visit his children.
“We Cubans are going to have to bite the bullet. This year the Cuban Adjustment Act is going to disappear. Those who want to go, better hurry up and leave,” says Marcos.
Due to the bad international press, which usually beats up on Donald Trump, a wide segment of Cubans sense that hard times are coming for Cuba, Latin America and the rest of the world.
“May God have mercy on our souls. But this guy (Trump) is not squeaky clean. I remember a reality show he had called The Apprentice. The program was stupid. In reality, the guy has a screw loose. I don’t know why the Americans voted for this nut,” asked Felicia, a clerk in a store in the west of Havana.
Curiously, the state press still has not exploded with its extensive repertoire of analysis and vitriolic profiles written by its “star” amanuenses, like Iroel Sánchez or Sergio Gómez.
“The gringo is kissing Putin on the lips, like the little Ruskie is a pal of the government, there is a waiting period, to see what Trump-boy is going to do,” comments a pedicab driver in the old part of the city.
For Gregory, a political science graduate, it’s incomprehensible that the official media rails against Obama with extreme rudeness and maintain complicit silence about “the endless crap that comes out of the mouth of Trump. An erratic guy if there is one. In the name of the working class he talks about making America great again, but the team he he has assembled comes from the world of finance and business. The Americans who voted for him, he sold them a mirage. The past never comes back. Globalization, whether we like it or not, is a fact. If Trump were president of a banana republic in Africa or Latin America, there would be a coup for sure,” says Gregory.
Of course, the ordinary Cubans who are most worried are those with plans to emigrate or travel frequently to the United States.
“I have to hurry up my exit, because when Trump is installed in Washington the Cuban Adjustment Act’s days are numbered. According to my family in Miami, almost all the members of congress of Cuban origin, from Marco Rubio to Carlos Curbelo, want to repeal it. If I don’t leave in 2017, I’ll grow roots in Cuba,” emphasizes Daniel, 24 and unemployed.
Very close to the agricultural market in Red Square in La Vibora, Carmelo insists that “this guy is going to screw up everything. The government is going to regret not resolving everything with Obama. Look what he’s doing with the Mexicans. If Trump decides to take on Cuba, no one is going to save us from a new Special Period,” he says.
Like everything fashionable, people like to opine about the Trump phenomenon. But the truth is that many Havanans are indifferent to the tinkerings of US policy and its likely harmful effects on the island.
“It makes no difference to me who’s in. With Bush, Obama and Trump, we Cubans are equally fucked. What benefit has there been for the people with the reestablishment of relations with the United States?” asks Jorge, a grocer in a bakery in Central Havana, and he answers himself, “None, we haven’t benefitted in any way.”
And the thing is, aside from their opinions, Cubans who breakfast on coffee without milk understand that the problems in Cuba pass through the Palace of the Revolution and respond to one name: Raul Castro.
Castro II is the one who has the key to offer solutions to the country’s citizens. If he proposes it, fine. But for now, the general-president is in a state of hibernation.