14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 22 March 2016 — A crowd of Havanans that nobody had summoned formed two rows on Prado Street to greet President Barack Obama. It was not possible to determine who gave rise to the rumor that the illustrious visitor would spend Monday afternoon in front of the newly renovated Alicia Alonso Theater, where he has an appointment Tuesday with guests from the “Government authorized” civil society.
Young and old, men and women, workers, tourists, in short, everyone who for one reason or another passed near Central Park or the Capitol building around four in the afternoon joined in the enthusiasm caused by the strong desire of the people to see the US president in person and to greet him.
Police officers tried to persuade those gathered there not to spill into the street, because vehicles continued to circulate normally. One of them put forward the argument: “Do you think that if Obama were going to come by here there would be so few of us police officers looking after him?” To which a lady who looked like a schoolteacher replied: “And don’t you think that all these people are here because they know that he is going to come by, or at least because they want him to come by?”
Just after five in the afternoon a young man pointed at student in a high school uniform with a certain resemblance to the visitor and shouted, “Here is Obama!” and suddenly the lines fell apart; journalists fell on the student and everyone walking by with a camera or a cellphone was left with the face of the involuntary imposter on its memory card. Almost everyone knew it was a joke, but took the teasing good naturedly and there was a memorable hullabaloo.
At that point the “securities” – i.e. State Security agents – started to arrive, among them a nasty tempered guy known as Volodia, who stands out for his corpulence and for the mistreatment he doles out to dissidents. But nobody paid him much attention. Greeting Obama was permitted. There was no fear. If he had happened to pass this stretch of the Prado at that hour, I believe they would have ended up taking him out of “The Beast,” carrying him on their shoulders and heading off among cheers for Central Park.