Obama’s Second Chance / Reinaldo Escobar

Note: This article was originally published on election day in the U.S., before the polls closed.

Four years ago a good number of Cubans conceived the hope that President Barack Obama would introduce into the foreign policy of the United States changes that would lead to an improvement in relations with Cuba. Among the most significant points was the reduction or elimination of the embargo/blockade, the relaxation of travel and remittances to Cuba, and the closure of the prison at the Guantanamo Bay naval base.

“Unfortunately” Obama has not been the dictator of the United States, but just a president who must abide by the democratic system that the Americans have built over more than two centuries. Nevertheless, he eliminated restrictions put into place by his predecessor, Bush, relating to Cuban-Americans and the sending of remittances. More Americans can travel to the Island at this time, but the persecution of companies that trade with Cuba continued, and the Guantanamo prison continued to operate as before. We can always ask ourselves would the situation have been if, in the 2008 election, the winner had been the Republican McCain.

In parallel, the four years of the Obama administration coincided with the “Raul reforms,” in which, as expected, the same level of anti-imperialist belligerence has been maintained, combined with the assertion that the table is set for discussions with our northern neighbor, if and when they are carried out in conditions of full equality. Throughout this entire time the approach offered by the Cuban media — the private property of the Communist Party — has focused on demonstrating that the “black president,” has he has repeatedly been called by Fidel Castro, has been more of the same and even worse in some respects.

With less than a week before we will know the results of the election, the Cuban Foreign Ministry (MINREX) issued a Statement in which it reacts with considerable irritation to some courses offered by the United States Interests Section in Havana and the establishment of centers where Cubans can connect to the Internet. The term “illegal” appears five times in the text that contains the assertion that “the current government of the United States has no real desire to leave behind the worse policies and practices and of the Cold War…”

Some say this statement could be the harbinger of a new wave of repression against dissidents. Others are suggesting that it simply sends a message to Obama, should he be reelected, or to Romney if he turns out to be the winner. In a few hours we will know if there will be change or continuity in the United States. I have the impression that there is less optimism about what Obama will do if he is reelected, and a great expectations about what Romney might do if he carried out his threats. What is significant is that this country, which has spent half a century demonstrating how it has broken all dependence on its powerful neighbor, continues to depend on what is legislated in the USA to determine how it will repress its opponents and even how far it will relax its travel and immigration policies, to cite only two examples.

I fear that, whoever wins, it will be on this side where we will continue to have more of the same.

5 November 2012