Ivan Garcia, 21 June 2017 — One morning, eighth grade students at a high school in La Vibora, a neighborhood in southern Havana, are waiting to take a Spanish test. After drinking a glass of water, the principal clears her throat and lashes out with the traditional anti-imperialist diatribe, denouncing the interference of “Mr. Trump and his terrorist acolytes in Miami’s Cuban mafia.”
Taken by surprise by Barack Obama’s novel approach of extending a hand to the Cuban people and reminding a stunned military gerontocracy of the virtues of democracy and respect for political differences, the regime has found a familiar dance partner in Donald Trump.
There have been numerous public events in state institutions, dozens of newspaper articles written and a timely diplomatic response in any number of platforms and international forums against Trump’s new policy towards Cuba.
It is not always true that with age comes wisdom. After almost 60 years of dealing with the Castro brothers and their dictatorship, America’s executive branch — for reasons ranging from electoral politics to, with some exceptions, a profound ignorance of Cuban society — has opted for a failed policy.
One of the Cuban exile community’s few successes was achieved by Jorge Más Canosa and his lobbying group, the Cuban American Foundation, which understood that a fundamental feature of American democracy is the need for political connections. It was one of the key reasons for the prominent role it played in shaping White House strategy for dealing with Cuba.
In the 1980s U.S. policy towards Cuba originated in Miami. By then, armed uprisings the island’s mountainous regions as well as attempts on Fidel Castro’s life had already failed.
With the powerful Israeli lobby as a model, Más Canosa launched a battle that combined diplomacy with knowledge of Washington’s political landscape to halt the Castro regime’s actions on the world stage.
And he had some successes: condemnations by human rights groups, codification of the embargo and special immigration status for Cuban exiles. And in the political arena, there is no group of immigrants to the United States with more congressmen, mayors and government officials, whether state or federal, than those from Cuba, despite the fact that they are only two and a half million of them in the country.
Most Cubans on both sides of the Florida Straits agree on one thing: sooner or later we all hope to have a sovereign, democratic and fully functional country. Ideas on how to get there vary.
Some favor dialogue with the regime and a lifting of the embargo as the best option. Others prefer isolating the dictatorship, continuing the economic embargo and imposing international sanctions to force it to change or lose power. Though it was effective in ending apartheid in South Africa, in the case of Cuba the second option has not worked.
The U.S. embargo of Cuba has failed. Fifty-eight years of dictatorship by the Castros is the best evidence of this.
The United States should not feel conflicted about upholding its commitment to democracy and human rights. But using isolation as the means to achieve this goal has only provided the Castro brothers with a pretext to cast themselves as victims.
Among the few things on the island that do work are the secret police, repression and skillful diplomacy. But don’t expect production quotas to be met, more housing to be built or a government capable of creating a rational or sustainable economy.
Dissidents — those in charge of advancing democratic change in Cuba — are more lost than a drunk man on Saturn. Due to an almost scientific level of repression, their excessive self-importance and the lack of unity among different dissident groups, the opposition has not managed to build bridges to the average Cuban despite sharing many of the same beliefs.
There have been three different generations of regime opponents. Some go into exile; some explore new opportunities for creating legal platforms to express themselves among the few controlled options the armor-plated regime allows; others adjust to the way things are. The effect is to turn being a dissident into a private business.
That is the current state of the Cuban opposition, which remains divided, with no base of supporters ready to rally behind them and with some betting on a miraculous rescue by the United States.
If the regime and the dissident community are similar in any way, it is that they blame their failures on the United States or on one of its policies such as the Obama doctrine.
The military autocrats are not going to change. They will continue to repress, verbally attacking and jailing dissidents. Donald Trump, who has not come up with a strategy of his own, simply pours a little more gasoline on the fire to benefit Raúl Castro’s propaganda efforts.
In coming days there will be declarations by Cuban workers, farmers, architects and studentes “condemning the Yankee injustice.” The state’s barrage of propaganda will become even more fierce.
It is incredible that Trump’s boistrous appearance in Miami, with his pathetic gestures and expressions, arouses more interest than the decaffeinated session of the National Assembly of People’s Power, where the country’s problems are supposedly being discussed.
Meanwhile, as Trump pouts and makes promises he will not fulfill, reality prevails. In spite of all the verbal fuss, only two elements of the Obama doctrine have been reversed: trips by Americans to Cuba and doing business with military companies. Everything else remains in place.
And who benefits? Since most of the agreements remain in place, the answer is Castro’s propaganda apparatus and American interests. Neither Trump nor any other U.S. president is better able to defend our rights than we ourselves are.
The Stars and Stripes is not our flag. And the USA is not our country.
Once and for all, the compatriots living abroad and those on the island have to make clear that the solution to the problems of Cuba is an issue for all Cubans. And no one else.