Who Has Barack Obama Betrayed? / 14ymedio, Juan Carlos Fernandez

Raul Castro and Barack Obama greet each other for the first time at the funeral of Nelson Mandela in South Africa
Raul Castro and Barack Obama greet each other for the first time at the funeral of Nelson Mandela in South Africa

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Carlos Fernandez, Pinar del Rio, 18 August 2015 — The restoration of diplomatic relations between the governments of Cuba and the United States is leaving a trail of reactions. Cuban civil society on both shores shows two positions with many nuances, on the one hand those in favor of the process and on the other those who are against it.

From those against it a sharp rebuke against President Barack Obama is heard, accusing him of being “a traitor to the cause of Cuban freedom.” However, to think that the occupant of the White House embarked on such an adventure alone and on his personal initiative is crazy.

It is likely that the American president is anxious to change the direction of American policy toward Cuba. But he never would have succeeded if he had not had the support of a considerable number of legislators, both Republicans and those of his own party. So this political move represents the culmination of a strategy gestated before his arrival at the White House, and one whose principal protagonists were the so-called “pressure groups.”

Among what are also called “lobbies,” the powerful group representing commercial interests in the agricultural sector has led several initiatives of rapprochement toward the island. It has also promoted lifting the embargo and normalizing relations with the Cuban government. The reasons for this push in the direction of normalization are economic, but also political.

On the commercial side, American businesses are at a fundamental disadvantage with the restrictions against Cuba. Meanwhile, on the political side they argue that US influence in the region has declined considerably, thanks in large part to the conflict with Cuba’s communist government, and China has stepped in.

A portion of US civil society has also exerted pressure to take the path of diplomatic normalization. Involved in this crusade has been the radical left, as well as unions, cultural organizations, NGOs, religious groups and academics.

Barack Obama, however, is the person responsible for the political insight to take advantage of the hemispheric situation, with Venezuela in a free fall, and serious internal problems in Bolivia, Ecuador and Brazil. Meanwhile, inside the island a profound economic crisis seems to have no end, there are grave social problems, and Fidel Castro is practically out of the political game.

Beyond that ability, Obama also responded to a demand from his people, represented by civil society pressure groups. To ignore them would represent political suicide for the next Democratic candidate. Surveys have proved him right, with more than 60% of Americans looking favorably on the initiative he has promoted with respect to Cuba.

Moreover, to accuse Obama of treason will not change what happened last 17 December and lays on him a responsibility that belongs to thousands of people. On the other hand, the fact that the Cuban leaders now shake hands with their neighbor to the north does not give them carte blanch to do whatever they want. This they know very well in the Plaza of the Revolution.