Is Trump or Biden Better for Cuba?

By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

Photo by Jose Cespedes

HAVANA TIMES – The US presidential election will soon take place on November 3rd. Foreign elections always make us Cubans a little bit jealous because the country hasn’t had democratic elections in 72 years.

A lot has happened in these seven decades, especially regarding the US. Our neighboring country went from being a world power with huge economic investments in Cuba, as well as great political influence, to become the home of almost 20% of our citizens. These Cubans in the US represent one of the most lucrative sources of income in the mediocre country that radical socialism turned us into, with remittances, “mules” and phone top-up cards.

To top things off, the US went from being an ally to our “enemy”, just 90 miles away. This happened first of all, because it lost its business on the island. Then it had to put up with us becoming a base for its greatest enemy, the Soviet Union. Moreover, because the Cuban Communist Party’s political opposition took refuge and has financial support in the US. Civil society organizations there monitor human rights violations on the island and push for democratic change.

So, it is impossible to think that the US presidential election has nothing to do with us. Not even the people who say this believe it. It has a lot to do with us and it is present in both presidential candidates’ campaigns. We’re not at the heart of their campaign, of course, but we’re not insignificant either. Democratic change here clearly depends upon us Cubans, but the US is involved. Its domestic policy influences us, whether we like it or not.

Democratic changes depends on us Cubans

Trump represents the old school idea of choking and choking us more until the Cuban people revolt. The logic is that such will take place out our starving and living in misery. That hunger becomes stronger than fear and that we take to the street en masse to demand change.

On the other hand, Biden wants to pick up on Obama’s new strategy of compromising and reestablishing relations. Becoming more flexible, as well as showing the US to be an example of life in freedom and democracy. That such would gradually win freedom for the Cuban people. However, there wasn’t time to see whether this strategy was successful or not. The reason being it was cut short by Trump’s victory at the ballot box almost four years ago.

I would go out on a limb and say that out of these two options to “help us” gain a democracy and full freedom in Cuba, most Cubans living in the US support Trump’s strategy. While most of us still living on the island, prefer Biden’s strategy.

Why is that?

In the case of Cubans living abroad, it makes sense that they think that life is how they live it. It’s easier for people living in the real world without being exposed to the hardship of day-to-day living in Cuba, to prefer the tough strategy, of tightening the noose around our necks until there is no air left.

Even though it takes a long time (and maybe so long that it never happens and doesn’t have the result expected by the implosion of the system), it’s the only way to get rid of all the Communists. They could “clean up home” and make an exact replicate of a hyper-liberal society like the US. This with the utopian belief that it would work just as well (because even liberals believe in a utopia). They could even settle old scores, seek “justice”. Plus, relatives of migrants generally receive remittances and could survive a little better.

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Those of us living on the island would mostly prefer the gentle Obama-style approach, for obvious reasons. In a recent conversation a friend said to me: “If they were really going to get them out of power, it might even be good that they tighten the noose. But the tighter the US tightens the noose, the more those in power have an excuse and they control more. They see it like a war.”

I try to be objective and I know they have social control. The political police doesn’t even use weapons and everybody is frightened anyway. Everybody must obey them without this being stipulated in any law. The armed forces, the courts, the Attorney-General’s office, companies, CDRs, everybody! They haven’t had to deploy the army to keep things in check, ever! However, it is an efficient resource they have at their disposal.

Many want changes but don’t hate the government

The Cuban people want a change, they want the country to open up,to improve. Most want there to be less control over their lives, but the majority don’t despise the Government or socialism. It’s painful for many to hear this, but it is the reality in deep and real Cuba.

Many opposition members, and people on and off the island they connect with, assume that all Cubans loathe the Government. It’s their own projection. Around here, most people don’t believe the Cuban government is bad. They do see it as failing in their attempt to do good by them. Cubans want change, but they are afraid of a radical change. A fear instilled in them ever since they were young children, and it’s hard to shake.

With Trump still as president, it seems that those of us at the bottom of the ladder will continue to suffocate. We know that the PCC will never resign, out of arrogance. It would let us die of hunger and without medicine first, before being forced to withdraw from power. Remember their slogan is: Homeland or Death. If we lose our fear once our stomachs are empty, then the army is still there waiting for an order.

With Biden as president, we could breathe again, those of us at the bottom: the people. Not the “militarymen” like some people in Miami and Washington mistakenly think. Because members of the military can always breathe without any problems. A million more or a million less just makes the lashing gentler or rougher on those at the bottom. If the country is to open up, we will have opportunities to become a little more empowered. We could apply pressure from civil society or the opposition, leading to changes that will inevitably lead to other changes.

The shame of so much poverty and lack of freedoms

But no matter who takes up residence in the White House, the only thing we Cubans need is for ourselves to continue to support the struggle for democracy in Cuba. It’s unbelievable we have such poverty and lack of political and economic freedoms in the middle of the 21st century. More so, in a western country like ours, full of talent and intelligence.

If the Republican wins, he shouldn’t only tighten the noose, but seek a better agreement. That’s what he promised in his 2016 campaign. If Biden wins, he should bank in on Obama’s experience and criticism so that the new rapprochement is better suited. This, especially when it comes to human rights. With this alone, we can pave the road towards a better Cuba!

Read more posts by Osmel Ramirez

View Comments

  • I would agree with Sńr Osmel when he says that Cuba is in need of change. I would also agree that most Cubans neither despise Socialism nor the Cuban Government (in fact the Cubans I speak to are pretty pleased with the relatively low Covid death rate there in comparison to most other countries of The Americas).
    I would also agree that the USA and what goes on there has a massive influence regarding what goes on in Cuba. A massive influence (but over the past 60 years it must be said that this influence is not ultimately determining).
    Where I would disagree is where Osmel suggests that Cubans should be feeling jealous of their democratic neighbour.
    Really?
    There may well be a democratic shortfall in Cuba but if any Cuban or anyone else is of the opinion that the USA is in any way shape or form an example of a functioning democracy, they are quite simply deluded (or victims of drip fed cultural propaganda).
    The current incumbent of the White House, unlike all his Republican predecessors, has defended systemic voter suppression by saying that if everyone in the USA was allowed to vote, there would never be a Republican President ever again.
    Democracy in the USA ?
    I think that sounds like it could be a very good idea.

  • Anyone that has opted to defect from CUBA has not regreted in doing so. Those that have are hoping for democracy to eventually come about in CUBA. I have discussed this with many people when I was in CUBA with People to People programs, while being coy in doing so. They shared how they wish they could do so many things that they are limited in doing so or forbidden to.

  • The US, Trump or Biden has never been concerned with doing anything for the freedom of the Cuban people. When they talk of freedom they mean freedom for the US companies to exploit Cuba, just as the US companies exploits the rest of Latin America. History has shown that it does not matter how badly any dictator treats its people or how much they restricts peoples freedoms, as long as the US companies have the freedom to do business and exploit the vast resources and cheap labour, the US is assured to be an ally, just like they were to the Batista dictatorship. The US don't want independent countries in "it's hemisphere", it wants banana republics.

    If the US was really concerned with human rights and freedom of the common people it would try to improve the situation in the countries which are its allies and where it has direct influence over. But now it is only ever concerned about democracy and human rights in the countries it considers enemies, while it maintains total silence to any breach of human rights by its allies. Not to mention its own violations in Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere.

    The Obama/Biden approach on Cuba may be a more humane and sophisticated one, but the goal is still the same.

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