HAVANA TIMES — Relations between Cuba and the US are quickly returning to what they were during the Cold War. All of the progress made thanks to the dialogue between presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro is beginning to come crashing down like a tower of cards.
People could think that the attack against Havana is the result of Donald Trump’s political ideology but this would be a very superficial analysis, given the fact that the current resident at the White House has never shown that Cuba was something that he was losing sleep over.
Before embarking on his presidential campaign, Trump had sent representatives from his companies to the island to study investment opportunities. And he held a mildly neutral stance during his campaign, claiming that he would get a better deal.
Toughening US policies relating to Cuba has come at the same time that the president and some of his closest associates are being investigated by the US Congress about the “Russian plot”, something that cost the Director of the FBI his job.
So US policies towards Cuba could be dictated by one of these “investigators”, the Cuban-American Senator Marco Rubio, who is defending the president today in spite of the feud that separated them during the nomination campaign.
This doesn’t seem to be a visceral plot that comes from anti-Castro supporters in Miami, it is rather a well-thought out strategy. The ironic thing is that it uses the end of the Cuban immigration flow that Obama ordered, as the project’s foundation.
For decades, Cuba has had a constant immigration flow to the US, as well as mass exoduses, such as the Camarioca exodus, Mariel and the ‘94 rafters. This flow of Cubans has acted as the valves on a pressure cooker, allowing the most unhappy Cubans to leave the country.
The immigration agreements between Cuba and the US currently in force were signed in 1995 by then President Bill Clinton. They aimed to put a stop to the wave of Cuban immigrants, which the arrival of about 50,000 rafters sparked.
Among other things, Washington committed itself to grant 20,000 visas per year to Cuban nationals, something which it more or less complied with, thereby ensuring a more legal, secure, orderly and especially gradual immigration, without peaks in mass immigration.
After the most recent crisis, when thousands of Cuban immigrants crossed through Central America to reach Mexico’s northern border with the US, Barack Obama revoked the “wet-foot/dry-foot” policy which granted residency to any Cuban who stepped foot on US soil.
If the previous US president put a lid on the illegal entrance of Cubans, Trump has just sealed off the legal routes too, by refusing to grant any more visas to Cubans, by withdrawing consulate officials using the excuse that they were attacked with secret sonic weapons.
The Cuban government has been demanding that these US policies that favor Cuban immigration be revoked for decades. Well its happened and even went further that could be expected. There’s a proverb that says that you should be careful what you ask for because you might just get it.
Strangely-enough, leaders of the anti-Castro movement in Miami – Marco Rubio as well as many other well-known figures – have begun to attack Cuban immigration in recent years and asked for dissidents to be the only ones to benefit from these policies.
Now, all of the pressure will stay inside the pressure cooker, building up, and there are only two options left: lower the heat or take a seat and wait for it to explode. The Cuban government’s unpopular measures in recent months don’t seem to understand the new situation that the country finds itself in.
Freezing some fields of private work, the “yes but no” to small companies or the war against “wealth accumulation”, without explaining how many businesses, employees or money you can have, has created great uncertainty among the Cuban people.
And while the self-employed are still heavily restricted, state incomes remain the same, less than what the basic food products costs and farmers are being charged new taxes, just a week after a hurricane has destroyed their crops.
Miami’s anti-Castro supporters are controlling the escape valves but it’s the Cuban government that is controlling the heat. Amidst a serious financial crisis, with national infrastructure heavily damaged by the hurricane and the hardships experienced in Venezuela, fanning the flames is just political suicide.