By Fernando Ravsberg

Barack Obama and Raul Castro meeting in Havana. Photo: Getty Images

HAVANA TIMES — Obama should be grateful for Cuba’s hospitality: no journalist asked him any difficult questions and no one engaged him on the subject of the embargo, the Guantanamo Naval Base, the prisoners kept there without trial, financing given the island’s opposition or the propaganda spread by Marti Radio and TV.

However, no sooner had the US president left Havana’s Gran Teatro, the interviews began [in the official Cuban media] with several people who attended, the same ones [with a pro-government line] who had, incidentally, taken part in the confrontations during the Summit of the Americas in Panama in April 2015.

In the days that followed, dozens of articles and TV and radio reports criticizing Obama began to appear. It was a tardy attempt at countering the effect his visit had on Cubans, a response that has led to mockery among the population.

In defense of my colleagues, I should say that, clearly, they were not the ones who designed such a “brilliant” strategy. It was those who do this all the time and, to be sure, they were there, in person, controlling Cuban journalists during Obama’s visit.

Following the US president’s visit, the Cuban press unleashed its fury against Obama in a campaign that bordered on racist disrespect.

Then, we began to see far more serious opinions from intellectuals, politicians and even religious authorities. From different perspectives, the nation began to process Obama’s replies and the new stage on which everyone will have to meet in the future.

Ambrosio Fornet acknowledges we “find ourselves before a new challenge, which we ourselves sensibly contributed to, and we can’t refuse to confront it now. Are we in a position to do so successfully? Will we be able to affirm our cultural identity with the same firmness with which we affirmed our sovereignty throughout these years?

Most questioned Obama’s attempt to let bygones be bygones. Cardinal Jaime Ortega is willing to forgive but refuses to forget. “You don’t turn the page and you don’t put history behind you, because history is necessary and history is the essence of life,” he stated.

Fidel Castro asks whether we should also forget “those who died in mercenary attacks on Cuban ships and ports, a commercial airliner full of passengers blown up mid-flight, mercenary invasions and numerous acts of violence and aggression.”

During negotiations, Cuba secured the release of agents (Cuban Five) who had been imprisoned in the United States for life.

The former leader, however, concludes with a chilling phrase: “We don’t need anything from the empire.” Not one Cuban I’ve spoken with shares this idea, on the contrary, many believe Cuba does need the United States badly.

Cuba did need US trade when the blockade forced it to change its entire industrial infrastructure and adopt less advanced technologies, when it was left without means of transportation due to a lack of spare pieces and even today, when its financial transactions are persecuted throughout the world.

Cuba needs good relations with the United States because the latter opens all of the worlds doors for it, as was clearly demonstrated on December 17, 2014, when it was granted access to new credit, made new investment offers and saw a rise in tourism.

Cuba needs this and this is no abstract proposal, because, those who need it are the pensioner who receives US $10 a month and the teacher who can’t make ends meet during the month. The workers whose wages cover a mere 46% of the basic needs of their families also need it.

Cuba’s merit has been precisely the ability to overcome such difficulties without yielding to blackmail or force. When the United States acknowledges its failure, however, to remain confrontational is not likely to meet with the support of most Cubans.

We have to recognize that the Cuban leadership has known when and how to sit down at the negotiations table. They’ve done so without giving up sovereignty, getting back the imprisoned agents (Cuban Five), not talking about internal policy and conversing on an equal footing with the most powerful nation in the world. What more could they ask for?

Is Cuba ready to bury the hatchet with its age-old enemy?

The value of Raul Castro and his staff consists in having confidence in the nation’s ability to manage the risks involved in a rapprochement with the United States. He has faith, as Fornet says, “in our conviction that continuing to be who we are is worthwhile.”

It’s true Washington is preparing a new strategy that consists in subtler, less arrogant relations, a strategy one could even call charming. But, in order to implement it with a modicum of coherence, it has to loosen the knots around Cuba’s economy.

The aim now is to manage to make this breathing space reach the dinner tables of Cubans, and, to achieve this, internal changes must continue to advance – not the changes the United States may aspire to, but those approved by different assemblies several years ago, of which only an infinitesimal part has been applied.


15 thoughts on “Cuba Faces New Challenges in an Old Conflict

  • My point is that they were doing more then just rescuing
    their brothers . i wonder what the U.S. would do if some foreign country were dropping propaganda leaflets on our country encouraging people to overthrow the Government; even after we warned them to stop. But there is no sense talking to people like you. Give it up and get a life – it’s over.

  • There is no room for debate that the shootdown of Brothers to the Rescue caused Helms Burton. The logic of the rationale is a different situation. I do agree with you that passing Helms Burton was an illogical and political knee jerk reaction as the US could have avoided the entire problem.

    But is that not basically what I originally said in the post you responded to?

  • Actually, the Brothers to the Rescue do talk about the leaflets they were dropping on, oh, excuse me… “bombarding!” Cuba with. These leaflets contained the most dangerous weapon which naturally terrified the Castro brothers:

    Ideas.

    Goodness knows the Cuban people cannot be trusted with dangerous ideas. I’m not sure what sort of antidote you manage to use to protect yourself from these dangerous ideas, but the Cuban people, such soft-headed people that they are, cannot safely be exposed to notions like freedom, democracy or humans rights.

  • And you know something brother Bob why America is losing respect in the world, (1) Its forked tongue policy; (2) its bullying tactics; Its Goebbels (Minister of propaganda under Adolf Hitler) propaganda it dishes out to the world as news. The brothers to the rescue were warned numerous time that they were invading the airspace of Sovereign Cuba. It came over the BBC World News that the Government of Cuba is warning the Brothers to the Rescue not to invade their air space. If they continue they will be shot down. Despite all these warnings they still persisted and, when their plane was shot down, the Americans claimed that it was shot down over International Waters without presenting any proof. When the Cuban Five infiltrated the terrorist organizations in Miami which were supported by the CIA and they were arrested and tried, one of them was sentenced to life imprisonment for shooting down the Brothers to the Rescue plane. The frozen assets of Cuba were unfrozen for the family of those who were shot down to be compensated. Speak about being the World’s biggest bully? Speak about hypocrisy?

  • Yea, the whole incident was tragic. Those planes should never have been allowed to take off. But Bill Clinton was distracted dealing with mistress issues. A disgrace all around.

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