Cuba Faces New Challenges in an Old Conflict

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

  • April 3, 2016 at 10:53 am
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    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.

  • April 2, 2016 at 9:41 pm
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    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?

  • April 2, 2016 at 6:40 pm
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    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.

  • April 1, 2016 at 9:18 pm
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    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?

  • April 1, 2016 at 6:48 pm
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    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.

  • April 1, 2016 at 6:22 pm
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    Yes, we all know how dangerous leaflets can be.

  • April 1, 2016 at 12:34 pm
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    GOOD comment- they also never talk about the leaflets that they constantly bombarded on Cuba.

  • April 1, 2016 at 6:52 am
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    February 23 ·

    Caribbean American Children Foundation
    PO Box 353593, Palm Coast, Fl., 32135
    [email protected] [email protected]
    Alberto N Jones DVM
    President

    First Lady Michelle Obama
    The White House,
    Washington, D.C.
    December 5, 2012

    Dear Michelle,

    Like millions of people of African ancestry and other minorities around the world, who never expected to see a son of Africa sitting in the White House in our lifetime, we wish to congratulate the President from the bottom of our hearts, yourself and everyone else who made the unthinkable happen twice!

    This unique, unprecedented accomplishment will instill in the minds of millions of children deemed inferior, incapable or unworthy by some, the fact that they too, have no limits for their dreams and aspirations.

    But the other reason for reaching out to you, has been your proven dedication to the sick, veterans, children and others in need, who may be impacted positively by your actions.

    Two weeks before the President incredible human triumph over backwardness and prejudices, hurricane Sandy visited Santiago de Cuba and later the United States, reek havoc in her path here and there. Please accept our sympathy for the massive deaths and destruction it caused in numerous NE states, Canada, Haiti, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.

    Dear Michelle, allow me to share with you, a few words about Santiago de Cuba, the most Caribbean city in Cuba, the home of the largest Afro-Cuban community and the holder of a unique and distinct Cuban history that stands tall as it lies in ruins today.

    Santiago de Cuba is not only the second largest city in Cuba, it is the birthplace of Mariana Grajales, the mother of the Cuban nation and the most outstanding woman of African ancestry to live in our hemisphere, who led her entire family to war in 1868, 1879 and 1895, where most died fighting to end Spanish colonialism.

    General Antonio Maceo, her most outstanding son and revered military leader, rose through the ranks from a soldier to become the second in command of the Cuban Army of Independence, where he defeated on the battle field each of Spain most decorated generals and successfully led the invasion from east to west, with a military strategy that is perpetuated in Paris and other military museums around the world.

    Santiago de Cuba is also the birthplace of legendary General Quintin Banderas, the leader of the fiercest Army in all three wars of Independence, who was brutally segregated and viciously butchered after the war, when he denounced the racist government his actions helped to put in place.

    Santiago de Cuba is the site where Teddy Roosevelt landed in 1898 with his Rough Riders and where many Tuskeegee black soldiers were wounded or died.

    Santiago de Cuba was at the epicenter of the massacre of over 3000 mostly Afro-Cuban members of the Independent Party of Color in 1912, (another Rosewood) which was organized after the failure of the Cuban government to live up to its platform of “With all and for the wellbeing of All”.

    Santiago de Cuba is where the seed was sown on July 26, 1953 against the bloody dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, the birthplace of Frank and Josue Pais, Vilma Espin, Pepito Tey, Tony Aloma, the Protest of Baragua and the martyrdom of 16 year old William Soler.

    Santiago de Cuba is home of 2500 students of the Caribbean School of Medical Sciences, where hundreds of underprivileged students from Africa and the Caribbean have received their medical degree, especially Haiti with over 700, all free of charge.

    Santiago de Cuba is where thousands of Afro-Americans and Hispanic youths at risk, could safely spend their drug-violence-free summer vacations, learn conflict resolution and improve their self-esteem, by accessing the rich Afro-Cuban history and culture.

    As it was proposed by Booker T. Washington, R. N. R. Nelson, Langston Hughes, Marcus Garvey, Mary Mc Leod Bethune-Cookman and others knew, that integrating African-Americans and Afro-Cubans in the world of education, science, business, sports and culture, is a precondition for their mutual advancement.

    Above and beyond all existing ideological differences between the US and Cuba, I am inviting you to come to Santiago de Cuba and see for yourself, what this city was, is and what it can once again become for millions of uneducated, poor and hopeless young people from around the world.

    Respectfully,

    Alberto N Jones, DVM

    A non-profit tax exempt 501© (3) corporation

  • April 1, 2016 at 4:52 am
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    Obama,forget abouth slavery?

  • April 1, 2016 at 4:51 am
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    Castro forget that spain extermino the cubans indias,?

  • March 31, 2016 at 7:56 pm
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    Fernando Ravsberg makes some valid observations. But he also says, speaking of the US “it has to loosen the knots around Cuba’s economy”. But let’s look at some facts.

    The Cuban people are receiving around $5 billion (with a B) in cash and merchandise remittances from abroad, mostly from the US. This is more than double the total take from tourism and is approximating the amount Cuba receives from Venezuela for all those doctors and teachers.

    it sure seems that instead of the US having knots around the Cuban economy, it is actually doing a major part in keeping it afloat.

  • March 31, 2016 at 7:46 pm
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    Let’s be fair and acknowledge that Helms-Burton was a direct result of the Cuban Air Force shooting down the Brothers to the Rescue aircraft. There was no congressional support until that happened. Congress went so far as to “Clinton Proof” it so he could not soften it.

    But also to be fair, we can blame President Clinton for the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down because Raul Castro told him two days earlier that the shoot down was going to happen if the Brothers to the Rescue aircraft invaded Cuban airspace once again as was planned.

  • March 31, 2016 at 6:41 pm
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    “Cuba needs good relations with the United States.” Totally true and in my opinion, well written.

  • March 31, 2016 at 6:21 pm
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    Obama is genuine on his Cuba policy. Cuba needs to work with Obama to put in place anchors of new relationship. Getting to normal is still years away and will need to happen without Obama. The last time the Clinton’s ran the White House, Helms-Burton was enacted. She is no Obama.

  • March 31, 2016 at 12:12 pm
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    Barack Obama, the lamest of lame ducks, is showing his true ideological self.
    Beware, America. This man can do irreparable damage in the next ten months.

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