Alberto N Jones
HAVANA TIMES — With just a few days left of Barack Obama’s difficult and tumultuous presidency, conflicting views don’t allow us to specify what the outcome of his time in office has been and much less how he will be remembered by historians and academics.
The only thing we know for certain is that Obama took the reins of the United States government in the worst conditions the country had ever had in its history, inheriting two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with nearly 200,000 soldiers on the ground, the near collapse of the real estate industry, the threat of banks crashing and financial collapse and the loss of thousands of jobs every day.
Congress’ open hostility towards him, dominated by the Republican party, was worse still, promising to block however many laws the President would put forward for their approval and committing themselves publicly to reduce his presidential term to just four years. Plucking up their courage, we heard the worse racist remarks when they questioned his place of birth and when they called him a liar during a formal State of Nation speech.
Regardless of the opinions in favor or against his administration, it cannot be denied that at the end of 2-3 years of his government and in spite of the huge obstacles that were placed in his path, the great ills he’d inherited have either been decimated or reversed and soldiers had begun to return home.
Defying all logic, President Obama won reelection by a landslide which allowed him to dedicate more time to sorting out the US’ international relations and his legacy, Cuba was among them.
The sensitive US-Cuban negotiations under the guidance of the Vatican, ended in the historic joint declaration on Dicember 17th 2014, where both countries expressed their intention to work towards normalizing the diplomatic relations which had been put on standby and filled with conflict and hate for over half a century.
Not many people were prepared for Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba with his family without a lot of fanfare, protocol or ambition, whose humility impacted ordinary Cubans in a positive way, who could see themselves reflected in this simple man.
The Cuban government allowed him to move freely about Havana, to visit whatever he wanted, to speak to as many people as he could and was given the stage at the Grand Theater to speak live and directly to the Cuban people and others around the globe. His conciliatory and inspiring speech to consolidate his legacy, mistakenly alluded to putting the past aside.
The reaction to this remark was almost immediate with Comandante Fidel Castro’s reflection directed at “Brother Obama” and which should have been enough. However, the ensuing avalanche of opportunistic articles in the Cuban press was really unexpected, unfortunate and self-destructive. They believed they had found an easy target, throwing wood onto the fire of what should have been a successful and unifying visit for both countries, but instead they ended up offending millions of Afro-Americans and other ethnic minorities across the world in a painful fashion.
In one of the first speeches given by Fidel Castro in 1959, he warned us about opportunists, those who appear at the last-minute to try and take advantage of the situation to get onboard the victory train. The new dynamic between the US and Cuba has encouraged the appearance of countless people from unknown origins to lead groups, associations and committees in recent years, who appear in the foreground at many inaugurations, commemorations, political, economic or social events which take place at both embassies.
The humble men and woman in the country, who faced so many attacks made against Cuban installations in the US, who physically fought on Miami’s streets, who were marginalized, threatened and some even died, who participated in the hundreds at solidarity events, traveling to Cuba when it was forbidden and who suffered reprisals, stigma and rejection from their family and friends, have been completely excluded from these events.
Maybe influenced by new friends in Cuba, negotiations between these two countries have been moving at a snail’s pace. Side agreements like improving internet and top celebrity visits have been made, while key commercial opportunities have been lost and Cuban authorities continue to insist on the embargo being revoked and the Guantanamo naval base being returned, both dependent on US Congress and out of the president’s hands.
This unfortunate delay could negatively affect the country in the face of the uncertainty, instability and Donald Trump’s erratic behavior, who could now try to return the region back to the tragic and sad days of George W. Bush.
Although late, Cuba could still encourage the immediate creation of million dollar joint ventures with the US in the sugar, citrus fruits, pineapple, coffee, cocoa, livestock, strawberry, vegetable and ornamental plants industries.
To combat Cuba’s economic stagnation, improvement in the food industry, normalizing services and the founding of an economic shield which can neutralize any blow from the new US government, is essential in order to keep a healthy peace and future for the region.