By Pilar Montes
HAVANA TIMES — After Donald Trump´s unexpected victory in the US presidential elections, Cubans who were already thinking that the national outlook was looking uncertain in regard to its relationship with its powerful neighbor in the North, now seem to have reached a dead end with the president-elect.
An old proverbs says “be prepared for the worst and wish for the best.” President Raul Castro’s message, although brief and more protocol really, follows this way of thinking for some Cubans, although it was made to coincide with the announcement of the 2016 Bastion military maneuvers.
These exercises, which began to be carried out in 1980, have since been carried out with varying frequency. First, it was every three years, but it was cancelled 1989, in my opinion, more because of the lack of oil from a vanishing Socialist Bloc rather than an imminent threat from the US. They then started back up again 18 years later in 2004, followed by others in 2009, 2013 and now this year.
When asking Cuban citizens their opinion about what the next four years with Trump will mean, a young man who had recently graduated in Journalism, Sergio, told me that “I can’t really tell which policy the new President-elect will apply. First of all, although he is a very wealthy businessman, he claims not to be a “man of the establishment.´ Maybe it was this belief that made an impression on those who voted for him, a people who were tired of unfulfilled promises from politicians who preceded him.”
When I asked him what kind of treatment Cuba could expect from the newly elected leader, he said “I believe that if Trump is convinced that lifting the blockade makes good business sense for the US, then he will, not out of friendship or humanist reasons or without losing sight of the strategic objectives needed to change our system.
For his part, Antonio, a retired soldier who fought in missions as a combatant and then served as an adviser in African countries, believes that “we’ll have to wait at least the first 100 days of Trump’s government to assess the policies he will continue on the whole and especially with regard to Cuba.”
“And although the decision to hold the Bastion military exercises in 2016 had been taken in advance, in April, during the 7th Cuban Communist Party Congress, I think it is very timely because as Che once said, “you can´t trust the imperialists even a little bit,” added Antonio.
Santiago, a renter to tourists, gave his opinion and said: “I expect there will be positive changes with regard to Cuba with Trump in the White House, because as he is a powerful businessman, it’ll be difficult for him to put on a “straitjacket” in many regards, when it comes to making decisions, not to mention the fact that Congress has a Republican majority.”
Young Beatriz, a French language student, doesn’t have such a positive take on things as “judging by the President-elect’s campaign speeches, these were aggressive on a rare level against undocumented immigrants, religious minorities such as Muslims and included offensive statements against women.”
Her boyfriend Yandi. an IT technician, disagreed with her in the sense that “changes can be positive, because campaign promises and stances are one thing and the policies you then follow through with are very different once you start ruling.”
Other young people, like Carlos, who works as a driver, hope that “the new President´s policies contribute to repealing restrictions on travel and trade with Cuba, and that domestically it will lead to changes that will make our economy more efficient and attractive.”
The owner of a private restaurant, Ricardo, pointed out that “in reality, we Cubans are interested in peace and in being able to live in harmony with the US, which could contribute to a better economic situation as of January 20th.” He also added that the doubt remains as to whether Trump will continue down the path of lifting restrictions or, on the contrary, he’ll feel pressured into honoring the commitments he might have gotten himself into with Florida’s most extreme sector.”
In short, Cuban opinion is very much divided just as US opinions are, due to the fact that thus far there isn’t any coherence in the new leader’s plan.