Cubans with Trump on Their Mind

By Pilar Montes

Donald Trump in Miami, Florida during his campaign
Donald Trump in Miami, Florida during his campaign.  Photo:

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.

11 thoughts on “Cubans with Trump on Their Mind

  • November 22, 2016 at 7:44 pm

    Yes indeed, this will be an interesting first six months.

  • November 21, 2016 at 8:01 pm

    The 29 electoral votes allotted to Florida would not have prevented Trump from winning the election. Castro brothers are in for a rocky ride now that the GOP is in charge.

  • November 21, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    Exit polls show that 58% of Cuban-Americans voted for Trump, which was indeed enough to win Florida. Furthermore, Marco Rubio was re-elected to the Senate with 69% of the Cuban-American vote. Rubio is a sharp critic of Obama’s Cuba policy and will certainly have Trump’s ear on his policy toward Cuba.

    Which is to say, Trump will undo a fair bit of the concessions Obama gave away to Raul.

  • November 21, 2016 at 9:51 am

    Absolutely correct regarding Castro and Obama. Cuba could have enabled Clinton to have carried Florida if they made concessions that needed to sway just a few voters and instead will now find themselves royally boxed in. I also thought Clinton was a better candidate but you talk about a horror show in running a campaign. Quite tragic in my opinion.

  • November 20, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    Agree on both points. Clinton ran an uninspired campaign. Raul missed opportunity to go farther. Obama was as decent a negotiating partner as he will see. Even know Obama put new rules out that they could grab and use. Obama opened up direct commerce if Raul would allow it.

  • November 20, 2016 at 9:20 am

    While I continue to believe that Hillary Clinton would have been a good President, she was a horrible candidate. The Castros misunderstood Obama. They saw him as weak and over-anxious to make a deal. Now, they find themselves with having to make the next move with an administration that will be much harder to impress. They should have made their concessions with Obama.

  • November 20, 2016 at 4:50 am

    He will be the first to build Havana’s next REAL SKYSCRAPER….The FOCSA was the last great modern building in Cuba. I did not vote for Trump but am glad he won. I am quite sure there is no going back on the flights…..all else will continue to unfold. The fossils must die before any real , real change comes. Raul has done wonders, compared to LA MOMIA.

    Saludos de Manhattan…..NY MARTIANO.

  • November 20, 2016 at 4:46 am

    Military exercises ??? How sad. With so much that has to be done in Cuba

  • November 19, 2016 at 9:35 pm

    Hillary Clinton, one of the worst campaigns in US history so Florida went for Trump and not totally due to the expat Cuban population. Personally, the Castro brothers could be responsible for their own demise giving the US and Obama, excuse the expression, “the finger!” Not very smart as it most definitely swayed the Florida vote whereas a decent reciprocity to the US overture would have had an entirely different effect. The insanity continues.

  • November 19, 2016 at 11:02 am

    There will varies cross currents on Cuba policy. Trump has indicated tha he is a none interventionist. He is a nationalist, that would indicate that he cares little about Cuban internal affairs as long they do not threaten U.S. interest. He is departing from the Bush White House administration officials who where big global interventionist. Unlike Bush, he was not dependent on Miami fund raising. He did in the closing days of campaign promise to reverse course if Cuba did not change it’s policies. He is putting in a hard right government that will have little interest in making deals without a perceived American win. A win for Trump’s America is unlikely to involve human rights and Democracy in a different country. Trump is a transactional business man. Trump will want more business opportunity, less immigration from Cuba. He will want the old property claims settled on favorable terms. He will not be shamed or moved by moralistic arguments. Nothing will be given to Raul’s Cuba; better come with tax credits, development rights, legal protections for business,national security favors and some suck up compliments for the “Art of the Deal” President.

  • November 18, 2016 at 10:20 pm

    Trump will listen to anti-Castro extremists. Buckle up Cuba.

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