HAVANA TIMES — Cuba’s reaction in the face of Donald Trump’s presidential victory was to announce that military maneuvers would be carried out across the country, as the official newspaper’s headline news. This is nothing more than a routine exercise but it has been announced on the front page, along with Donald Trump’s victory.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces have assured us that the objective is strictly to train military officials “in the organization of work so as to increase the country’s defense and to prepare troops and the Cuban people to confront the different actions of the enemy.”
Some believe that is just pure coincidence but there is never coincidence in Cuban politics and the Communist Party’s official newspaper doesn’t publish anything the day after a US election without it being previously revised by the political administration.
It seems like this is a message directed at the new tenant in the White House, who had toughened his discourse with regard to Cuba as the campaign drew on until he ended up in the State of Florida claiming that he would reverse all of Barack Obama’s policies relating to the island.
The greatest weakness of the now outgoing president’s “legacy” is that his successor can turn things on their head without too much legal headache. To go back on the progress that has been made, Trump relies on the support and pressure that Cuban-American politicians in Congress, among them the reelected Marco Rubio.
However, it’s worth remembering that the new leader is also a businessman and as such, had previously sent messengers to Cuba to investigate investment opportunities, well before Obama began the thawing process and going against the Embargo law that forbade it.
Furthermore, during his nomination campaign ro run for the Republican Party, he really clashed hard with other candidates who were of Cuban origin, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. It’ll be hard for them now to demand that Trump adopt their political strategies against Cuba.
Even though they share some common interests, Donald Trump’s anti-immigration stance could link in with Marco Rubio’s efforts to castrate the Cuban Adjustment Act, which grants residency to every Cuban citizen who steps foot on US soil.
The Cuban government has been cautious, Granma newspaper limited itself to saying that Trump had won “thanks to the millions of US votes, the majority of them made by white people from rural areas, who were unhappy with the course their country was taking and who were disillusioned by Washington’s traditional political figures.”
On the street, ordinary Cubans took the news with more unease. They had hoped that Hillary Clinton would end the embargo once and for all, which has been hanging over Cuba for more than half a century and whose explicit objective is to create hunger, misery and despair among the population.
Thousands of artisans, owners of restaurants, hostals, cafes or bars, their employees and everyone else who directly or indirectly benefits from the surge in tourism that has been brought about by the warming of relations between Washington and Havana, are afraid that they will be negatively affected.
Although for Cuban authorities, it would be easier to deal with a transparent Trump than with the experienced Clinton. She would have continued on with Obama’s policies, a coherent and well-versed strategy that was aimed at winning over the hearts of Cubans.
Ironically, Trump could even contribute to the unity between Cuban revolutionaries who have recently had very different opinions about how to tackle Obama’s policies. Now, for better or worse, everything will be more crystal-clear, without room for real or paranoid suspicions.
There’s no doubt about it, Trump is right-wing but, unlike George W. Bush, he doesn’t owe his victory to Florida and he doesn’t have any kind of special friendship with anti-Castro politicians and Cubans who make up the wave of Latin American immigrants that this new president will reject and turn back.
It’s still too early to know just what course of action Donald Trump will take regarding Cuba. Havana seems to have sent him two messages: Cuba is preparing for the worst case scenario but without starting a verbal attack, giving Trump the chance to make the first moves.