Politics and Promises: Cubans await Obama’s visit

By Beatrice Pignatelli

Beatrice-GranmaHAVANA TIMES – The time has come. It has been over 80 years since a president of the United States has stepped foot on Cuban soil and, in a decision that to many appears to have been made over night, President Obama and the First Lady Michelle have officially announced a visit to the island next month on March 21-22.

Here on the island, the news leaked in the predictably measured way that all news leaks in Cuba. It was first transmitted via Telesur late on Wednesday night with no previous mention on the Cuban evening news broadcast. Silence followed the next couple of days with many Cubans out of the loop about the imminent visit. Two days later, the confirmation was printed on the front page of Granma accompanied by the headline “In Cuba, President Obama will be treated with respect and consideration.”

According to the official statement of Obama’s twitter account, the objective of this brief visit is to “advance our progress and efforts that can improve the lives of the Cuban people”. Granma’s stance focuses on the importance of improving bilateral relations and to give President Obama an opportunity to “appreciate the Cuban reality”. Granma further stresses that issues such as the embargo and the United States occupation of the territory comprising the Guantanamo Naval Base will remain on Cuba’s agenda. Obama’s priorities, on the other hand, will center on human rights.

The decision is logical and comes to many as no surprise. Fourteen months ago, a new era of diplomatic relations between the two nations was announced to the world. The process of normalization, welcomed by both national and international media as a mark in a new chapter of politics in the region, in reality, has plodded on at a more than gradual pace. It has been viewed by many Cubans as another example of politicians paying lip service to reform with very little effect. Embassies have opened, flights have set off, certain bans have been lifted and life has continued as normal. However, undeniably, things have now begun to accelerate.

Cuban Foreign Ministry poster.
Cuban Foreign Ministry poster.

But, why now?

Just as with the recent visit of Partriarch Kirill and Pope Francisco, a making-history moment that on the streets of Havana went fairly unrecognised, it is clear that, amongst other motives, the Cuban government is mobilizing itself. The reunion of two of the most important figures of the Christian world resonated both symbolically and politically before an international audience.

But for the Cuban people what real resonation will Obama’s visit have? How will Cubans react?

When asked, responses and opinions are, on the whole, positive towards recent events but tainted with a mixture of expectation and apprehension. As a source stated this morning “It’s hard to take in at times. When you have lived your whole life being taught one thing, the Americans are the enemies, don’t study English, don’t travel and the omelette is suddenly flipped, you start to believe that everything is built on a lie”.

23 Street in Havana. Photo: Juan Suarez
23 Street in Havana. Photo: Juan Suarez

Another source said, “I’m not really interested in why Obama is coming but rather in how will people view the visit…how people will receive him. Obama represents a lot for the Cuban people, as he is also our President. He governs the largest community of Cubans living outside of Cuba.”

The Obamas will be greeted with hope and relief as the visit symbolizes for the Cuban people that real changes are on the horizon, a fortified connection between the two largest communities of Cubans in the world, and most importantly a point of no return for future candidates for the US presidency.

But will the world witness a tipping point moment?

It is too early to say. What remains certain is that Obama’s visit will continue to be the topic of conversation over the next four weeks – on Cuban television, international television, the streets of Havana and Miami, and the President will be greeted in March with expectation, flags and baited breath.


11 thoughts on “Politics and Promises: Cubans await Obama’s visit

  • February 29, 2016 at 7:19 am
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    No, EVERYONE does not know anything of the sort. In fact, you don’t even KNOW it. You just seem to make up stupid stuff to write when you don’t have anything substantive to say based on real facts.

  • February 28, 2016 at 7:20 pm
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    Except that this piece is written by a Cuban in Cuba. Ummmm

  • February 28, 2016 at 7:18 pm
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    What “dissident”? Who do you mean…anyone that disagrees with the Castro dictatorship? Only in Count me in baby!!! But seriously, is that all you got? Instead of explaining why you disagree all you can do is try and insult?

  • February 28, 2016 at 12:24 pm
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    A closed mind doesn’t help either.

  • February 27, 2016 at 7:24 pm
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    you mean a “dissident” = paid mercenary bu USA

  • February 27, 2016 at 7:24 pm
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    Everyone know that anything that comes from Miami and the exiles about Cuba is Bullshit!!!!!

  • February 22, 2016 at 11:38 pm
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    Bias, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. Point of View is evident in most news reports, even the weather. One man’s shower is another man’s sprinkle. The problem that bias sometimes brings is when news or articles reflect a bias and that bias is the only opinion allowed to be published. The local newspaper here in San Francisco, The Chronicle, generally publishes opposing views of the same topic. Are the biased? Very much so. But the reader is free the check the facts and consider an opposing point of view. Javier, I believe your problem with this article is that you don’t agree with it. You have made it clear in previous comments that if you were in charge, you would do as the Castros have done. Outlaw opposing opinions.

  • February 22, 2016 at 5:55 pm
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    I think this visit is yet another positive step forward for the Cuban peoples and, the American way of thinking. Although I am all for change in the way of how Cuba has been/is being governed, I also believe these changes should be brought in/implemented slowly.
    The Cubans are a very proud and extremely resilient people, who, have endured hardships possible well beyond what I or anyone else has or, will ever experience. It is because of this obvious lifetime of self-sacrifice – For most, if not all Cubans – that the rest of world watching in, must also understand that although political/economic change in Cuba is viewed in a positive light, it will be ultimately up to them, the Cuban people, to decide the pace of implementation and, the changes ‘they’ think they need, No one else.

  • February 22, 2016 at 2:53 pm
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    Were I Raul, I’d do all I could to have the U.S. ease up on the embargo short of sacrificing revolutionary principles.
    So far, so good.
    Remember the reason for the embargo has always been the reinstitution of free enterprise capitalism; another more totalitarian economic form than Cuba’s state capitalism, and this has been resisted.
    Again, anarchist belief is that any government long enough in power becomes self-preserving, corrupt and totalitarian as have those in Cuba and the U.S. to differing degrees .
    The U.S. has lost the revolutionary zeal of that revolution and it is now nothing like originally conceived 250 years ago having been corrupted by the unelected dictatorship of money.
    The Cuban revolution is still fresh in the minds of most of us.
    This bodes well for democratic change
    We shall soon see if democracy (socialism) comes to Cuba.

  • February 22, 2016 at 2:18 pm
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    …and yet it wasn’t out of Miami. This was a piece written by a Cuban in Cuba. Oh the irony that its always the armchair Bolshevik in comfortable home outside Cuba who licks the Castro boot so thoroughly. Cubans on the island know better.

  • February 22, 2016 at 1:37 pm
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    what a biased article… straight out of Miami..

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