By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES — “Trump is a son of a bitch”: this is how Alberto, a street seller, defines him. “Now we really aren’t going to do better off; this crazy old man doesn’t have God’s forgiveness,” said Susana, while she served a soft drink in a cafe.
When asked the same question (What do you think about Trump’s recent actions towards Cuba?), another twenty-three people responded in the same vein.
Apparently, very few people here in Cuba see the new US policy, which was announced on June 16th in Miami, in a favorable light. They automatically blame the controversial White House resident of being “hostile” and they believe that he only wants to destroy the small advance Obama managed to achieve in US-Cuba relations.
But, do they know anything about GAESA?
“GAESA? What is that? – This must be another US invention to justify the blockade.”
“Boy, we are sick of all this GAESA and military business talk in my home. It must be a lie. I have never heard anyone speak about it, in my 46 years of existence! I refuse to believe it; these people have their problems, come on, we all admit that; but I don’t think they have cheated the Cuban people in this way. Be serious!”
It is just as hard to find somebody who knows what GAESA is among ordinary people. Out of the 25 people I interviewed, two were employees at a Caribbean TRD (hard-currency) store. One is young, but the other one isn’t that young anymore and he is a founding member of the chain.
“Well, this must be a great lie, because I’ve been working here for 20 years and I have never heard anyone mention this GAESA. And from what I know, this company belongs to the State. People always say “this is run by the military” as a joke; I’m sure it’s because the main leaders are retired militarymen. But, the thing is they need trustworthy people, not because they are the owners. I don’t believe that.”
It makes sense that opinions on the island are in this line, that there are doubts and a lack of awareness. The Government is still controlling the media and they use it to make their message ring loud and clear. However, whether what is being said or speculated about these mysterious military companies is true or not, the truth is that there isn’t any public transparency. And the worst thing is that the Cuban people are the owners, hypothetically-speaking, and they don’t know about its existence and its institutions aren’t being regulated. This really stinks of something.
It is also a fact that Trump is very unpopular among the same Cubans who he says he is trying to liberate. He is seen by them as a “partner” of the extreme Right in Florida, who are supporting the embargo and that’s reason enough for them to be despised on the island.
Maybe it was wrong for Obama to negotiate with the Cuban government to end the hostility between both nations without asking for anything in return; just with the hope that a more capitalist economy would bring about democracy. Maybe it would have been better, at the time, to have taken a stance like the one the new President is doing right now, as a conditioned first step.
But, we have yet to see whether going back on this rapprochement will be a bigger mistake, after having started a process which won over a lot of support worldwide. We have also yet to see whether all of this isn’t anything more than a US domestic policy game, rather than an action which encourages the Cuban democratic cause. These questions linger in the air and will only disappear over time.
However, there has been one total success: Trump has put the huge problem of Cuban military companies and their control of national wealth on the table and in public debate, for the first time to this extent. Now, everybody will ask, in Cuba and across the globe: What is GAESA?
The mysterious business group run by the Cuban military which controls a significant percentage of the Cuban economy, is no longer a secret. And even though Cubans are a bit skeptical, now they are beginning to be filled with doubt: and that is the first step in unveiling the truth about our system.