By Michael Ritchie
HAVANA TIMES — During my last visit to Cuba, while strolling through Centro Habana, camera in hand and looking very much like a tourist, an old, bearded Cuban gentleman seated on a bench called out to me.
“Where are you from, Señor?” he asked, puffing on a particularly fat cigar.
“Florida,” I replied.
“Then you will be voting for Hillary Clinton in your election?”
“No, I’m a Republican, so I’ll be voting for Donald Trump,” I answered.
“Then, Señor, you are not my friend.”
His frank reply shocked me. But then he smiled broadly, indicating the wit in his remark.
I sat beside him on the bench, a respite from the burning noon-day sun.
“We Cubans are not fond of Republicans,” he continued. “Your president Obama visited here and he is going to end el bloqueo. You should vote for a Democrat like Obama.
“But you are my friend anyway, so I offer you a cigar.”
With that he opened a leather cigar case and handed me a fat cigar like the one he was smoking.
“Gracias,” I said, accepting his gift, though I don’t smoke cigars or vote Democrat.
“I would be grateful for two pesos,” the old man added.
I was had— sucked into a political discussion and sucked into paying two pesos for what was not even a fake Cohiba. But the old man was clever and pleasant to chat with. And he piqued my interest regarding how other Cubans truly felt about the U.S. election and its impact on Cuba.
In a small, highly unscientific study, most of the Cubans I spoke with agreed with the old man in Centro. They don’t like Republicans and especially don’t like Donald Trump. But then there are many U.S. citizens who don’t like Trump either. I suspect that this attitude is a result of mischaracterization by the biased US media. And, fact is, Trump comes off as rather gruff and not very serious.
It is important for Cubans to know that Democrats, like Obama, are Globalists—what used to be called Imperialists. In the geo-political sense, they’re nation-builders.
Trump is a Nationalist—what used to be called an Isolationist. He wants to leave foreign governments alone. He wants to build golf courses. (And he’s had his eye on Cuba for that purpose for a long time.)
Like Cuba’s Raul Castro, Donald Trump is a pragmatist. He has said publicly that he is certainly open to a good relationship between the U.S. and Cuba, he’d simply like to negotiate a better deal. Which in English means, “Throw in a golf course and we’ve got a deal!”
Truth is, neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump will have much say about ending the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba. But I’m sure that, like most U.S. citizens, both candidates would like to see it ended.
But neither will have the power to do so. The United States Congress must vote to end the embargo.
So why has it taken so long? Frankly, because of a handful of Cuban exiles living in Miami, commonly referred to as the Miami Mafia. Members include names like Iliana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln Diaz-Balart. And their insistence on maintaining the embargo has nothing to do with ideology or good intentions. It has to do with money and land. They want the land and money which was supposedly taken from them when Fidel’s Agrarian Reform Act resulted in the seizure of much U.S.-held property in Cuba. They want reparation.
And, would you believe, the descendants of Meyer Lansky want reparations. Yes, the same Meyer Lansky, Mafia Don, who conspired with Fulgencio Batista to skim profits from Cuban casinos and helped U.S. companies to monopolize sugar and tobacco production.
As long as Fidel is alive, that is not going to happen. Nor should it.
Oops, my admiration for Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution is showing.
Yes, some US Republicans appreciate and respect the Cuban cry of Patria o Muerte (Homeland or Death)! Donald Trump could be one of those. You never know. And that’s the point. Cubans should disregard stereotypes of candidates presented by the U.S. media.
The world— and particularly Cuba— will not come to an end if Donald Trump is elected president of the United States. Both, in fact, might be better off.
*Michael Richie is a freelance journalist and published author living in Key West, Florida, USA. “I’m grateful to Havana Times for giving me the opportunity to relate my experiences with the daily life in Havana, the good and the not-so-good, as well as the wonderful nature of the Cuban people.”