What Would a Trump Presidency Mean for Cuba?

By Michael Ritchie

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

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.

Homeland or Death.
Homeland or Death.

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.

Richie-2So 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.”


7 thoughts on “What Would a Trump Presidency Mean for Cuba?

  • September 9, 2016 at 1:40 pm
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    Can you imagine President D.Trump and el Dictator Castro sitting round a table to discuss policy? Now that would be one crazy meeting!

  • September 1, 2016 at 10:52 am
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    Whoever is elected, either Donald Trump & Hillary Clinton would continue the policy of normalization started by Obama. The US government will continue to chip away at the remaining elements of the US embargo. If, as polls are indicating, the Democrats win control of both the Senate & the House, they may well vote to lift the embargo.

    In return, the Cuban military owned conglomerates, GAESA, CIMEX & Gaviota will enter into partnership deals with US corporations. The Cuban people will continue to live under the military dictatorship of the Castro regime.

  • September 1, 2016 at 9:15 am
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    For once I agree with you Moses

  • August 31, 2016 at 7:40 pm
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    I completely agree that Cubans should disregard the agenda-driven stereotypes of US politics presented by the media. While Trump’s history of hateful remarks towards minorities could not bring me to vote for him, I admire his anti-imperialist rhetoric. I do not think that a Donald Trump would be an apocalyptic spectacle as the mainstream media would have you believe. In fact, I think the pro-Hillary media has indeed exaggerated much of Trump’s reactionary rhetoric in an attempt to position Hillary as the “good candidate”, when nothing could be further from the truth. I’m not sure she’d do much harm to Cuba directly, but her history of stoking militant, destructive coups in the name of US imperial interests could certainly affect the Cuban people indirectly, if she succeeds in her plot to overthrow Maduro in Venezuela. I’ll not be voting for her either.

    Your admiration of the Cuban Revolution in light of you being a Republican is both refreshing and commendable, showing a willingness to think freely outside of what both US party’s conventional supporters believe.

  • August 30, 2016 at 4:29 pm
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    At long last humour has found its place in Havana Times. A short visit to Havana has given Michael Ritchie admiration for the man who declared:
    “Besides, the number of henchmen we are going to execute will not be more than four hundred.”
    But as usual, Fidel Castro was misleading because Cuban archival materials document 3,615 executions by firing squad since Fidel Castro took power on January 1, 1959 and an additional 1,253 extra judicial killings have been attributed to his regime – including one US journalist.
    But Ritchie’s admiration for Fidel Castro is not surprising when one learns that he is a supporter of Donald Trump, he who supports the NRA and further increase of guns in the US where over 10,000 people a year are shot to death. Clearly in those terms, Fidel Castro’s death roll palls into insignificance.
    Donald Trump ought not to be stereotyped for fortunately there are few with his paranoid narcissism.
    It’s nice to learn, but not surprising to learn that Ritchie was scammed by an old Cuban. As he himself put it: “I was had.”

  • August 30, 2016 at 3:37 pm
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    “…And, fact is, Trump comes off as rather gruff and not very serious.” writes the author of this article. Calling Mexicans who cross the border from Mexico to the United States is more than ‘rather gruff’. It’s racist. Accusing a federal judge born in the United States of bias because he is of Mexican heritage is racist should be taken quite seriously. Electing Trump to be the Town Dog-catcher would be a mistake. As President of the United States, and total disaster.

  • August 30, 2016 at 2:14 pm
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    Further proof that Donald Trump is in no mood to portray Barack Obama’s rapprochement with Cuba as a capitulation to a one-party dictatorship (even if he said “we should’ve made a better deal) can be found at another link:

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/oct/22/donald-trump-concept-us-cuba-normalization-not-bad/

    I’m pretty sure Donald Trump is happy Alan Gross is not in prison anymore, but his decision to support Obama’s Cuba policy with a few modifications is evident in the fact that when the US embassy in Cuba reopened last year a month after the official restoration of US diplomatic relations with Cuba, Trump didn’t paint the embassy reopening as surrender to Havana. Additionally, Eric Trump has nothing negative to say about Barack Obama’s economic and diplomatic opening to Cuba, even though he and his father know that doing business in Cuba is difficult (http://wlrn.org/post/eric-trump-talks-immigration-zika-and-what-his-father-will-do-if-he-loses). Anyway, with Clinton ahead in new national and state polls, if Trump loses the election, then Republicans who refuse to admit that the old policy of isolating Cuba diplomatically and economically was a failure in the context of post-Cold War geopolitics will be left out of the political conversation and the GOP years from now will look back and realize that Obama did the right opening up to Cuba economically and diplomatically.

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