Obama and Castro Are Playing in Different Leagues / Ivan Garcia
Posted on January 28, 2015
Events are moving quickly. At least that is what Nivaldo, a private taxi
driver who owns an outdated Moskovich car from the Soviet era, thinks.
"Don't slam the door or it will come loose," he tells the passengers he
drives from Playa to Brotherhood Park in the heart of Havana.
Nivaldo and a large segment of the Cuban population are trying to follow
the latest news on emigration and the negotiations taking place in
Havana's main convention center.
"This (the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the
United States) has been tremendous," he says. "Before December 17 the
United States was the evil empire and the cause of every malady
afflicting the country. The first thing to change was the tone of news
coverage. It's a healthy development that two women are leading the
negotiations. Political machismo has caused a lot of harm in Cuba.
People are tired of all the testosterone and the testicle-driven rhetoric."
Nivaldo continues talking as he stops to pick up a passenger. "I don't
know if this new situation will bring immediate improvements in the
lives of average Cubans or not. I hope so. I work twelve to fourteen
hours a day to support my family and save money to celebrate my
daughter's fifteenth birthday. If things change, maybe I can get rid of
this jalopy and buy a new Ford. The question that many on the street are
asking is how and in what way will the government implement a series of
measures that benefit people," he says as he raises the radio volume to
hear the evening news.
Average Cubans are following events with excessive expectations while
some express a die-hard optimism.
Rogelio, an umbrella repairman, is eating a hamburger at a McDonald's
with long lines. "When the embargo is lifted," he says, "stores will be
well-stocked with quality merchandise. I hope the government allows
direct imports by the self-employed and the banking system offers more
generous credit terms. Stores will allow customers to pay in
installments like in any modern society."
Others are more cautious. "Yes, it's all well and good to be able to buy
rice, chicken and smart phones from the United States, but by necessity
the Cuban system must change. There is too much centralization and
control, which stifles the economic independence of small private
businesses. Then there are the issues of low salaries and the dual
currency. How much will the average citizen be able to pay for a home
internet connection or an American-made computer?" asks Rosario, an
automated systems engineer.
A large segment of the Cuban dissident community considers the strategy
adopted by President Obama to be misguided.
At a 2:00 PM press conference announcement on January 23, the prominent
opposition figure Antonio Rodiles and a sizable group of dissidents
express disapproval of the White House's recent moves. "I would like to
know where they are getting their information," he says. "I am afraid
they have become disoriented. They are betting on a continuation of the
Castro regime and are concerned with national security.
"They have undertaken these negotiations without input from the island's
opposition. I don't see why a regime with a history of political rights
violations should change. Obama has given up a lot and gotten very
little in return. If the international community does not insist that
Cuba ratify United Nation Human Rights Conventions, there will be no
change in the status quo. This will translate into the arrests of
activists and some opposition figures could end up back in prison."
There are notable differences in outlook between dissidents and ordinary
Cubans. The average person on the street thinks it was time to bring an
end to the ongoing political chess game between the two countries.
Cuban citizens believe the new direction in U.S. foreign policy makes
perfect sense and pokes through the tired pretexts used by the country's
military overlords to justify the economic catastrophe and ideological
madhouse they created fifty-six years ago.
But there is one thing that "black coffee" Cubans and some members of
the opposition have in common: each is looking out for its own
interests. And the regime knows this. It hopes to perpetuate the system
by changing its methods.
President Barack Obama and General Raul Castro are clearly playing in
24 January 2015
Source: Obama and Castro Are Playing in Different Leagues / Ivan Garcia
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