Friday, November 20, 2015

Not even 10 Obamas can fix this country

Fabiola Santiago: 'Not even 10 Obamas can fix this country'

"Not even 10 Obamas can fix this country." – A young Cuban woman in Havana.

A new generation of Cubans — with some access to dollars, connected via
Internet, and emboldened by Cuba's liberalized travel policies — is
leaving the island for Miami in droves.

Some call them "the rum and reggaeton generation," twenty- and
thirty-somethings buying plane tickets to Ecuador, trekking through
seven countries, and presenting themselves at the U.S.-Mexico border
with the only visa they need: "Soy cubano."

By land (those who can afford airfare, bribes, coyotes) and by sea (the
poorer and bolder), young Cubans have been arriving in growing numbers
since President Barack Obama launched a process to "normalize" relations
with Cuba last December. But they had been trickling in via Ecuador and
other third countries for months, even years, before the historic shift
in U.S.-Cuba policy.

Rapprochement has only hastened what was already steamrolling — the
desire to leave the island, now made more urgent by the fear that
immigration policy favoring Cubans will change. This fear is not a
"media talking point," as a hard-line lobby group charges. I know this
because I have interviewed some of the recent arrivals and followed
their lives. They stay connected with Cuba, and help others back home
make the crossing.

When the administration, hoping to stem the flood, issued an urgent
press release earlier this year saying that there were no plans to
change the Cuban Adjustment Act or the wet-foot, dry-foot policy, I laughed.

Too little, too late.

These young Cubans grew up seeing relatives leave the country. They want
a share of the Cuban-American pie, too. Only they don't want exile. They
want U.S. residency and the right to return to Cuba whenever they want.
They're not here to talk politics and denounce the Castro government
(although some do).

Watch Spanish-language television news reports and behold reporters and
talk-show hosts dutifully following the old script and trying to get
members of this generation to say that they've been repressed, that they
hate the Castros, etc. Watch the immigrants wiggle out of the question.
They know the rules: You lay low, you return with open doors.

None of this is a secret in Cuban Miami.

It's only coming to greater scrutiny now that the Nicaraguan government
has refused passage to the latest 3,000 Cubans trying to cross the
border. What will happen? Who will take them?

Meanwhile in Havana, a nameless young woman being interviewed by a Miami
television reporter tries to explain why her compatriots are leaving in

"Not even 10 Obamas can fix this country."

If you've reported on every Cuban exodus as I have, you know that every
generation has a distinctive way of depicting their reality and creating
a narrative. Her bold and priceless words spoke louder than anything
I've heard in a while.

Not 10 Obamas, not 100 Obamas can fix a country where the solution to
every problem, from the personal to the political, is to leave the
claustrophobic island.

But only Cubans can fix Cuba. And if President Obama's "new day" is not
for the young, then for whom?

Fabiola Santiago:, @fabiolasantiago

Source: Fabiola Santiago: 'Not even 10 Obamas can fix this country' |
Miami Herald -

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