Wednesday, December 21, 2016

How will Cuba react if relations with the US reverse under Trump?

How will Cuba react if relations with the US reverse under Trump?
It's hard to know what direction US-Cuba relations will take once Donald
Trump is in the White House, but Cubans are already contemplating the
consequences of a reversal of President Obama's normalization process.
By Fulton Armstrong, American University DECEMBER 21, 2016

A version of this post ran on American University's Center for Latin
American & Latino Studies AULA Blog. The views expressed are the
authors' own.

Cubans are already calibrating their expectations for relations with the
United States under incoming President Trump – hoping the normalization
process does not unravel but preparing for a return to a sanctions-based
policy from Washington.

Conversations in Havana reveal deep concern that the president-elect's
tweets and statements about Cuba, Mexico, and Latinos in the United
States will translate into efforts to slow, stop, or reverse
normalization. The past two years of dialogue have focused on mutual
interests, without ignoring remaining differences between capitals but
not allowing them to blot out hopes of mutually beneficial cooperation.

Cuba will interpret a return to bombastic rhetoric, exaggerated
conditions to reach a "deal," and the pressure tactics of the pre-Obama
era as a sign of US willingness to put bullying a small neighbor eager
for improved ties ahead of its own national interests.

Cubans present the stiff upper lip in conversations and, not
surprisingly, defiantly note that they've already survived decades of US
pressure, but their disappointment is palpable.
- Most concerned are entrepreneurs in Cuba's small but growing private
sector, who depend on investment from US-based relatives and friends.
More than 100 Cuban private businessmen wrote a letter to Mr. Trump last
week urging restraint.
- Nationalism has precluded Cubans from saying that normalization would
be a major driver of their long-promised economic reforms, but few deny
that improving ties with the United States would eventually present
Havana important opportunities. US retrenchment will remove important
incentives for the government to move ahead with its reform strategy.
- Rumors about tensions between Cuban proponents of normalization and
conservative opponents may have some merit, but Cubans across the
spectrum will close ranks if Trump gets aggressive.

Cuba's reactions to Trump's election, including President Raúl Castro's
congratulatory message to him, so far suggest that it will hold its
tongue and resist being provoked. A US return to full-bore Cold War
tactics would not pose an existential threat to Cuba, even considering
the country's difficulties dealing with unrelated problems such as the
crisis in Venezuela. Popular reactions to the passing of Fidel Castro
last month are being construed as evidence of residual political
legitimacy for the government and support for it to deliver on promised

Moreover, Cuba's progress in normalization – its effective contribution
to the Colombia peace accord, its new political dialogue and cooperation
agreement with the European Union, and the recent Havana visit of
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – has boosted the country's
international image, and blame for collapse of normalization will surely
fall solely upon the United States.

However difficult it will be for the proud people of Cuba to resist
rising to whatever bait the Trump administration throws its way, showing
forbearance in the bilateral relationship and moving "without hurry but
without pause," as Raúl Castro has said, with its national reform plan
would protect the investment that Cuba has already made in normalization.

Fulton Armstrong is director of American University's Center for Latin
American and Latino Studies AULA blog.

Source: How will Cuba react if relations with the US reverse under
Trump? - -

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