A Visit More Symbolic Than Political

The US president, Barack Obama talks with his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro. (White House)

The US president, Barack Obama talks with his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro. (White House)

14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 18 February 2016 — The last time a United States president visited Cuba Havana’s Capitol Building had not yet opened, baseball’s star pitcher The Black Diamond died, and my grandmother was a little girl with messy hair and a penetrating gaze. There is no one left who remembers this moment who can tell us about it first hand, so Barack Obama’s arrival on the island will be a new experience for all Cubans.

How will people react? With joy and relief. Although there is little the president of another country can do to change a nation where we citizens have allowed a dictatorship, his visit will have a strong symbolic impact. No one can deny that the resident of the White House will be more appealing and popular among Cubans than the old and uncharismatic general who inherited power through his bloodline.

When the presidential plane touches down on the island, the discourse of the barricade, so commonly called on by the Cuban government for over half a century, will suffer an irreversible blow. It will not be the same as seeing Raul Castro and Barack Obama shaking hands in Panama to see them to meet on the territory that until recently was full of official billboards against “the empire” with mocking caricatures of Uncle Sam.

The Communist Party press will have to jump through hoops to explain to us the official welcome of the commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the “enemy country.” The most recalcitrant Party militants will feel betrayed and it will be clear to all that, behind the supposed ideology, there is only a determination to cling to power through the typical strategies of political chameleons.

In the streets, people will experience the enthusiasm of the unexpected event. For black and mixed-race Cubans, the message is clear and direct in a country where a white gerontocracy controls power. Those who have a T-shirt or sign with Obama’s face will flaunt it on those days, taking advantage of official persuasiveness. Fidel Castro will die a little more in his guarded Havana refuge.

“President” brand beer will run out in the cafés, where loud calls to “give me two more Obamas” will be heard, and there is no doubt that the civil registries that week will record several newborns with names like Obamita de la Caridad Perez or Yurislandi Obama. Pepito, the little boy who stars in our popular humor, will release a couple of jokes for the occasion, and tchotchkes sellers will offer items with the lawyer’s profile and the five letters of his name.

One thing is clear, however, beyond the trinkets of enthusiasm, the leader of the United States cannot change Cuba and it is better if he doesn’t try, because this national mess is our responsibility. His trip, however, will have a lasting effect and he should take advantage of the opportunity to send a loud and clear message in front of the microphones.

His words should be directed to those young people who right now are assembling a raft, fueled by their despair they carry within. He needs to let them know that the material and moral misery that surrounds them is not the responsibility of the White House. The best way in which Obama can transcend Cuba’s history is by making it clear that the perpetrators of the drama we are living are here, in the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana.

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17 thoughts on “A Visit More Symbolic Than Political

  1. THIS TRIP TO CUBA BY OBAMA IS FOR VANITY AND HIS “LEGACY”! HE COULD NOT EVEN CONVINCE THE CASTRO OLIGARCHY TO ALLOW THE FREE WI-FI THAT GOOGLE OFFERED! THIS IS “DIPLOMACY”?
    NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: Obama in Cuba – by Jay Nordlinger
    What has happened on the island since December ’14, since Obama’s opening? Well, the dictatorship has cracked down on democrats and dissidents all the harder. Why shouldn’t they? Who’s watching? Who cares? “What difference at this point does it make?” as a former secretary of state of ours said, in a different context. Last year, I met with Berta Soler, the leader of the Ladies in White, the Cuban human-rights group. I quoted to her something that Oscar Biscet had said, after Obama announced his opening: “I feel as though I have been abandoned on the battlefield.” A word about Biscet: He is a heroic democracy leader. I talked with him, and wrote a profile of him, in 2011. For “Voice of the Resistance,” go here. Anyway, this is what Berta Soler said to me: “The European Union, the USA, Pope Francis — they have turned their backs on us.” Obama promised that his new policy would empower civil society in Cuba. “But we are seeing that what he has done is give a green light to the Cuban government to crush civil society.” The Ladies in White, among others, have the broken bones to prove it.
    Okay. But what do they mean by “worked”? Do they meant that Washington has not succeeded in toppling the Castro dictatorship? True. But I’ll tell you what Cuban democrats and dissidents, including ex-political prisoners, have often told me: “At least you haven’t helped them. The Russians, the West Europeans, the Canadians, the Venezuelans — they have all helped the Castros. They step in just when the Castros need them. But you, you have not. And God bless you for it.”
    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE
    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/431692/obama-cuba-upcoming-trip

  2. Obama trip to Cuba is a sell out to the Castroit tyrannical regime. A year ago Obama said that he would visit Cuba if the human rights “significantly improve”, and meetings with the dissidents were part of the agenda. The regime has not made any progress on human rights, civil liberties and access to the internet. Obama is treating the dissident in Cuba in the same way he treated the dissident in Iran, with contempt and disrespect. This rapprochement with the Castroit regime form part of his legacy, like the Iran deal, regardless of the consequences. He make enemies of our friends and tries to make friends with our enemies.

  3. OBAMA: “NOS VEMOS EN LA HAVANA”
    A new milestone in the relations between the United States and Cuba. The President is going to meet with members of the civil society in Cuba (probably dissidents). U.S. factory making tractors opening up in Cuba and some other smaller businesses. The President is going to lecture the Cuban Leftists on Universal Human Rights and Democracy. There is going to be more flights and ferries, very soon, going to Cuba. The important message that the President has to give the Cuban government is re-assurances that the United States will respect Cuba’s sovereignty and independence and Cubans right of self-determination. The Cuban government, rightly so is keeping the Florida and New Jersey right wing dinosaurs away from this important visit from a President of the United States to Cuba. Calvin Coolidge was the last American President to visit the island of Cuba back in 1928. The Cuban President then was Machado, a right wing turd and boot licker of the United States. The American journalists of the time, metaphorically speaking, describe the visit as that of a father visiting a child:

  4. HEY Susanna Dewey?? GIVE IT UP??? YOU TRYING TO CENSOR ME DEAR? WHERE DID I SAY I PLAN AN “ASSAULT”?? WHERE DID I SAY I WANTED REVENGE?? JUSTICE YES, REVENGE NO! IS MY POSTING RELEVANT CUBAN NEWS MAKING YOU UPSET DEAR?? POBRECITA! AND HOW COME YOU HAVE NO PIC NOR A LINK TO AN ACCOUNT?? WHY SO AFRAID? IF YOU ARE GOING TO ATTACK ME, PLEASE HAVE THE COURAGE TO PUT FORTH A REAL IDENTITY THAT CAN BE VERIFIED!

  5. So, now I get it, Humberto. You are a Bushie, and a US Cuban. The Washington Post will always have your anti-Castro back, and refuse any efforts to normalize relations except on their terms. Give it up. Those old farts will have to die because they damn sure aren’t going to give up power on their own. Meanwhile, plan your assault, and good luck with your vengeance. Do many on. Nell.

    On Sat, Feb 20, 2016 at 6:14 PM, Generation Y wrote:

    > humbertocapiro commented: “THE CASTRO OLIGARCHY MAFIA WILL NOT ISSUE PRESS > CREDENTIALS TO MANY OF MIAMI-BASED STATIONS JOURNALISTS, CUBA’S INTERNAL > INDEPENDENT JOURNALISTS, NOR WILL KING OBAMA INSIST ON IT! MY PREDICTION! > THIS HAS BEEN HASHED OUT! MIAMI HERALD EDITORIAL : Show C” >

  6. WASHINGTON POST: The sad spectacle of Obama’s upcoming trip to Cuba – By Ed Rogers

    If President Obama had called a meeting after his re-election and asked his advisers what he could do to strengthen the Castro regime during his last four years in office, I don’t think the administration would have done anything different. It is a sad realization, but it’s something of a fitting piece to the end of the Obama presidency that the president is giving a helping hand to one of the last and most brutal communist regimes in the world. And in Cuba, what is good for the regime is bad for the people. There is no argument to be made that Obama’s gifts to the Castro regime have produced any dividends that have benefited the Cuban people – or, for that matter, Americans. Isn’t American foreign policy supposed to protect American interests first and foremost? How is it that strengthening the Castro regime is good for Americans?
    Experts who have followed Cuba and Latin American policy almost universally denounce the president’s unilateral actions in normalizing relations with Cuba. And Cuban dissidents privately say they have given up on America because America has obviously given up on them. If there are any doubts, the coup de grace will be delivered when the President of the United States lands in Havana and lends our country’s credibility and stature to the murderous Cuban regime. Just picture President Obama solemnly reviewing Cuban troops and walking the red carpet in tribute to the Cuban military, the enemy of freedom around the world and the instrument of the Castro regime’s callous murder of thousands as they have tried to flee from oppression.
    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE!
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2016/02/19/the-sad-spectacle-of-obamas-upcoming-tribute-to-cuba/

  7. THE CASTRO OLIGARCHY MAFIA WILL NOT ISSUE PRESS CREDENTIALS TO MANY OF MIAMI-BASED STATIONS JOURNALISTS, CUBA’S INTERNAL INDEPENDENT JOURNALISTS, NOR WILL KING OBAMA INSIST ON IT! MY PREDICTION! THIS HAS BEEN HASHED OUT!

    MIAMI HERALD EDITORIAL : Show Cuba that we respect a free press

    As President Obama prepares to embark next month on a history-making visit to Cuba, he should consider above all how his visit can bring change to the island. A good place to start: Insist that all U.S. journalists who want to cover the trip be allowed into Cuba. Freedom of speech was an early casualty of the Cuban Revolution. Ever since, Cuba and its people have been denied freedom of expression. The only version of truth in Cuba is the government’s version. That extends to U.S. journalists who focus on the lack of civil liberties in their reports. They are blacklisted and not allowed to return.

    The targets include, in particular, many organs of the Spanish-language news media in the United States, among them our sister newspaper, El Nuevo Herald, upon whom the Cuban government has apparently imposed a permanent, blanket ban. Also on the list are well-known journalists in both English and Spanish like Herald columnist Andres Oppenheimer, and some of the most prominent figures in the world of Spanish-language broadcasting.

    Last year, journalists from El Nuevo Herald, among others, were denied entry to cover Secretary of State John Kerry’s ceremonial reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana. That was bad enough. But if Mr. Obama chooses to ignore this offense by consenting to the Cuban government’s restrictions on journalists when he becomes the first occupant of the White House since Calvin Coolidge to visit Cuba, it will surely be taken as a sign of surrender in the struggle to bring more freedom to Cuba.

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE!
    http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/editorials/article61183142.html#storylink=cpy

  8. HMM! I DONT THINK THE CHINESE NOR THE VIETNAMESE MODEL HAVE DONE ANYTHING FOR DEMOCRACY IN THOSE COUNTRIES EXCEPT CRATE BIG GAP IN CLASSES JUST LIKE THEY SAID WOULD NOT HAPPEN! —

    NY TIME: Will Democracy Follow Capitalism Into Cuba? – by Steven Rattner

    Cuba, ranked along with North Korea as the least free economy in the world and one that is described as a “basket case.” We marveled at stunning unrestored old buildings (legacies of Cuba’s past prosperity) and droves of colorful American cars from the 1950s that were almost as beautiful. We also saw a country whose per capita gross domestic product is roughly equal to that of Sri Lanka and Swaziland. About three-quarters of Cubans work for the state, earning meager salaries — a doctor there makes about $75 a month or less.

    For the average Cuban, access to Western goods is almost nonexistent, as my kids saw when I took them to a shabby “department store” that accepted only pesos, the local currency. Only low-quality, Cuban-made merchandise was on offer.

    With its economy crumbling after support from Russia and Venezuela evaporated, Cuba began in 2011 to liberalize very gradually, allowing private enterprise to flourish in certain sectors, particularly those related to tourism, like restaurants.

    Old Havana, whose restored section made up just a couple of uncrowded blocks in 2000, has mushroomed, as those breathtaking old buildings have been refurbished. The picturesque quarter is now jammed with tourists who descend on it from omnipresent sleek Transgaviota tour buses.

    Whether political liberalization will occur is at best uncertain. In some ways, Cuba reminds me of China — a country whose populace seems to put a lower priority on achieving democracy than on prospering economically.

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE!

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/20/opinion/will-democracy-follow-capitalism-into-cuba.html?mwrsm=Facebook&_r=0

  9. Susannell, myelf and many others protect our privacy simply because we live in a dangerous world.
    We need to look much deeper to understand what’s really going on: The ACA is a populist project, a vote buying machine. US militarism and interventionism is the “Perpetual War” of “1984”. Cozying up to Cuba means getting close to leftist, populist Latin America…

  10. KING OBAMA COULD NOT EVEN GET THE CASTRO OLIGARCHY TO ACCEPT THE FREE WI-FI GOOGLE OFFERED TO THE CUBAN PEOPLE! THIS IS A VANITY TRIP FOR OBAMA TO BE THIS CENTURY’S NIXON TO CHINA!

    WASHINGTON POST: White House sees Cuba visit as chance to consolidate gains. Critics see caving. – By Juliet Eilperin and Nick Miroff

    Nonetheless, the White House announced Thursday that the president will visit Cuba in March in an attempt to bolster the controversial diplomatic deal — and to spur the sort of political change that the Cuban government has not yet embraced. The Cuban government continues to crack down on political dissent, and administration officials acknowledge that Havana has not done enough to allow for freedom of expression. Rhodes said Thursday that the president would meet with dissidents during next month’s visit.

    The independent Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation reported last month that 1,414 Cubans had been detained for political reasons in January, one of the highest monthly figures in recent decades. Of those, the commission reported, 56 peaceful members of the opposition were physically attacked.
    Nearly all of the arrests occurred during regular Sunday-morning opposition marches to Catholic churches and resulted in brief detentions of four to six hours. The Sunday marches have become a principal avenue of protest for
    The decision for Obama to go this early in the year — even as the Cuban government continues to routinely arrest and detain dissidents — drew swift and sharp rebukes from some of the top Republicans vying to be their party’s presidential nominee as well as from several GOP figures on Capitol Hill.
    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE!
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/white-house-sees-cuba-visit-as-chance-to-consolidate-gains-critics-see-caving/2016/02/18/a544e12e-d666-11e5-b195-2e29a4e13425_story.html

  11. Pingback: A Visit More Symbolic Than Political | I am Puddin'

  12. I sat with one of my old poli sci professors discussing Mr. Obama’s coming visit to Cuba yesterday. The conclusion was that the man tries to make the most change with the least body count. The fact that he has not been successful with his method at all junctures is the nature of politics. Obama has changed the world in ways we have yet to account for, history being so difficult to see from the present. The current Pope and the current US president will have their share of ink in our future history books. Let us hope the two great early 21st century democrats have a paragraph about their efforts on behalf of Cuba.

  13. Really? You think that’s not my name? You want me to prove who I am? Why? Who cares? Did you want to hunt me down and get in my face because I have a different point of view? I don’t read or respond to Yoani’s posts for credit or vengeance or ego. I simply state my opinion. I believe in the Cuban people and send them my empathy. Those old boys won’t live forever, and change will come for better or worse. I just don’t think Obama is your enemy. I wish you luck.

  14. HMM!! YOU Susannanell SAY CYNICISM AND YOU DONT HAVE THE COURAGE TO PUT A REAL NAME THAT CAN BE VERIFIED?? PLEASE! DONT ATTACK ME UNLESS WE KNOW WHO YOU ARE DEAR! SUCH A COWARD THING TO DO!

    CHRISTIANITY SOLIDARITY WORLDWIDE: Church demolished and hundreds arrested – Feb 9, 2016 –

    The property of Reverend Alain Toledano in Santiago de Cuba was surrounded by officials including members of the police, state security and the military at approximately 5am on 5 February. They detained his wife, Marilín Alayo Correa, before demolishing both Emanuel Church and the pastoral home. The destruction of the church follows similar demolitions of two Apostolic Movement churches in Camaguey and Las Tunas provinces on 8 January. Over the course of 5 February approximately 200 leaders and members of Emanuel Church were also detained. A group of around 40 were held in a local school while others were taken to police stations across the region to stop them from protesting the demolition. Church leaders reported that many were beaten while they were being detained. The government has repeatedly refused to register the Apostolic Movement denomination.

    http://www.csw.org.uk/2016/02/09/news/2977/article.htm

  15. BLOOMBERG: Cuba’s Dissident Crackdown Peaks Ahead of Obama’s Historic Visit – by Ezra Fieser & Christine Jenkins
    Even some supporters of President Barack Obama’s moves to strengthen relations with Cuba are questioning the timing of his planned visit to the Communist island next month, after arrests of dissidents by Raul Castro’s government reached a five-year high. Obama vowed Thursday that he’ll promote human rights during his historic visit, the first by a sitting American president since 1928. But more than a year of warming relations between the nations, separated by just 90 miles, have so far failed to slow the Cuban government’s crackdown on political dissidents.

    The Madrid-based Cuban Observatory on Human Rights said 1,474 people, including 512 women, were “arbitrarily” detained in January. The arrests have been climbing since the December 2014 announcement that the two governments would improve ties.

    “A presidential visit should occasion a broader progress on the
    human-rights agenda. And I haven’t seen any changes on that front,” said Christopher Sabatini, an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs who has supported the rapprochement.

    Sabatini said Cuba can take a number of steps to show progress ahead of Obama’s March 21-22 visit, including freeing its remaining political prisoners, allowing greater freedom of expression, providing citizens with more access to the Internet or joining the Organization of American States, which would place it under the scrutiny of the regional body’s human rights commission. ‘Relatively Easy’ “Some of these are relatively easy to do,” he said. “It’s not like we’re asking them to hold free and fair elections tomorrow.”
    http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2016-02-18/cuba-s-dissident-crackdown-peaks-ahead-of-obama-s-historic-visit

  16. I’m sorry to see the negative nastiness of Humberto Capiro above, although I am sure he is not alone in his cynicism. I think he does not know our Obama. He is no Nixon and has none of Nixon’s duplicitous motives.
    As a US citizen, currently residing in Costa Rica, (where I have been witness to even more of the cruelty and futility of Cubans fleeing poverty, mostly due to the Nicaraguan regime), I have a great deal of sympathy for the Cuban people. I have visited Cuba and I have friends there. I am impressed by the indomitable spirit of the Cuban people and their warmth and mutual helpfulness to each other in the face of unending oppression.
    I have long disdained the meanness of Republican (like George W. Bush) determined to increase the misery of Cuba because of the relentless greed and ideology of the Castros and, as Yoani describes them, the “recalcitrant Party militants…the white gerontocracy.” Their days are numbered, and we all know it. I don’t believe Obama wants any more than peace between us. He is thumbing his nose at the old guard of anti-communist hysterics still prevalent in the GOP, his political opponents here. He is trying to pave the way for opening up your island to a bigger world and to end the embargos that help perpetuate the anger and distrust you have (rightfully) been compelled to feel against the US.
    I think he knows that to “embrace the dissidents in full public view,” as Sr.Capiro insists, would only harden the resistance and increase the polarity of positive discourse. He is a gentleman, and he does not want to change you or make you like us, but only to open the door to the next inevitable generation of Cubans who will face an enormous pressure for change as the old guard dies. I hope you will give him a chance and welcome him with open minds, open hearts. He is not there to “conquer” or “save” you; Only to let you know that we do not have to continue to be mindless, heartless enemies.
    If the old regime in the US regains power, we will be a more fascist, marginalized country, and our entire society is doomed to be a violent Theocracy, to many of us, that is a future too awful to contemplate. The option is a more Socialist, equitable society, strong in education and less directed to endless war. Either way, we have much to learn from the Cuban people who have endured unimaginable hardship, yet remained an intelligent, creative and joyful people in spite of endless oppression.
    I think Obama knows this. You should welcome his attempts to reach across to Cubans in the hope of future peace and prosperity.

  17. THIS CUBA TRIP IS A VANITY PROJECT FOR KING OBAMA! HE WANTS TO BE WHAT NIXON WAS TO CHINA! IF HE FAILS TO MEET WITH DISSIDENTS IN FULL PUBLIC VIEW HE WILL FOREVER BE REMEMBERED BY MOST CUBANS AS A COWARD AND ACCOMPLICE!

    VICTIMS OF THE CUBAN REVOLUTION – Cases up to January 25, 2012 – Castro regime: January 1, 1959 – Present – Deaths & disappearances attributed to the Cuban state
    Non-Combat Victims of the Castro Regime: Work-in-progress-Documented Cases Total = 10,500
    “Balseros” (rafters estimate to 2003) = 77,833 victims
    This work documents loss of life and disappearances of a political or military nature attributed to the Cuban Revolution. Each documented case is available for review at The Cuba Archive and substantiated by bibliographic/historic data and reports from direct sources. Due to the ongoing nature of the work and the difficulty of obtaining and verifying data from Cuba, the following totals change as research progresses and are considered far from exhaustive. Cuba Archive is currently examining additional cases -most are expected to be added to this table. Experience has shown that as additional outreach efforts are undertaken, many more cases are likely to be uncovered.

    http://cubaarchive.org/home/images/stories/1.25.2012_update.pdf

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