Cuba Summer and US Elections
Summer is a time when a lot of Cubans are thinking about vacations and leisure. Parties, outdoor music, beaches and bathing suits, carnivals, movies, reading, food, beer, rum and ice cream are the order of the day.
In August, the majority of the nation will also be glued to TV sets for 15 days, watching the Beijing Olympics and rooting for their athletes.
I’ll be keeping a close watch on the weather from the window of my office, alert for any signs of lightning that could fry my computer or modem during the summer storms. Hopefully we’ll have a light hurricane season. Cuba needs a chance to get its agriculture moving forward, the current national priority.
One other issue that will be on people’s minds this summer and into the fall is the US presidential elections and what the results could mean for Cuba.
As a foreigner living in Havana, I am often approached by Cuban friends and colleagues with their opinions on the November vote.
Many are astounded that a black candidate could have a chance of becoming president of the United States. More than a few openly speculate that if he actually won, he could meet the same fate as John Kennedy, especially if he upsets the Cuban-American terrorist groups operating out of Miami with the consent of the CIA and FBI.
The Cuban media gave considerable coverage to the state primaries and the advance of the delegate count in the battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nod.
Many people following the elections thought the long drawn out battle between the two candidates —compared to the clear sailing for McCain—, hurt the Democrat Party’s chances in November.
Even though Hillary promised no change in US-Cuba policy, it was commonly felt here that either of the two Democratic candidates offered at least the possibility of change in the status quo as it has existed under Bush.
Now that he’s the Democratic Party candidate, virtually every Cuban I know sees Obama with at least a small hope for slightly improved relations. His proposal to ease restrictions on family visits is very popular in Cuba even among people who dislike the country’s political-economic system. Like most Latin Americans, family is very important to Cubans.
On the other hand, they see McCain as offering nothing more than a continuation of the Bush “regime change” strategy.
Hopes for any more profound change are tempered by the fact that the US blockade has been maintained by 10 different Democratic and Republican presidents over fifty years.
One aspect of the US electoral process that boggles Cubans is the incredible campaign spending. People speculate about how much good those hundreds of millions of dollars could do if put to more noble uses.
The European Union’s decision Thursday to lift all sanctions imposed against Cuba in 2003 opens the door to a normalization of EU-Cuba relations and expanded cooperation and exchange.
This decision, a slap in the face to the Bush camp’s diplomacy, may not inspire the White House to follow suit. However, the new US president and Congress that take office in January 2009 will have abundant reason to question their maintenance of the fifty-year-old policy.
Should they decide to preserve the current stance, it will be the United States, not Cuba that will be ever more isolated.