In recent weeks, several sources have been announcing a possible visit to Cuba by US President Barack Obama. This would be part of a Latin American tour that would include Argentina, Colombia, and Peru, in late March.
Undoubtedly –if it actually happened– the visit would be a boost to the normalization of relations between the two countries, and a blow to those sectors that oppose the process publicly initiated on December 17, 2014.
Judging by his statements to Yahoo News a few weeks ago, Obama also sees this visit as a tool to force the changes that the US has historically been seeking in Cuba, and as a way to strengthen US influence in the Western Hemisphere –an idea he just reiterated in his State of the Union speech before Congress.
“If you want to consolidate our leadership in the continent, you must recognize that the Cold War is over and lift the embargo,” Obama said to the plenary of the House and Senate this January 12, recognizing tha/t more than fifty years of economic blockade have not brought democracy –as Washington sees it– to Cuba.
Once again, the President has left to Congress a task to which he can contribute much more than he has done so far. Not only by the number of changes within presidential power that can weaken the blockade without the intervention of the legislative –such as authorizing the use of the US dollar in Cuban international transactions; reversing the policy of financial persecution against the island; allowing US imports of Cuban products and services; and authorizing direct exports to Cuba– but also by specific decisions requested by entities in his country which have been waiting for the approval of his government for months.
Among these are the MLB authorization request so Cuban baseball players can play in the United States without breaking from their country of origin; or the granting of a license to a company that produces tractors for private farmers so it can settle in the Special Economic Zone of Mariel, west of Havana.
Another instrument of the Cold War strategy against Cuba that the president could change is the policy of automatic acceptance –as political refugees– of all Cuban immigrants who reach US soil. This encourages human trafficking and illegal migration but the US uses it as a tool to destabilize the island just as the more than fifty million US dollars they distribute among people they organize and train for “programs to promote democracy” on Cuban territory.
The President has not considered either the historical claim of the Cuban people about the territory of Guantanamo under US military occupation. This has become a torture camp that Obama has not been able to shut down. A military base that is not a relic of the Cold War, but of the opportunism displayed by the US when it intervened in the independence war that Cubans were fighting against Spain. They came as allies of the Cubans but acted as occupiers and imposed a constitutional amendment giving them the right to set up military bases as they deemed necessary, and the right to intervene by force whenever they wished.
In his last State of the Union address the to Congress, the US president said “The United States is the most powerful nation on Earth; period”. This emphatic “period” reminds us of something that has no discussion: The US is king of the “jungle” their policies have turned the planet into.
Given the history of the relations between Cuba and the US –and also given the circumstances in which it could take place– a visit by the President of the United States to Havana would still be part of a confrontation. However, a confrontation must be –as Cuban leader Raul Castro, said– on an equal footing and in a civilized manner.
So as a Cuban song says: let the beast come, we are waiting. But considering his country is so powerful, Obama should not be afraid to loosen up the chains a bit before doing the honor of visiting us. Or is it –as another saying goes in Cuba– that the town bully only takes on a fight as a lion against a monkey… when the monkey is tied up?
[* Allusion to a popular Cuban saying that illustrates a very unfair fight: Una pelea de león contra mono amarrao’ – a fight between a lion and a tied up monkey.]
A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.