On Cuba, Hope and Change
On Cuba, Hope and Change / Alexis Romay
Posted on December 23, 2014
President Obama, a man who actively promotes the audacity of hope and
based his presidential campaigns on the idea of change, has combined
both concepts in his long gaze at Cuba: he hopes Castro will change.
However, that option isn’t remotely possible in Cuba. Back in 2003,
Castro Bros. added to the Cuban Constitution that the socialist
character of the Cuban revolution is irrevocable.
Lest you think the Cold War is over, and it’s time to move on, Raul
Castro is there to remind you not to forget. Both Castro and Obama had
agreed to announce the news of a new dawn for Cuba-USA relations,
simultaneously, at noon on December 17th, a day that has particular
significance in Cuban lore, as it celebrates San Lázaro, the patron
saint of the needy, the one who brings hope to the people.
Obama conducted his press conference standing up in a properly lit room.
He’s a young man, during his second presidential term, talking
naturally. Castro, a player from the Eisenhower era, was sitting down in
an obscure mahogany time capsule. He read from several sheets of paper
(paper!), with the affected tone reserved for a grandiloquent speech,
the only tone with which he has always addressed the Cuban people.
Obama, the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Armed Forces, was
wearing civilian clothes. Castro showed up in his military uniform with
all the medals he has bestowed on himself over the years (he’s been the
head of the Cuban Army since he and his older brother took power in
1959). That choice of attire was carefully considered.
Raul Castro appeared between two black-and-white framed photos. In one,
he poses with a comrade in arms who died fighting the previous dictator
—not Fidel, the one before him. The other photo shows Raul with his late
wife, the most powerful woman in Cuba in the last half-century. As much
as the president of the United States wants to move forward, Raul Castro
is a man living in the past.
But if the retro look wasn’t enough, then Castro opened his mouth. These
were his first words: “Since I was elected President…” That’s exactly
the moment the educated audience should have known this is a complete
farce: Raul Castro has never been elected.
The agreement to open an American embassy in Havana was preceded by a
quid pro quo mambo in which an American spy serving time in Cuba was
traded for three Cuban spies. (According to the trophy-of-war selfie
Raul Castro took with them upon their arrival, his spies were well fed
in their American prisons). The USAID subcontractor Alan Gross, who lost
most of his teeth and over 100 pounds in his Cuban prison, was released
on “humanitarian grounds” after five years of wrongful imprisonment for
handing out laptops and cellphones to the Cuban Jewish community.
Additionally, Obama announced he wants to revisit Cuba’s standing in the
list of countries that sponsor terrorism. Yet, the same day of this
exchange, the long tentacle of North Korean repression reentered
America’s collective consciousness by dictating to Sony Pictures (and
its global audience), that if Sony releases “The Interview,” there will
be terrorist retaliations.
Nothing has changed in Cuba since July 2013, when the Chong Chong Gang,
a North Korean ship, was caught in Panamanian waters carrying 240 tons
of weapons concealed under sacks of sugar. The ship and the weapons were
coming from Cuba, from the same regime that brought the world to the
brink of nuclear war in the early sixties, the same regime this new
development is trying to appease.
In his inaugural speech on January 20, 2009, Obama hinted at the Castro
dynasty: “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and
the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of
history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench
your fist.” But Castro’s fist is as tight as it has ever been.
On the morning of December 20th, 2014, the news of a Cuban Coast Guard
sinking a vessel, carrying women and children, that was fleeing the
island started to reach English media outlets. So far, one passenger has
been reported missing. Expect more snubs to the US government (and the
Cuban people) where this came from.
There’s a parable that illustrates the doomed relationship between Obama
and Castro. A man sees a scorpion drowning in a puddle. He weighs the
outcome of his actions, but decides that his nature is to nurture, so he
picks up the scorpion. The scorpion’s nature is to sting. The man reacts
to this venom by opening the hand, which drops the scorpion back in the
water. With his limbs beginning to swell and about to hallucinate, the
man sees a scorpion in a puddle. And he feels an urge to save the creature.
Alexis Romay is the author of two novels and a book of sonnets. He blogs
on Cuba, literature and other tropical diseases at
Source: On Cuba, Hope and Change / Alexis Romay | Translating Cuba –