When Donald Trump won the elections last November, we all felt we would have four years of a lot of work ahead of us. The scarce statements about Cuba of the then presidential candidate were not precisely encouraging. In any case, the Obama variable in the normalization process had been decisive. And, from then on that variable would be out of the equation.
The months that followed were an armor plate for bilateral cooperation. In October, Obama had already signed a presidential directive for an “irreversible opening to Cuba.” During the last days of his government more than 20 agreements were signed between the two countries. Maritime exchange, conservation of protected areas, their environmental management. Two embassies, a bilateral work commission, systematic technical exchanges, we saw Raúl Castro with Obama in New York and Barack Obama walking through the streets of Havana.
The rebirth announced on 17D was at its prime. The growing closeness between Americans and Cubans, the increase of trips between the two countries and of the meetings between scientists, artists, academicians and business people, opened new development possibilities. The generalized sign was that of optimism.
Now, although we still don’t know how much, all that is in danger.
When Trump arrived in the White House he ordered a revision of what his predecessor had promoted, in accordance with what he had said during the presidential campaign, although relations were not broken. The number of U.S. visitors to Cuba continued growing this year to date, just like different companies’ interest in doing business on the island. New cruise trips have been planned, even for 2018, contact has increased, while the backing for bills that will allow U.S. citizens to have greater freedom to travel and trade on the island has gained strength in Congress.
Today big companies like Google, Airbnb, American Airlines and Norwegian Cruise Line are present in Cuba, while business people, artists, politicians and military from the United States have openly stated their support for rapprochement. Economic, cultural, and even national security reasons have driven those who champion engagement.
Meanwhile, the Cubans have been sensitive to this contact. The reported benefits for the Cuban private sector and all type of relations between citizens from both countries are particularly visible. Families on both sides of the Straits of Florida can be physically and affectionately closer.
As is logical, diverging perspectives persist on many issues, but through dialogue there are concrete results, unthinkable a short time ago. The signed agreements and the possibilities of expanding collaboration confirm the importance of concentrating efforts on what brings both nations closer and not on what separates them.
President Trump had said that he would roll back the Obama policies if Cuba did not offer “a better deal,” more advantages in the negotiation. He never mentioned more advantages for whom. But, the wave of reactions that just the possibility of a rolling back have caused shows for whom this would not be a better deal.
Rolling back on Cuba would not be a better deal for common citizens from Cuba and the United States, it would not be a better deal for the families divided in the two countries, it would not be a better deal for the U.S. companies that have started doing business in Cuba, favored by a relaxing of the embargo, it would not be a better deal for scientific and artistic collaboration nor for the thousands of persons that today work for and on the two shores of the Straits of Florida. Neither would it be for the U.S. politicians, who have stated their bipartisan support for the rapprochement with Cuba.
The list is much longer. Those joining it are increasing with each new warning sign. They all agree on a rhetoric question: Who would benefit from a rollback on Cuba? The only one to benefit would be the past. And everyone, Cubans and Americans, live in the present. Let us work for the future.
Hugo Cancio, OnCuba
June 15, 2017