Lunes, 24 de Octubre de 2016
22:22 CEST.
US-Cuba Relations

We all want more

The upcoming visit by US President Barack Obama to Cuba on March 21 has sparked wide-ranging speculation in the international press about whether he will meet with members of the opposition, representatives of civil society, or Fidel Castro, or call for elections, or be received in the Estadio Latinamericano, or "dizzied" with a children's choir wearing little scarves... And I don't know how many more ideas, many intended to cast doubt on the value of this trip.

What Obama will and will not be doing has probably already been planned and agreed to by the two governments. The Secret Service and personal security forces must be finalizing details in their arrangements to ensure that everything runs smoothly and without incidents.

Secret Service agents must be overtly and covertly reconnoitering the places the President will be visiting, where they will be taking up positions before and during his stay. But they know very well that they're going to be dealing with a level of security Obama doesn't even have at the White House.

The protocol will necessarily call for an official welcome at the Presidential Palace, closed-door talks between the presidents, accompanied by their retinues and, possibly, between the two leaders alone, in addition to photo ops. Everything else is just possibilities and speculation.

Some previous statements clearly suggest that Obama's visit was contingent upon his capacity to move about freely and to engage in the activities of his choice. This is just one indication that he will do what he and his team deem fit within the specific context of this visit, and its significance for his term and for Cuba.

Things are transpiring in Cuba prior to his arrival that seem to augur what might be in the cards:

1) The negotiations being conducted by the Catholic Church for the release and departure of some political prisoners, and the fact that the Cuban government has offered to allow 7 of the 11 former Grupo de los 75 prisoners who decided to stay in Cuba to finally leave the Island and return to it. Though they really should be able to do that as they please.

But these developments denote that, in some way, the issue of human rights and the release of political prisoners is, in fact, on President Obama's agenda during his trip to Cuba, and that some of his activities will have to do with the opposition - despite some speculation suggesting that the foreign leader will refrain from addressing the issue in order to keep from mortifying his Cuban counterpart.

2) Raúl Castro's recent plunge into the streets of Santiago de Cuba, in apparent violation of his security protocol, in which he was mobbed by people, whom he let take pictures with him, visited businesses, and engaged in number of other unprecedented antics. The international press has often stated that Obama is more popular in Cuba than Raul Castro. Was this an attempt to catch up and pave the way for a similar activity by the visitor?

Very likely this indicates that, in fact, one of Obama's activities in Cuba will be hitting the street to mingle directly with the people, revealing how popular the leader is in Cuba.

If only those two expectations were met, Obama's trip will already have achieved something positive, not only for the neighboring president, but also for his host, the Government and, above all, the Cuban people.

Part of the Grupo de los 75 that decided to remain in Cuba being allowed to travel, additional releases of political prisoners, Obama directly conveying to the Cuban Government his concerns about the Cuban people's civil and political liberties, and meeting with the opposition, the two rulers walking down the street (under security surveillance, of course) and talking with everyday people ... these would be just some of the fruits of this visit, in addition to other agreements reached between the governments.

Ah, but we want more... Yes, we do! We all want more, and the visit should serve to whet our appetites.

"We all want more, we all want more, we all want more and more and more and much more ..." So goes an old folk song popular throughout Latin America... that just might come back into fashion soon in Cuba.