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    Obama’s Victory Shores Up The Cuban Regime

    Obama's Victory Shores Up The Cuban Regime / Ivan Garcia

    Ivan Garcia, Translator: Unstated

    It was not only Barack Obama's supporters in Chicago's Democratic party

    circles who celebrated the close victory over his Republican challenger,

    Mitt Romney,with champagne. Though without as much rejoicing, the club

    of Communist businessmen, who together control 80% of Cuba's feeble

    national economy, probably also spent midnight on November 6 calmly

    celebrating the Obama victory with a toast.

    In the last four years the measures approved by the Democratic

    administration have caused the cash registers in Cuba to ring out

    joyfully. Since January 2008, when the "Hawaiian hurricane" captured the

    attention of half the world with his restrained conversational style and

    promises of change, the issue of Cuba has never been among his political


    Obama came to the U.S. presidency buffeted by a terrible crisis which

    shook the foundations of the world's largest economy, two ongoing wars

    and a trail of international condemnation for the aggressive and

    unilateral policies of his cowboy predecessor, George Jr.

    In his first term he rescued Detroit's automotive industry which,

    alongside Coca Cola, Apple and McDonald's, is a symbol of American

    greatness. Against all odds he got Congress to approve "Obamacare" and

    brought American troops stationed in Iraq home. Obama is perhaps the

    best president the United States could have had in these times.

    According to a poll by the Elcano Institute 70% of Europeans approve of

    his administration. In Africa, Asia and Latin America the numbers are

    similar. Only in Israel is Romney favored over Obama. His list of

    unfulfilled promises is short. Within the first two years of his

    presidency a Republican-majority Congress became a formidable opponent,

    blocking all his legislative initiatives.

    Because of China's economic expansion, the Arab Spring, the Iranian

    nuclear threat and the euro zone crisis, the diplomatic squabble with

    Washington, which the regime in Havana often stages as a publicity

    stunt, is not high on the Obama agenda.

    In terms of Cuba the first black president has fulfilled his election

    promises. He re-instituted family-related trips to the island as well as

    cultural and academic exchanges, and increased the amount of money that

    could be sent to Cuba to $10,000. But the Castro brothers wanted more.

    They wanted Obama to rescind the economic embargo and grant political

    pardons to five Cuban spies imprisoned in the United States.

    The White House's spokesmen were emphatic. The ball was in Cuba's court.

    It was Raúl Castro's turn at bat. Pressured by the death of the

    dissident Orlando Zapata after an 82-day hunger strike, the government

    negotiated the release and exile of almost a hundred political prisoners.

    Castro II was also committed to a pallid economic reform plan and to

    getting rid of absurd restrictions that prohibited Cubans from having

    mobile phones, buying and selling cars, and renting hotel rooms. And

    although officials in the White House saw the reforms in Cuba as a step

    forward, the bar was not raised with new liberalizing initiatives. They

    demanded democracy, respect for human rights and the political

    opposition, and that the general remove the padlock from the internet.

    The official press, the voice of party that had controlled the destiny

    of Cuba for 53 years, called off the brief honeymoon with Obama. Fidel

    Castro cast the first stone with a barrage of attacks on the American

    leader and on "Yankee imperialism."

    But behind the curtains, where real politics take place, the mandarins

    can feel satisfied. In the last four years, thanks to family

    reunification measures adopted by Obama, remittances have doubled from

    one billion dollars to a little more than two billion in 2011. The value

    of commercial goods brought in by agencies and "mules" hovers at around

    three billion. After Canadians, Cuban-Americans make up the second

    largest group of visitors to the island.

    The autumn of 2012 was critical for General Castro. If Hugo Chávez and

    Barack Obama had lost their elections, regime officials in the Palace of

    the Revolution would have been forced to dust off emergency contingency

    plans, which would have quickly led to changes more serious and profound

    than the current ones.

    The victories by Chavez and Obama are a dose of oxygen for the Cuban

    autocrats. The purchase of one hundred million barrels a day of

    Venezuelan petroleum at wholesale prices, combined with the deep pockets

    of the Bolivian comandante and the continuation of Obama's policy of

    family re-unification, will allow fresh funds to flow into government

    coffers, and the Castros will be able to sleep soundly.

    It is not that inside Cuba everything is rosy. Far from it. But Obama's

    re-election has given Castro II significant room to maneuver.

    More importantly, it buys time, especially if we remember that Fidel is

    86 and Raúl is 81. At their ages, having four more years to steer the

    ship through calm waters in a country that survives on charitable

    donations and remittances from overseas is good news. It warrants

    opening a bottle of champagne.

    Photo by Pete Souza, official White House photographer. Born in the

    United States in 1954, Sousa is of Portuguese background.

    November 8 2012

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