In an interview this month with the left-leaning Mexican daily La Jornada, Cuban National Assembly president Ricardo Alarcón said that Cuba isn’t counting on a major shift in US policy towards Cuba when Barack Obama becomes US president on Jan. 20. Alarcón, who lived in New York 1966-1978 as Cuban ambassador to the United Nations, noted that “many of my friends…people of what was the American New Left in other times” had wept at Obama’s victory celebration in Chicago on Nov. 4. “I understood their hope,” he told reporter Blanche Petrich, but “I know that we can’t expect a big turning point with respect to Cuba.”
What Obama promised for Cuba was limited, Alcarcon said: “to eliminate the restrictions that [outgoing president George W.] Bush added to the ones that exist, limiting remittances and trips to the island by Cubans living in the US. Since these were executive decisions, Obama can annul them with another executive decision. Objectively speaking, this isn’t either the end of the blockade [the US economic embargo on Cuban] or the end of an aggressive policy, but it’s very good news for Cubans on both sides of the [Florida] Straits. It’s something healthy. If he doesn’t do it, forget it. He won’t do anything.”
Alcarcón acknowledged that there has been a change, “not a radical one, but things aren’t the same.” What is new about Obama, he noted, was “that he arrived at the presidency thanks to the action of millions of US citizens who don’t form a political party, who don’t have an organization or program. This force, amorphous, unorganized, but with the ability to win—how is it going to operate now? Will it exist afterwards?” The position of the US in the world has changed in any case, according to Alarcón: “To try to hold back the fall of the empire and impose US hegemony is no longer feasible. This madness took them to Iraq, to Afghanistan, to being isolated.” (LJ, Dec. 16)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 21
See our last post on Cuba.