Thursday, November 06, 2008

Change. In Washington.

Call it wishful thinking, if you like. Or perhaps a lack of understanding when it comes to those lovable Castro brothers.

There is a view among supposedly intelligent media commentators and self-styled Cubanologists that Barrack Obama’s historic victory on Tuesday will inevitably result in economic and political changes in Cuba.

It’s a view that seems to be widely held in Cuba, too, if you believe the foreign media.

As you can see from this article by Mary Murray, bureau head in Havana for NBC, most ordinary Cubans have welcomed the Obama victory because they are “hopeful” it will mean good news for Cubans. You know, like more food and more money.

Typical of the comments reported by Ms Murray is that of Boris Ruiz, described as a car mechanic in Havana, who told the reporter that the election result meant that there was "a chance to normalise relations with the United States and that will make my life better."
If only it were so easy ...

Well, US policy towards the Castro regime may change under an Obama administration, given the president-elect has promised to lift the travel restrictions currently in place that restrict travel to the island by Cuba-Americans. That will certainly mean more money flowing into Cuba.

Mr Obama has also suggested that he may be prepared to sit down with the Castro brothers and discuss US-Cuban relations, although one of his senior advisers on Latin America has apparently already put conditions on any such meeting, as you can read here.

Of course, the underlying assumption here is that US foreign policy is largely to blame for the fact that he Cuban economy is a basket case, that standards of living on the island continue to decline after 50 years of “revolution”, and that Cubans lack basic political rights.

So, if there is a change in US foreign policy, the argument goes, there will be change in Cuba.

Sadly for everyone, but especially for Cubans on the island, I can see a fundamental flaw in this hypothesis: the Castro brothers do not think there is anything in Cuba that needs to be changed.

Or to put it another way, change you can believe in means nothing absolutely to them.


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