Obama: Springtime in Havana

HAVANA — President Barack Obama will greet the spring in Cuba. The news, which for the past several weeks circulated speculatively through the various media because it was cited as a presidential wish, has been confirmed by both governments.

It will be, according to Josefina Vidal, chief of the Cuban Foreign Ministry’s U.S. desk, an official visit to be held March 21-22, hence the reference to spring. It has nothing to do with other “springs.”

The visit’s confirmation puts an end to conflicting opinions among analysts and journalists as to whether the trip would be convenient before the presidential election and precisely in the middle of the campaigns for the nominations of both parties, especially if it will condition in any way the eventual Democratic Party candidate. The decision made implies an in-depth evaluation.

For Obama, it’s not a question of setting the course of relations with Cuba as part of his legacy and legitimate aspiration, paving the road as he deems it appropriate. Neither of the Democratic candidates who is nominated as the presidential candidate would be against his policy toward the island. The eventual Democratic nominee will stay the course, although undoubtedly will make slight adjustments.

Seen from a broader perspective, the decision to visit is consonant with the feelings of a majority of the U.S. population, according to the latest Gallup poll. Even Donald Trump, that skillful provocateur, has not declared an opposition to relations with Havana.

And while there’s little credibility in the messages and campaign speeches of either political party, the certainty that the Cold War policy toward Cuba has failed is evident. New methods for old aspirations, now renewed in the worldwide tussle for global hegemony, are the prime objectives; they’re what we experience and endure today.

In addition to Washington’s tired aspirations, Cuba finds itself in that situation and precisely in the back yard that Washington is trying to regain. Many had to wait for that Obama speech in Miami (2013) when he called for novel and creative methods to utilize in relations with our country, government and process.

For the moment, in my opinion, what’s curious and remarkable is that the presidential trip will take place just a few weeks before the Seventh Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC). During the party’s highest-ranking gathering, the conceptualization of the economic model that will be the program of Cuba’s policy will be defined — at least so we hope. That conceptualization will more clearly show the depth of the changes and the accomplishments of the economic actors now in place and still to come.

Is the date coincidental? I don’t deny that coincidences exist but I also don’t deny the existence of causalities. And a presidential visit, perforce coordinated by both sides with time to spare, includes, in addition to a schedule of work and dialogue, the date when it will occur. Havana found the date propitious. So did Washington.

Seen from another angle, President Obama’s visit clearly implies an acceptance of a socialist Cuba that defines itself by its own internal dynamics, through the interaction of the various sectors of our society. Therefore, the conceptualization of the economic model does not mean a closed book, as expressed in different terms by President Raúl Castro Ruz.

That’s very wise, because life does not close like a book that has been read, much less the processes of change that — like ours — have been gradually opening to the plurality (a welcome status, of course) that exists in our society.

Washington’s wish to write some paragraphs in that book is not novel — we must be bold, not naive.

That is precisely the challenge: to continue our march. To halt it would border on suicide, because in general every process of profound change that is interrupted doesn’t stop. On the contrary, it seeks to reprise methods from the past, so we would step back to the edge of the abyss, as President Castro once described our situation.

It’s curious how Obama’s visit finds concordance with the official schedule. Let’s wait. The topic has not been exhausted. Its edges have not been smoothed.

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[Photo at top of President Obama is an official White House Photo by Pete Souza.]