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Post What US Presidential Candidate do Ordinary Cubans Support?
Created by John Eipper on 10/26/20 10:38 AM

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What US Presidential Candidate do Ordinary Cubans Support? (Timothy Ashby, -Spain, 10/26/20 10:38 am)

I read with great interest the comments of Massoud Malek and José Ignacio Soler. What they've said about Iranians and Venezuelans also describes the same pro-Trump sentiments to be found among "ordinary and impoverished" Cubans.

This may seem anomalous considering that Trump re-imposed travel and economic sanctions on Cuba that have caused great hardship for ordinary Cubans. But people of the island now believe that regime change is necessary to achieve democracy and a free-market system. The feeling is that Obama simply allowed the Cuban government to become more entrenched, and that Biden will revive this policy, which benefited what are now three generations of the Party and military elite who have a piece of every enterprise while stifling economic freedom for others.

Of course, the Cuban government is desperate for Biden to win.

JE comments:  In my last two trips to Cuba, I met nobody with anything positive to say about Trump.  Granted, the comparatively privileged areas of Havana and Varadero may not be representative of the whole island.  Tim, do you sense that ordinary Cubans have an understanding that Trump's hardball stance may bring down their regime?  One would think that after 61 years of varying levels of US sanctions, few Cubans would still cling to this argument.

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  • Cuba's Military Supports Free-Market Reforms (Timothy Ashby, -Spain 10/27/20 4:41 AM)
    John, with all due respect, ordinary Cubans are fearful of speaking frankly to foreigners unless they have known them for many years, as is the case with my friends there.

    Raúl's "economic reforms" following Fidel's death were gradually eroded by the committed communists in the government and by the bureaucrats who were opposed to the growing economic power of the new middle class that was opening restaurants, guest houses, repair shops, farms, etc. New taxes and licensing restrictions were imposed to choke off the nascent free market. Also, the government is an absolute nightmare to do business with, despite its global campaign to attract badly needed FDI. Just last night I was speaking with a prominent UK businessman (our neighbour in Mallorca) whose consortium was negotiating for a project that would have brought $500 million into Cuba and employed hundreds of people. The Cuban government kept changing the terms, and eventually the investors gave up when the government demanded 51% ownership (i.e. controlling interest) and insisted that Cuban workers had to be employed via a labour exchange, which meant that the developers would, for example, pay their salaries of $5.00 per hour to the government which would then pay the workers $5.00 per day.

    I am aware that despite the Trump administration's blustering rhetoric about Cuba (which is driven by the need to garner the still powerful Cuban-America vote in Florida), discussions have been taking place between US (and foreign proxy) diplomats and Cuban counterparts for at least two years. The US proposition has been simple: break off all ties with Venezuela, promise to hold elections at some time in the near future, and open the economy to true free-market reforms. In exchange, the US would offer a bilateral free trade agreement, remove all sanctions, and provide various forms of aid. Raúl and the ineffectual President Díaz-Canel are opposed to this, while the military is open to the proposal. There has been talk of a coup d'etat, which the military knows would have widespread popular support.

    Cuba is a country of the edge of economic collapse due to a combination of Trump, its own government, and Covid. The sanctions won't bring regime change, but offers of major "goodies" might work. Trump is basically apolitical and would like to see Trump golf courses and hotels in Cuba (and so would the Cubans I know well).

    JE comments:  These are some fascinating possibilities.  If Trump managed to "open up" Cuba in exchange for significant reforms, it would cement his legacy in foreign policy.  Paradoxically, only a US president on the right could achieve such a thing, as a left-leaning administration would be accused of "softness" on Cuba.

    Tim, I hope you'll send regular updates from your informants in Cuba.

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