by Fausta Rodriguez Wertz | February 19th, 2016
President Obama is hard at work trying to secure his legacy, as presidents are wont to do in their last year in office.
So he’s heading to Havana in March,
The US president confirmed his Cuba trip in a post on Twitter, saying: “Next month, I’ll travel to Cuba to advance our progress and efforts that can improve the lives of the Cuban people.”
He will be joined by his wife, Michelle, travelling to the island on 21 to 22 March, before embarking on a two-day visit to Argentina, the White House said in a statement.
“This historic visit – the first by a sitting US president in nearly 90 years – is another demonstration of the president’s commitment to chart a new course for US-Cuban relations and connect US and Cuban citizens through expanded travel, commerce, and access to information.”
The punch line is that, in Cuba, the “expanded travel, commerce, and access to information” are totally controlled by the Communist regime, which has not agreed to concessions, no siree. Cuban dictator Raul Castro reasserting, ”We can’t pretend that by improving ties with the Unites States, Cuba will renounce the ideas for which it has fought for more than a century.”
In December, Mr Obama told Yahoo News he wanted to meet political dissidents in Cuba to help “nudge the Cuban government in a new direction”.
Cuba’s government responded by saying Mr Obama was welcome to visit but should not meddle in the country’s internal affairs.
“I’ve made very clear in my conversations directly with President Castro that we would continue to reach out to those who want to broaden the scope for, you know, free expression inside of Cuba.”
Elliott Abrams asks,
What does it mean to “reach out to those who want to broaden the scope for, you know, free expression,” to quote the President’s inartful words.
Not too hard to guess: a tame group of civil society types, some artists who have galleries catering to American tourists, some people who want the right to open new restaurants. The Cuban regime will never allow Obama to meet with “everybody,” and they will get away with it. They know that Obama is dying to make this trip and get his photo with Fidel, and that gives the police state the upper hand– just as it did throughout the Obama negotiations with Cuba.
Carlos Eire casts a even more jaundiced look at the visit.
Only one thing is clear – the visit is only about Obama’s legacy; don’t expect the trip to be about anything else.
Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S, and Latin American politics, news, and culture at Fausta’s Blog.