On the island, Cubans are watching the US election as if it were their own

HAVANA, Nov. 7th Even with a potential hurricane on Cuba’s doorstep, the dominant issue on the island is the U.S. presidential election. With increasingly broader access to the internet, Cubans are staying informed on what’s happening in their neighbouring country, which they say may largely determine their own future.

Cuban economists and others have followed the election almost minute by minute, reflecting the importance of relations with the United States, which have suffered since the election of Donald Trump.

Pedro Monreal, an economist who favours changes in the island’s Soviet-style economic model, posted dozens of tweets as he followed CNN’s coverage of the elections.

Many other Cubans have published memes on social networks comparing the U.S. elections with the Cuban version, where the ballots carried only the name of President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who was hand-picked by Raul Castro.

“I am pretty much convinced that in 48-72 hours the count will end and Biden will win the popular vote as well as the electoral college,” Carlos Alzugaray, a former Cuban diplomat close to the government, wrote on his social media accounts.

During the Obama administration, when Joe Biden was vice president, the two countries started a process of re-establishing diplomatic relations, known as “the thaw.”

The Trump administration changed relations with Cuba 180 degrees. Trump withdrew the majority of diplomats at the just-reopened U.S. embassy in Havana following some mysterious attacks, suspended the special family reunification program and put in place policies to limit the massive arrival of migrants at the southern border with Mexico, a route used by tens of thousands of Cuban migrants.

The Republican administration also accused the island of propping up the Nicolas Maduro regime in Venezuela and blamed Havana for the grave crisis lashing the people in the South American country.

Punishing Cuba, Trump suspended cruise ship visits to the island, limited remittances and cut back the number of airports where U.S. flights can land. He also led an international campaign to denounce the deployment of Cuban medical personnel abroad, criticized as forced labour by many non-governmental organizations.

The Trump measures, together with the Venezuelan crisis and the drop in revenue from the work of doctors abroad, and the fall in the number of tourists because of the COVID-19 pandemic, have pushed the Cuban economy into crisis and plunged the population into even greater poverty.

“I hope Biden wins because we cannot survive four more years of Trump,” said Camilo, a self-employed worker on the outskirts of Havana who declined to provide his full name because of fears of reprisals by the government.

“Trump has put his foot down on us. No one can get ahead with that. We’re pretty well off. What Miami should do is to handle its own problems and leave us to ours,” he told el Nuevo Herald when asked about the results in Florida, where the Cuban American community voted overwhelmingly for Trump.

The Cuban government has remained silent on the elections, although the official news media clearly favoured Biden, who has spoken of a return to Obama policies. Biden also has vowed to condemn human rights abuses in Cuba.

Luisa Maria Sanchez, 48, a self-employed worker in the port city of Cienfuegos, said it’s critical that a Democrat move into the White House.

“Since the tourists left we can’t sell anything. This is a dead town. Without the Americans, we got only a few French and English tourists. And now with the coronavirus pandemic, not even that,” said Sanchez, who has an engineering degree. “This whole street was full of people who sold handicrafts and worked in tourism, but Trump suspended the cruise ships and everything fell apart.”

Ernesto Consuegra, a 69-year-old retiree whose son is in the U.S., also prefers Biden.

“My son left more than a year ago. He’s being held in an immigration prison in Louisiana. It’s Trump’s fault they don’t let him out because Trump doesn’t want immigrants in his country. Emigration is a human right,” he said in a telephone interview from the town of Cruces, in the center of the island.

( www.lancasteronline.com )