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Post-Obama Cuba ask – And now what? No satisfaction in government response

Post-Obama Cuba asks: And now what? No satisfaction in government response

As soon as Obama leaves, regime propaganda unleashed to quell aspirations
Inspired Cubans rocking and making bold moves
Americans need to keep their eyes on Cuba after the music ends

BY FABIOLA SANTIAGO
fsantiago@miamiherald.com

“You come here wanting to hear salsa. I want to hear rock ’n’ roll.”
Cuban singer David Rico of the group Aire Libre (Open Air) at Havana’s
Yellow Submarine club.

There’s more than musical preference in this young rocker’s assessment
of how Americans relate to Cuba in this “new day” branded by
Barack Obama and set to irreverent music by the Rolling Stones. For
Cubans hoping to build a society with of speech, assembly and
free elections as cornerstones, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction is a more
apt anthem than salsa.

As soon as Obama left the island to tango with Argentina’s history, the
Cuban regime unleashed its official press to counter his inspirational
message, unearthing a litany of old charges against the United States —
and particularly, Cuban exiles. The propaganda machine lauded the
Castros’ leadership and pounced on Obama with a litany of complaints
about what he forgot to say or do, including asking for “forgiveness for
the crimes committed against our people,” as one pseudo put it.

A historic presidential visit makes for a formidable moment, an
energy-booster to those who work under the thumb of a repressive
apparatus. It was especially so because Obama met behind closed doors
for almost two hours in the U.S. Embassy with 13 activists and
independent journalists representing a spectrum of opinion, and they
left hopeful that the president means what he says. He will continue to
support their efforts to democratize Cuba.

But like the anticipated Stones concert and past papal visits, the epic
run through Havana of “San Obama” is an event that comes and goes. The
forces in charge of maintaining the status quo in Cuba are counting on
the vacuum that comes with the stage exit to continue to repress.

And now what?

Young Cuban leaders are making bold moves, taking up Obama at his word
to “build something new” — but their work needs allies and support.

Activist Rosa María Payá, exiled after getting death threats for calls
to the international community to investigate her father’s questionable
death in a car crash four years ago, immediately returned to Cuba. On
Thursday, the daughter of the late leader Oswaldo Payá delivered another
10,000 signatures to the headquarters of Cuba’s Popular Assembly, asking
for a democratic referendum on the nation’s future. Her father had
already collected 25,000 and was in eastern Cuba doing this kind of work
when he was killed. A Spaniard in the car insists he was forced off the
road by a government car.

Not only are lives still at risk — more than 300 activists were
before Obama’s visit — but some advances aren’t what they seem.

The tech center Google inaugurated is a step forward but a controlled
one, brokered by rewarding Castro sympathizers. It gives a coveted Wi-Fi
hotspot and the prestige of hosting a Google-sponsored technology zone
in his studio to Kcho, a mediocre but official artist who’s a Castro
protégé and calls Fidel his father.

Yet the government turned down Google’s proposal to connect all of Cuba
for free.

It’s human nature to pay attention in times of crisis and historic
turning points, then turn away when tears, accolades and fury die down.

But stay with the Cubans. No matter what sour notes the government
peddles, they’re ready to rock ’n’ roll.

Fabiola Santiago: fsantiago@miamiherald.com, @fabiolasantiago

Source: Post-Obama Cuba asks: And now what? No satisfaction in
government response | Miami Herald –
www.miamiherald.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/fabiola-santiago/article68119442.html

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