In this mini-podcast, I take a look at the historic agreement between the US and Cuba. What could this mean, the opening of embassies and possibly an end to the American trade embargo, for ordinary Cubans? I will also take a stab at what the future holds for Cuba and for its relations with its powerful neighbour. Helping me are Cuban journalist José Cárdenas, who lives in Havana, and the Danish Ph.D. student Sjamme van de Voort, who is writing his thesis on Cuba.
It has been exactly one month since, Cuba was on top of the news agenda. And for once not because of the always imminent death of Fidel Castro.
I was in Havana that day and experienced first hand the Cuban reactions to the historic deal between Cuba and the US, that Cuban leader Raul Castro and American President Barack Obama announced on that day.
The deal contains a prisoner exchange between the American aid worker/American spy Alan Gross and three Cuban heroes/murderers. The titles depend on who you ask. Castro also committed himself to releasing 53 political prisoners. But most importantly, the deal signals an intent to normalize the diplomatic relations between the two countries, potentially resulting in the end of the American embargo.
Many people in Havana see the announcement as an opportunity for a better life. If trade opens up with the US and US tourists start flowing in, Cuba will undoubtedly benefit economically. What this means for political life on Cuba is less clear. Will a better economic situation foster the growth of a civil society, that could challenge the Castro brothers’ political vision? Few of the Cubans I talked to want total political change. Many are very proud of the accomplishments of the revolution, such as free health care and the total literacy that followed.
The Danish ph.d. student Sjamme van de Voort, whom I interviewed for the podcast, did not really want to speculate into what would happen, because, as he said, everybody who has tried to forecast what would happen in Cuba over the last 50 years has been wrong. This mini podcast will not tell you what will happen, but will hopefully cast a glimpse into what Cubans are thinking and feeling about the situation.
This video shows the spontaneous cheers and applause, that Raul Castro’s speech elicited. Everybody watched the whole thing on what must have been a 20″ TV screen.
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