The government of Cuba is overwhelmed in the face of the Obama phenomenon. People across the country waited for Obama with euphoria and hopes that haven't been felt in a long time.
The president of the United States arrived in Havana on March 20. His official visit, which lasts from March 21 to March 22, has the prestige of promises fulfilled and efforts to continue making progress. The visit signifies support for maintaining the same objectives of democracy, respect for human rights and support for an independent civil society.
Although Raul Castro officially repudiated Obama before December 17, 2014, since then the U.S. president has gotten praise from Castro. Castro demands that the embargo be lifted, while also calling for more Americans to visit Cuba (with the process regulated by the State, of course). Most of the islanders believe that Obama's measures will not have much benefit for the population and the nation because of the reticence of the Cuban authorities to facilitate their implementation. Being aware of the idiosyncrasy of Cubans, the president filmed a spot with the most popular comic in Cuba, which was shown on national television the night before his arrival in Havana.
The Cuban people started to like Obama during the 2008 electoral campaign, while facing the possibility that he would become the first black president in the United States. But the empathy is a result of the friendly smile, the strong personality and the feeling of closeness radiating from the most important man in the world. The admiration turned into gratitude, when shortly after arriving in the White House in 2009 he started proactive policies, which facilitated the reunion of families and friends separated during 50 years through visits by Cuban-Americans, and the remittance of money to alleviate the shortages and poverty of a large part of the population.
Obama liberated Cubans from the permanent burden of propaganda, meetings, political acts and military demonstrations against the Yankees, but above all he eliminated the government's pretexts for repressing and blaming the American government for the economic disasters caused by capricious and failed programs.
The almost seven years of the people-to-people policy, the restoration of diplomatic relations and Obama's visit to Cuba are true to the values of his initial race for the White House. Audacity of hope is the driving force that Barack Obama transmits. His determination and knowledge about how to reach objectives -- with good intentions for Cuban society -- coincide with a period when changes in Cuba are inevitable. This inevitable change is due to historic direction, as well as the social discontent and the endemic economic crisis. It also goes along with abandoning the confrontational positions favored by Cuban-Americans, convinced that they strengthened the authorities on the island, as well as the Americans, who in all spheres promote change in policies, trade and investment. Noble intentions mix with interests in the United States, while in Cuba the only way out of the multifaceted crisis is the reformulation of relations, the elimination of the embargo and opening to the world. The new course is irreversible.
For the moment, the Cuban leaders try to demonstrate strength through demands that they know can only be met in the long-term, like the return of the territory of the naval base at Guantanamo; they act in ways that go far against the protocol like honoring Nicolas Maduro in Havana two days before the arrival of President Obama, even if it becomes an embarrassment.
At the domestic level, Cuban leaders have gradually lost the respect of the population, 77 percent of which was born after 1959. This is due to the moment in which historic leaders took power, and support turned into pretense and lies. The voluntary demonstrations of almost a million people lost their spontaneity and continued because of pressure through mechanisms created in all the political and social institutions. The biggest concern is maintaining strict control on society with subtle methods that don't damage the international image that Raul Castro has been able to create.
The opening of rights may be slow and difficult, and the political changes will depend on the capacity of Cubans to achieve them. Barack Obama will not make changes in Cuba, but he's facilitating them. His contact with the people and his words will not be merely for the history books, but will have a permanent effect making history. After finishing his term in January 2017, we can hope that his ties to Cuba will continue.