Date
11 December 2016
Fidel Castro began his career as a revolutionary by toppling a US-backed government and later tangled with 10 US presidents. Photo: Reuters
Fidel Castro began his career as a revolutionary by toppling a US-backed government and later tangled with 10 US presidents. Photo: Reuters

Cubans worry over life after Castro with Trump next door

From the Bay of Pigs invasion to a historic visit by President Barack Obama to Havana, Cubans have known for generations that whenever the United States turns its face to Cuba, Fidel Castro would be staring right back.

But the death of “El Comandante” has added to worries among Cubans that US President-elect Donald Trump will slam the door shut on nascent trade and travel ties, undoing two years of detente with the United States under Obama, according to Reuters.

Many Cubans believe they could do with their late leader’s charisma and way with words to counter Trump’s bombast.

“With ‘El Comandante’ gone, I am a little fearful of what could happen because of Trump’s way of thinking and acting,” said Yaneisi Lara, a 36-year-old Havana street vendor and flower seller.

“He could set back and block everything that’s been going on, all the things Obama has done. And he did a lot, managing to get the US closer to Cuba,” she said, admitting she would consider moving to the United States herself.

Trump has struck a very different tone from Obama, who reached an agreement two years ago with Castro’s younger brother, President Raul Castro, to end half a century of hostilities.

Late in his election campaign, Trump sought to reassure Cuban-American voters in Florida that he was firm in his opposition to the Castros, and pledged that, if elected, he would close down the newly re-opened US embassy in Havana.

Earlier on, in the primary contests to pick the Republican presidential nominee, Trump said he thought restoring diplomatic ties with Cuba was fine, but that Obama ought to have cut a better deal.

Now that Trump has won the presidency, it is hard to know exactly what his approach to Cuba will be.

“None of that has been decided,” Trump’s senior adviser, Kellyanne Conway, said on NBC’s Meet The Press on Sunday. “The president-elect will make those decisions once he takes office.”

However, Reince Priebus, who will be Trump’s chief of staff when he takes office on Jan. 20, said Trump would call for more political freedoms from the Cuban government, and that if he did not get this he would roll back Obama’s opening.

“There isn’t going to be a one-way relationship from the United States to Cuba without some action from the Castro administration,” Priebus said on Fox News Sunday.

After the death of the 90-year-old Fidel Castro on Friday, Obama called him a “singular figure”, while Trump described him as a “brutal dictator.”

Castro began his career as a revolutionary by toppling a US-backed government, repelled a CIA-backed counter-revolutionary invasion at the Bay of Pigs in 1961, and faced off against President John F. Kennedy in the Cuban missile crisis a year later.

During 49 years in office, he crossed swords with 10 US presidents. And while he took a lower profile after officially retiring in 2008, Castro never stopped warning Cubans that the American government was not to be trusted.

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