HAVANA, Cuba, Tuesday November 15, 2016 — Just as it looked as if the Obama administration’s initiatives to end over 50 years enmity with Cuba were succeeding, the election of Donald Trump has cast the rapprochement into doubt, causing fear and uncertainty in the communist Caribbean country.
While Havana said in a terse note that President Raul Castro sent congratulations to Trump, the announcement of nationwide military exercises, starting tomorrow, appeared to make a statement of its own.
A notice published in the Communist Party’s official newspaper Granma on Wednesday said that the exercises would prepare to confront “the enemy” – a long-standing reference to the United States.
Although Cuba has held such exercises from time to time since 1980, the timing seemed to be more than coincidental.
Many Cubans are already said to be rattled by the implications of Trump’s win, fearing the president-elect’s proposed anti-immigration policies and the resumption of tourism and trade restrictions.
But it is not clear how Trump will act on Cuba, having sent mixed messages about the thaw in the old cold war enmity.
Initially, he gave it a lukewarm welcome, saying “50 years is enough.” He nevertheless characteristically insisted that President Obama should have “struck a better deal.”
But as the Republican primary heated up, he adopted a hard line stance, vowing to reverse the new policies unless the Castro regime agreed to democratic reforms and other demands.
Obama used executive authority to enact the rapprochement, pushing reforms through with the power of his presidential pen.
Trump can consequently change course just as easily, reinstating trade and financial restrictions, and reversing developments like the resumption of air and cruise ship travel, and postal service.
With the Republicans retaining control of Congress, the 54-year-old embargo is unlikely to go away anytime soon, moreover.