An exile ‘faithful’ and a ‘youtuber’ pro Trump: the faces of the Cuba-US thaw

An exile 'faithful' and a 'youtuber' pro Trump: the faces of the Cuba-US thaw
Obama, during his visit to Cuba. (Reuters)

Five years have passed since the beginning of the “thaw” between the US and Cuba, initiated with Obama and now “frozen” again by President Donald Trump

“My father, Reinaldo Escobar, was accused in 1986 of creating a clandestine organization structured in secret cells. He and his companions were accused of attacking the security of the Cuban State. I was born while my father was under that ‘precautionary measure’ that forced him to work in a forced manner at the cement factory on July 26. I only remember from those years a violent search of my home by the police in 1992, where my mother (pregnant) suffered a brain haemorrhage and was disabled for life.”

This is how Yadira Escobar recounts the events that precipitated her escape to the United States. It was not until 1994 when that six-year-old girl, her parents and a brother managed to leave the Island under a visa program for political express managed by the administration of President William “Bill” Clinton.

Following the logic of exile, Yadira Escobar should be a convinced anti-Castro today. With her credentials, she could even appear on the executive floor of the Cuban-American National Foundation, the second most powerful ‘ethnic’ lobby in Washington. Only an accident of fate should prevent him from taking over one of the congressional seats controlled by the anti-Castro elite of South Florida. Attractive, professional, charismatic … Even Jewish; the virtues of the young woman seemed thought exprofeso to turn it into one of the faces of the opposition to the regime of Havana.

At 32, Yadira Escobar thinks, in effect, to reach the Capitol. To achieve this, the parliamentary elections of next November have been set as a goal, and as the battlefield the twenty-fifth congressional district of Florida. One of the ‘only’ obstacles in its path is precisely in its campaign program: the elimination of all the punitive policies of the United States against Cuba. Also his opponent, Republican Mario Díaz-Balart, one of the most furious opponents of the political system founded by the late Fidel Castro, her political uncle, by the way.

For years, the protagonist of our history has fueled the controversy. From time to time, the city of Miami shudders with its praises of the Castro, its defense of state-run health and education, and its criticisms of dissent from inside and outside the Island. Recently, he described the leader José Daniel Ferrer as “man violent and willful that does not stop at anything guided by his low passions.”

Sangria in the ‘hard’ line of Cuban exile

Although Escobar is highly unlikely to reach Congress – both Republicans and Democrats have rushed to criticize her – her nomination reflects the political changes that have been taking place within the Cuban-American community in Florida. The ‘hard’ line has, in fact, suffered a marked indentation so far this century. Although George W. Bush was able to take 75% of the community vote in 2004, four years later his successor in the red party ballot (John McCain) had to settle for seven percentage points less, and in 2012 Mitt’s efforts Romney managed to convince just over 52% of voters of island origin.

In 2016, the Trump-Pence formula barely repeated Romney’s harvest only after the tycoon agreed with the elite of exile a series of progressive sanctions against Havana, which included the enforcement of measures that until then had been considered ‘taboo’, like the Helms-Burton Act.

Trump, the ‘bad cop’

On December 18, 2014, this newspaper reviewed the euphoria aroused in Cuba by the news that the “normalization” of relations with the United States would be undertaken. In the following two years, the embassies in both capitals were reopened, commercial flights resumed and almost a million Americans travelled to the Island under the new licenses issued by President Barack Obama.

The peak of that process, which the press described as ‘Thaw’, would be the visit of the US president himself to Cuba in March 2016.

“Obama resumed the path that James Carter had previously taken in politics towards the Island, and took it further than many imagined,” said historian and deputy Elier Ramírez Cañedo, one of the current spokesmen of the current one, in December 2016 Cuban government When he left the White House, Obama left behind a directive that, although “it would be difficult for the next administration to ignore it, nothing forces him to comply.”

The facts ended up corroborating the most pessimistic forecasts. In June 2017, Donald Trump travelled to Little Havana, the central district of the anti-Castro community of Miami, to sign a memorandum with the lines of action that would continue against the ‘Castro-communist dictatorship’. The reinforcement of the embargo, attacking with particular zeal the sources of income of the Island; the breaking of ties between Cubans and Americans, especially regarding family remittances and tourism; and the promotion of “citizen initiatives” of the oppositional sign.

A trump player YouTuber

One of those “citizen initiatives” that has attracted the most to the media is that of the so-called January Paron, which drives the Miami YouTuber Alexander Otaola. His proposal is to suspend remittance shipments to Cuba during the first month of 2020. If their indications are fulfilled, the ‘recharges’ with which thousands of emigrants regularly pay mobile phone bills and Internet connection of their relatives on the Island would also be canceled. Both sources of income are among the most important for the bad finances from Havana

Otaola showed his calling power last September, when he called to demonstrate against the Cuban singer Haila María Mompié, who planned to offer several concerts in South Florida, hundreds of people ended up surrounding one of the centres the interpreter was going to act, which they accused of being a communist, and forced the cancellation of the contract. Through his YouTube channel, Otaola celebrated the outcome and also demanded the suspension of all links between artists from both nations, “until freedom returns to our homeland.” On the same line, he has defended the persecution of ships that transfer fuel between Venezuela and Cuba, the application of fines against third-country companies by the Treasury Department, and civil disobedience.

“Ready” to break diplomatic relations

In the foreign ministries, the distancing has escalated to the point that Havana has already declared itself “ready” for an eventual rupture of diplomatic relations. This was recognized this weekend by Carlos Fernández de Cossío, the director-general for the United States in the Cuban Foreign Ministry. “The effort to deprive Cuba of the fuel supply is a rather drastic measure” and adds “to the purpose of pursuing our international medical cooperation (…) at an end that no US government had reached,” he told AFP. Analysts have drawn attention to the fact that in the last two years all right-wing governments that have ascended to power in Latin America have had, among their first decisions, to suspend the “professional collaboration missions'”

At the gates of the election year, the Cuban authorities say they have little hope; at the most, that among the Democratic candidates everyone seems inclined, “at least in their public demonstrations, to resume the course that Obama started. ” The existence of such extreme personalities as Yadira Escobar and Alexander Otaola indicates, however, that many surprises can occur in Miami.