News / USA

    Cuba Awaits Obama's Arrival

    Tourists ride in a vintage car in front of the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, March 17, 2016.
    Tourists ride in a vintage car in front of the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, March 17, 2016.

    Count the number of candy-colored classic cars at a Havana stoplight, and you’ll find just as many expectations for the imminent visit of U.S. President Barack Obama.

    There are those who hope the visit is a milestone en route to lifting the economic embargo by the U.S., and those who believe Cuba cannot really change under the current government.

    There are Cubans like Yosleny Borroto, who see the first state visit by an American leader since the 1920s as a sign of the changes she sees in her country.

    "He has been one of the U.S. presidents who has extended his hand to us. To help us … to help us get ahead as a country," said Borroto.

    Havana traffic faces off with roadwork ahead of President Barack Obama's visit. March 18, 2016. (Victoria Macchi/VOA)
    Havana traffic faces off with roadwork ahead of President Barack Obama's visit. March 18, 2016. (Victoria Macchi/VOA)

    Expectations|

    For Claudia Toledo, an international buyer for a major food company, the nascent rapprochement means her job could improve; access to machine parts from the U.S., for example. It also feels like a sign of more openness to practical, daily-life benefits, like more Internet access.

    "This participation from both sides is good for both countries," Toledo said.

    WATCH: VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from Havana, on Facebook.
    Click here.

    No one expects immediate changes — except for a few road repairs along Obama's route through the capital and at least a day without alcohol sales, as mandated by the government.

    Roadwork on the streets of Havana. March 18, 2016. (Ramon Taylor/VOA)
    Roadwork on the streets of Havana. March 18, 2016. (Ramon Taylor/VOA)

    Once the excitement fades, the trade embargo remains firmly intact, though the president's arrival with American CEOs (from Xerox and Marriott) hints at future business pacts. Commercial flights from the United States are already scheduled to resume later this year.

    Some fear more problems ahead

    But then there are Cubans like Oscar Casanella Saint-Blancard. He already feels targeted by the government for his friendships with outspoken dissidents, and fears that reestablished diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana not only fall short of real change, they may in fact bring more problems.

    "The first question is: What's going to be the behavior of the Cuban government" afterward?

    "It’s not enough to be more politically open or flexible," said Casanella. "... It's not enough that part of the embargo mechanism starts to crumble. Because there's an embargo from the Cuban government against the Cuban people, and I think that's the one that does the most damage."

    WATCH: What Would Cuban Citizens Say to Obama?

    What Would Cuban Citizens Say to Obama?i
    X
    VOA News
    March 19, 2016 7:51 PM
    Cuban citizens talk about what they'd say to President Barack Obama if they had the chance.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: jack g from: thailand
    March 20, 2016 8:21 AM
    Cubans are certainly naive about Obama and the USA.

    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    March 19, 2016 6:58 PM
    This may just be a temporary illusion. If Donald Trump becomes President he might just press the reset button. Donald....this is the reset button, that one near you is the launch button. Careful, you don't want to push the wrong one.

    by: Ricardo from: Brazil
    March 19, 2016 3:13 PM
    The establishment of relations with Cuba is more important than most people think. President Obama Could take the opportunity of this historical moment to do a great service to all of Latin America and the U.S.

    Respect for civil rights goes far beyond not being arrested unjustly. In Brazil and in many Latin America countries thousands of people die in hospital's corridors without getting medical care, and this is only one problem.

    President Obama could make a statement supporting the fight against rampant corruption plaguing in Brazil and other Latin American countries. The American support would avoid many to immigrate to the United States in search for an honest government and better living conditions.

    Europe is suffering from the immigration of 4 million Syrians. But, without the American support the entire Latin America will end up in a huge upheaval. Then, there will be 400 million people trying to immigrate to the United States. The time to intervene and brake the corruption in Latin America is now; in a few years will be too late.

    by: panshwezin@gmail.cim
    March 19, 2016 2:03 PM
    Good

    by: Lou from: Atlanta
    March 19, 2016 9:55 AM
    Maybe he could talk them into turning off all the jammers on short wave. Think of the electricity they'd save.

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