miércoles, 22 de abril de 2009

Apenas un susurro

Un buen reportaje de la Associated Press:

a few years ago, any U.S. president who suggested restoring relations with Fidel Castro's Cuban government would have been loudly called a communist or worse on the streets and airwaves of Miami. Protests would have sprung up, and Cuban-Americans who offered their support would have feared being blacklisted.
But when President Barack Obama last week made the most significant gesture in decades toward opening dialogue with the communist island, reaction from the nation's largest Cuban exile community and anti-Castro hub was a bare whisper.
The muted response, from the heart of Little Havana to the elegant suburbs of Coral Gables, crystalized the generational and demographic shift in Cuban-American politics long coming to Miami and the nation, a shift that has in part fueled the president's ability to push U.S. policy in a new direction.
There were no anti-Obama rallies, few protests. Even Armando Perez Roura, the hardline host of the Spanish-language exile broadcast Radio Mambi, began his drive-time morning show talking baseball.
That there was no news in Miami following Obama's appearance at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad was the news. During the meeting last week of more than 30 heads of state, Obama said the U.S. is seeking a new beginning with Cuba but also called on the communist island to release political prisoners and embrace democratic freedoms.
Cuba President Raul Castro responded that his government would be happy to discuss those issues as long as its sovereignty is respected.
Many former critics say they now realize that the U.S. government's five-decade isolation of Cuba has produced few results -- the Castros still have a lock on power -- so maybe it's time for a new approach.
In the past decade, Cuban-Americans have risen to unprecedented political heights, with two cabinet members, congressmen, senators and a key role in propelling George W. Bush to the White House in 2000, said Joe Garcia, a Miami Democrat and former head of the Cuban-American National Foundation, an exile group.
"But on the one issue that kept Cuban-Americans together, Cuba, nothing changed,"
he said.
The frustration with the status quo, even after an ill Fidel Castro handed power over to his younger brother Raul two years ago, has only grown. That, coupled with Obama winning Florida and the presidency even though a majority of Cuban-Americans voted for John McCain, has tempered the rhetoric and politics of many local leaders.
Add to the mix the desire of newer Cuban immigrants to retain ties to family on the island, and the ground was ripe for both Obama's gestures at the summit, and his earlier decision to lift Bush administration limits on remittances and travel to visit family in Cuba. Since 2004, Cuban-Americans could send only small amounts of money and travel there only once every three years. Now they can travel and send as much money as they want.
Obama's gesture was hardly a surprise. He tested the waters in Miami during the 2007 presidential primaries by promising to lift the travel ban and seek dialogue with Raul Castro.
"He didn't go up in flames, and no one threw stones, so it was only a matter of time," said Garcia, whose parents fled Cuba in the 1960s.
Since then, Obama has received political cover from some Cuban-American leaders like Bay of Pigs veteran Francisco J. Hernandez, current head of the foundation, who now supports contact with the island. And Obama has been careful not to alienate moderate Cuban-Americans by avoiding for now the broader trade embargo, in place for nearly five decades.
The president, born after the 1950s Cuban Revolution, has also tapped a new generation of Cuban-Americans from Miami to help direct policy, including Frank Mora, who will oversee U.S. defense policy in the Americas.
Asked by a caller about the 45-year-old Mora, who graduated from a Miami school founded by exiled Cuban Jesuits, Radio Mambi's Perez Roura was uncharacteristically stumped.
"I don't know him," he admitted, in another sign of the divide between generations.
Nearby in Little Havana, Karelia Alsaro, 31, who arrived in Miami from Cuba six months ago, said she left her mother behind and is relieved she will be able to visit more frequently under new regulations. The former secretary hopes the conciliatory tone of the summit will lead to more action.
"If it's just words, they are saying them very well, because we are believing them," said Alsaro, as she pounded the pavement looking for work. "The next step has to be the Cuban government responding."
Alsaro holds out little hope that change will come under the 77-year-old Raul Castro.
"But I believe that in a future not too far from now, it will happen," she said.
Even those in the younger generation who opposed the president's policies were estrained.
"It's naive of him, and I think it's kind of insulting. It's 'You're a dictator, but I want to talk to you,"' said Maday Rodriguez, 33, a small business owner, who came to the U.S. from Cuba with her family in 1984.
"But to each his own. Everyone has their own opinion," she added -- including her husband, who voted for Obama.
Mauricio Claver-Carone, a young Cuban-American lobbyist with ties to Miami, supports tough sanctions against the island and is skeptical Havana is serious about change but was careful in his criticism.
"When Obama says Cuban-Americans are the best ambassadors to Cuba, he really thinks that. His intentions are good," he said.
Just as Obama has tapped into support from a new generation of Cuban-Americans, Claver-Carone hopes the president will reach out to his contemporaries on the island there.
"Obama embodies the hopes and dreams of the Cuban people. And he's the face of Cubans," Claver-Carone said, noting that the majority of those on the island are biracial like the president.
"He campaigned on a bottom up approach and on change," Claver-Carone added.
‘‘What's more appropriate for Cubans?"
Associated Press Writer Ileana Morales contributed to this report from Miami.
Photo: Over thirty travelers waited in line at the Gulfstream counter to board their flight to Cuba the first day since President Barack Obama directed his administration to allow unlimited travel and money transfers by Cuban Americans to family in Cuba, abril 14 in Miami International Airport. Miami resident Marta Lopez, 81, stands with her US passport in hand to check-in at the counter of Gulfstream airlines. Lopez is happy that her travels to see family and friends will no longer be restricted due to the ease of travel restrictions. (CARL JUSTE/The Miami Herald).

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