First EmbrACE Column: What is ‘home’ for ordinary Cubans?

This is the article which was published through the International Faculty Magazine EmbrACE. It is the first column on Cuba, more will follow throughout this academic year.

It was hot, stuffy, and my sweaty clothes were sticking on my skin. But I made it, here I was: In Havana, Cuba. Finally my dream came true and I was backpacking around the island for the next four weeks. And here I was at my first destination. I was sitting in a taxi which brought me from the airport to my casa and I looked20141215_140433 around. It felt like a journey back in time as it seemed like the city fell into a sleeping beauty-like sleep in the 1950s. The cars were old-timers, the houses probably used to be beautiful back in the day but now their fate was in the hands of decay. Although I had known before what Havana looked like from pictures online, I had regarded them at home with a sense of nostalgia and romanticism. But now, as I could actually see the reality, I was kind of shocked. Even the worst “slums” in Europe were in a better state than those houses. And we were in Centro Habana, not in the suburbs. What kind of people lived there, I wondered. And what kind of life do those people live?

What you should know about Cuba is that it is not that easy for tourists to find out how ordinary people live. Tourists are not allowed to spend the night at private houses and instead they have to stay at official casas particulares which are private houses who rent out rooms. The landlords have to register you and let the authorities know immediately where and for how long yo20141215_095706u are staying. Another problem is that even though you are technically staying in a house of a local, there is a class system in Cuba despite its claim to be communist. Ever since the country opened up for tourism in the 90s, there are two currencies in Cuba. The tourist currency, the peso Cubano convertible (CUC) is 25 times more worth than the peso Cubano, or moneda nacional. So basically all Cubans who work in the tourist sector and have access to the peso convertible are automatically significantly richer than ordinary Cubans who are paid in moneda nacional. That is why all the casas I lived in were absolutely gorgeous inside and the families that hosted me were comparably well off. Which means that they had luxurious goods such as a TV, toilets with running water, and if they were extremely lucky even a car.

One day, I actually had the chance to catch a glimpse of what life for ordinary people looked like and what their homes appeared from the inside. A friend of mine had to come by to his family’s house in order to drop something off. He asked me if I wanted to join him, and I saw my chance of seeing the real picture of Cuban life. The apartment was in an ordinary neighbourhood in the centre of Havana, so basically as destroyed as all the other houses. My friend opened the door and I had to hold on my breath. The apartment was so tiny that it did not even deserve to be called an apartment. In fact, it was one room. And this room was everything. In one corner, the kitchen was located. The same room also consisted of the bedroom and the living room, although it has to be noted that the bed was the couch at the same time.  And of course, the din20141215_120453ing room was also squeezed in in this ‘apartment’. It was tiny, but also very cosy. The elderly couple, let’s call them Mercedes and Ricardo in order to protect their identities, were thrilled to welcome a German girl in their home. Especially Ricardo was happy as he was excited to analyse Germany’s performance at the previous world cup with me. Mercedes started to make coffee immediately and there was no question of me and my friend leaving again any time soon. They both asked if I had eaten or if I was hungry and I was amazed by this warm welcome. Then Ricardo told me a bit more about their lives. He, as a retired teacher gets $10 pension, and his wife Mercedes, a retired librarian receives $8. At once, my face started to freeze and I was in shock. I know that people in Cuba do not have to pay rent, that health insurance and education is for free and that people get food stamps. But regardless of this support, how can people live with $18 per month? The prices in Cuba in supermarkets are actually quite high, especially imported goods are very expensive. Everyone I met in Cuba was aware of this unfair system which means that taxi drivers make more than four times more money than ordinary Cubans per month.

Anyways, this encounter , and I was also quite emotional about it. I asked myself how I would cope if I were in their position. These two lovely people also deserve a lot of respect in my opinion. I was amazed to see that people who lived very simple lives were that generous and caring towards strangers. Even though they do not have a lot they immediately offered me coffee and even food. And what also struck me was that they seemed quite happy with their simple lives. Their home was very warm and cosy and it seems like they had made the best out of their situation.

The more time I spent in Cuba, the more I saw that we should not let ourselves be misled by outer-appearances. Although the houses in Havana, and Cuba in general are in an awful state from the outside, there can be real treasures in the inside. And yes, even those “ruins” for some are actual homes to many people. And of course the big question I asked myself was, what determines “home” for me personally? Do I need a TV, laptop, big apartment, and big variety of food, pretty house from the outside and inside to be happy and to feel at home? Luckily, my four weeks in Cuba helped me to answer these questions for myself.


Cuba article picture  image



First TEDx in Habana!

I do not know how I managed to miss this, but as soon as I stumbled across the news I immediately had to share it wit20141225_143336h you guys.
Two years after the application, on November 15th 2014 the very first TEDx event took place in Habana. TED, or TEDx talks are known all over the world for the inspiring talks on various issues. From political topics to societal issues as well as medicine and technological inventions which are shared with the audience and usually  through livestream people from all over the world can watch the event.
In the Netherlands, the country I am currently living in, TED talks occur quite regularly in university cities. But in Cuba, this is a new development. Especially the fact that US-American speakers, as well as Cuban speakers were invited to share their ideas.

Very often, people think that due to Cuba’s political and economic isolation, there is no vibrant art and culture scene in the country. This is simply wrong. Music and dance culture is a fundamental part of Cuba’s life, as well as art20141225_165855s. If people think that street art is something which only belongs to hip cosmopolitan cities, then they are wrong. I remember very well the amazing street art that I saw in Santa Clara. Having said that, the official TED blog describes
The theme: “inCUBAndo!,” or “InCUBAte.” The talks and performances all encouraged the audience to think outside of the box in some way and push their expectations of what Cuba can and will be. “I didn’t want every speaker to give a TED-style talk,” says Levin. “I wanted to give TED a Cuban flavor.” *

The lineup of speakers was very diverse. From a speaker on LGBTQ rights in Cuba, another speaker on organic farming in Cuba and the risks of farming with pestizides, and many more. The event also included dance performances and music, of course.

A very nice quote from the promo video was the statement of an elderly lady who was also giving a talk. She said “Obviously, I have love for my homeland Cuba. But I want to reach out to the whole world!”

Watch the promo video of the first TEDx Event here

You can also watch some of the talks on youtube or here

I wish I could have been there to see the talk myself, but unfortunately I missed it as I went to Cuba around 1 month after the event. Too bad, but let’s hope that there will be many more TED talks in Habana!

*TED Blog, “The first TEDx in Cuba: An event in Habana, two years in the making,” Dec 2014, retrieved from

Picture retrieved from

The end of Cuba’s ration book?

One of the great achievements of the Cuban revolution was the introduction of the ration book. This policy was common in Europe during the wars or times when food security was threatened. It lists necessary food items that people will get paid by the state. The amount per person is also set by the government. These products include vegetables, oil, beans,milk, and of course, very important for Cubans: coffee. During my travels in Cuba, I met a lot of people that lived from less than $10 pension a month. Of course, rent, health insurance, education and necessary services are paid for by the government. However, $10 per month would not be possible to cover the costs for groceries. For this reason, the ration book system is still absolutely necessary in order to ensure people’s decent living.

There are rumors now on the streets in Havana that the days of the ration book might come to an end, however as it does cost the state a lot. With the economy becoming more open, this system might come under threat.

Knowing Cuba quite well, I can say that change is happening in Cuba on a very slow pace. I doubt therefore that the ration book, as well as other socialist policies will be cancelled any time soon. I do not understand the whole hassle that is being made and I believe that the spread of such rumors can also be done intentionally in order to fasten the pace of change. I do not believe that it is the interest of the government to spread such statements and I can imagine that upper class Cubans (especially those who are employed in the tourist sector and therefore have access to the tourist currency CUC) benefits from introducing these discussions in order to confront ordinary Cubans with their possible future.

The vast majority of people I met in Cuba is in favor of the social achievements of the revolution, such as universal health care, free education, and of course- the ration books. We should not forget that for Cubans these socialist values are already entrenched in their culture and way of life and therefore I believe that it is impossible to abandon these practices in the next 10, or 20 years to come.

This video by BBC made me write my response to these rumors and I definitely recommend you to watch it. It is an interview with a couple that relies on the ration book and it also takes you to the “shop” where you can get your monthly rations.

Cuba’s lost generation: Money or happiness?

I had a really nice chat with a Cuban couple in Baracoa that asked me to publish our conversation anonymously.  As much as I love Cuba and their different way of challenging the dominant mainstream world order, I acknowledge that the human rights situation regarding freedom of speech is difficult there. Let’s call my conversation partners Carla and Enrique.

Carla: I am really sorry to hear about the bad experiences you made with Cuban men. But I have to tell you honestly, that tourism has done this to our country. Before the country opened up to tourists, this wasn’t the case. Tourism has made the young generation lazy. Although people here have the opportunity to study for free at university, young people rather work as taxi drivers or try to rip tourists off in order to make money. Of course, it is a shame that doctors, teachers, etc. barely make any money. But anyways, you can see what happened to young people now. Money determines people’s lives. I mean, does it really make people happy to rip tourists off as a job? Is this an honourable profession? And also, it won’t go on like this forever. It is going to change one day.

Me: What do you think about the development of the internet? Computers, smartphones, etc.?

Carla: I heard that in Europe and the United States, people don’t communicate directly with each other anymore. I am scared that this could also become the case in Cuba if the internet will become more accessible. But the young generation here is simply amazed by every single thing that tourists have. They are fascinated by tourists and desperately want to have the same things they have. But Fidel Castro was right when he said that Cuba needs tourism and that it is important but also that it needs to be controlled and that there have to be limits. And it’s the same case with the internet.

Enrique: A big problem is also that people don’t work. They don’t want to work. As for them, working is not profitable. That’s why people work very slowly often and they don’t put much effort into their work. I also think that it is awful that people who don’t work as they simply don’t want to get full support by the government.

Carla: Some people don’t understand it. Work is not about money. It also should be something that you enjoy doing since it is a considerable amount of your lifetime. I love my job. I could retire already, but I love teaching. And I will continue doing it as long as I enjoy it. But well, the older the revolution gets, the more it seems to be forgotten. Young people don’t recognize the good aspects of it anymore which really is a shame.

She takes a short break, thinks for a bit and then continues

Carla: But you know Cindy, I can also not say that everybody is like that. There are some young people studying at universities and living on campus in their student dorms and they study very hard and when they meet then they meet with their fellow students in bars on campus or in their rooms. That’s why you might not be able to see those kind of young people as they simply don’t ‘’hang out’’ in the cities. So yeah, that’s why you happen to be in touch frequently with those horrible people who try to rip off tourists.

This conversation really made me think a lot. Were they right? Definitely.As much as I love the idea of socialism, it cannot be alright that a Taxi driver or a tourist guide makes more money than a doctor or teacher. By more money I don’t mean like a couple of euros more per hour, but actually about 4-times more. What would I do if I were Cuban? What would you do? Would you rather study at university for free the things you care about and to do the profession you love despite the fact that you won’t receive a lot of money for it? Or would you rather give up the opportunity to study and work in the tourist business in order to make more money?
Again: What is more important? Money or happiness? Is money happiness? Can happiness compensate for lack of money?

What is the transition in Cuba going to cause besides ‘wealth’ and ‘growth’? What will Cuba’s new generation be like? What happens if neo-liberal capitalism will be implemented in Cuba? A little piece of philosophy on the downside of capitalism  by Emile Durkheim, beautifully explained within this youtube channel. ”Modern economies put tremendous pressure on individuals (…) How can we create new ways of belonging? How can we take pressure off the individuals and find a more correct balance between freedom and solidarity?”

Emile Durkheim: Capitalism and suicide

Organic Farming in Cuba under threat of Monsanto&Co?

As a political scientist with a special interest in the field of International Political Economy, I am of course very concerned regarding the development in the world towards more aggressive ways of production, especially multi national companies which harm countries and its people economically but also environmentally. One of the things I worry about immensely is the food production business, including bio chemical products and of course- GMOs. Monsanto especially is a company which in my opinion is one of the big masters regarding manipulation and evil conquest of the world through its illegal actions to dominate and basically own food production through its patents on GMOs and fertilizers. One of the things I admire about Cuba, even though of course the isolation also has its negative effects- is the aspect that Cuba is still free of all those toxic means in agriculture and therefore the food there is organic and safe. Mostly from small scale farmers and then sold on markets or shops on the streets. I talked to many people in Cuba about this issue and surprisingly, they are aware of the tricks and nasty games that are played in the rest of the world by multi-national corporations and they are also very critical with regards to agriculture. They acknowledged that the threat was there to lose Cuba’s pure agriculture to Monsanto, etc. but they also said that the Cuban government, as well as the Cuban people won’t allow this to happen to their country and that they are proud of their organic and natural products. Let’s hope that the following generations will also see the issue in the same perspective and that Cuban products will remain natural and free from toxic fertilizers and genetic manipulation.
Watch this video to see for yourself what farming is like in Cuba and how innovative Cuban farms are (I am sure that some of you thought that farms in Cuba are old-fashioned and primitive).

You can also read the transcript here

Useful summary of Cuban history and politics

I highly recommend the article which was published in the Council on Foreign Relations by Danielle Renwick and Brianna Lee. This is a good introduction to those who wish to get a clear and short summary of the political history and present situation in Cuba.

Some facts which are especially interesting:

>The Cuban government estimates that more than fifty years of stringent trade restrictions has amounted to a loss of $1.126 trillion.

>The State Department’s annual report for 2013 stated there was no evidence that the country provided training or weapons to terrorist groups. Cuba’s continued inclusion on the list [of states supporting terrorist organizations] was a major obstacle to talks about restoring diplomatic relations following the 2014 rapprochement

> In a 2014 report, Human Rights Watch said Cuba “continues to repress individuals and groups who criticize the government or call for basic human rights” through detentions, travel restrictions, beatings, and forced exile. The report also notes that Cuba released dozens of political prisoners and foreigners in Cuban prisons in 2010 and 2011.

>The Cuban exile community in the Miami area, which makes up about 5 percent of Florida’s population, has been “a pillar of Republican support in presidential elections since 1980,” writes Arturo Lopez-Levy in Foreign Policy. However, recent trends suggest that may change: Obama won the Cuban-American vote in Florida in the 2012 elections.

>A Pew Research poll found 63 percent of Americans supported resuming diplomatic relations, and 66 percent would like an end to the trade embargo. A Washington Post–ABC News poll found 74 percent of respondents were in favor of an end to the travel ban. A June 2014 Florida International University poll indicates a majority of Cuban Americans also support normalizing ties and ending the embargo, signaling a generational shift in attitudes toward the island. A 2015 poll conducted by the U.S. firm Bendixen & Amandi International found that 97 percent of Cubans favor the restoration of ties.

>In 2013, the UN General Assembly approved a resolution condemning the U.S. embargo for the twenty-second consecutive year, with 188 member countries backing the resolution and only two—the United States and Israel—opposing.

Article Reference: Renwick, D., Lee,B. (2015): U.S.-Cuba Relations, retrieved from [Last accessed 31 May 2015]

Finally: The USA removes Cuba from the list of states to sponsor ”terrorism”

It finally happened!
After the breakthrough of a round of negotiations which started in December and the meeting at the summit of the Americas of Raul Castro and Barack Obama, the United States finally removed Cuba from the list of terrorism which was one of the conditions for new diplomatic and economic ties between the two states.

The White House published a statement where they are speaking of the ‘‘unsuccessful efforts to isolate Cuba” of the past and that now the approach is to ”empower the Cuban people”. The details of the procedure were the following:

”As part of our new way forward with Cuba, the President in December instructed the Secretary of State to immediately launch a review of Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, and conclude that review within six months. In April, the Secretary of State completed that review and recommended to the President that Cuba should no longer be designated as a State Sponsors of Terrorism. The President then submitted to Congress the statutorily required report indicating the Administration’s intent to rescind Cuba’s State Sponsor of Terrorism designation, including the certification that Cuba has not provided any support for international terrorism during the previous six-months; and that Cuba has provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future.”  Read the full statement here

Setting states and organisations in the list of terrorism has been a common strategy for the USA in its attempt to categorize the world in ”the axis of evil” and its ”allies”.
This can be regarded quite critical as well as the decision whether an organisation or a state ends up on the list of sponsors of terrorism or whether it is directly categorized as a terrorist organisation is made due to political motives.
Let’s take the PKK for instance. The PKK is the Kurdish party which fights for its freedom already for decades. Although the PKK also works together with the Kurdish Peshmerga forces (which are supported by the West) in order to fight the Islamic State militants (especially in the case of the Yazidi, an ancient religious minority of which 1200 people had to escape last summer on a mountain from IS), the PKK is still on the list of terrorist organisations. This is clearly happening for political reasons, as the PKK’s aim is the official independence and recognition of Kurdistan.

An other example on how the USA picks sides and randomly uses the terrorist list is the case of the Syrian Civil War and the fight against IS where the USA started to supply ”moderate rebels” with weapons in order to assist them with their fight against IS. It is not clear who those moderate rebels are, what they stand for, if they commit war crimes and what they want to achieve in their fight. It is not clear whether the weapons are in the wrong hands again.

I could go on and on again. The USA used to be great friends with the Taliban (oops, that went wrong!) and let’s not forget how much they love Saudi Arabia. And every person who is a bit educated about what is going on in the Middle East knows exactly that Saudi Arabia also supports ”terrorist” groups.

Yes, I am putting ”terrorist” between ” ”. Why? Terrorism is a concept. You cannot easily put an organization or an entire group in this concept. How is terrorism defined? One’s terrorist could be another person’s freedom fighter.
So yeayy. At least they figured out that the case of Cuba was just complete political nonsense and they realized it. Maybe one day the big wake up call is going to happen (I am not too optimistic, though)

By the way: In case you’d like to get references of my examples or further readings, let me know

Picture: Aljazeera

Santiago de Cuba, or: No worries!

Before I move on with my travels to my next destination, Baracoa, just a little piece of advice for future Cuba travellers who are planning on visiting Santiago de Cuba. If the heat gets too rough and you feel like you need to escape and have some peace and silence, go to the cementerio Santa Ifigenia (graveyard). All graves are in white, it is a really relaxing atmosphere, there is a ceremony every thirty minutes and you can have a nice chat with the security personnel. Grab a Bici Taxi and go there, it is amazing.
Although it is a bit far away from the city centre, it is totally worth it as you cross the poorer neighbourhoods of Santiago. My Bici taxi driver was20141228_104442 amazing. His Bici was broken and fixed with a beer can (haha, AWESOME. I will use this next time when my bike is broken) and we talked a lot. He stopped at one point to say hi to one of his friends, and that’s where I got the Cuba experience in one picture: Imagine the following.
A completely fucked up neighbourhood. The street is not paved, houses about to collapse.
And then there is a man standing in his tiny garden of his house. Loud music, he doesn’t wear a shirt although it might be wise (He has a gigantic beer belly) and he is holding a bottle of rum in his hands and dancing enthusiastically to the sexy reggaeton music. He smiles at me and waves with his hands, signalling that I should join him. I just cheer at him and smile. That’s Cuba.

(The car you can see on the picture by the way is a Tourist rental car. The number plate is red and it starts with ”T”- for Tourist. Every number plate starts with a letter which means something:

A white government ministers, provincial officials, and other important state persons
light brown authorised government and official persons of lower rank
D / E / F / G / H yellow private vehicles
K yellow vehicles and motorcycles owned by foreign natural persons
light brown vehicles and motorcycles owned by foreign and mixed companies, foreign journalists, religious institutions
R yellow private motorcycles and “cocotaxis”
S / T / U / V / W blue state owned vehicles
Y / Z state owned motorcycles

source: Wikipedia (I know, I know. Horrible source, but in this case it is reliable)

Cubans don’t have anything. They live a very simple life and have to be creative in order to make a decent living. But still, they somehow manage to be happy. It does not make them depressed or anything.
But what about those people who apparently have everything?
-South Korea, a booming state with a fantastic economy: Highest suicide rate in the world
-In 2009, about twenty employees of the French company France telecom commit suicide because of stress caused by re-structuring of the management and policies.
-skyrocketting cases of burnout

Is it the weather that makes them happy and satisfied? What are they doing right? And what are we doing wrong?
I have my theory about that, but just think about it yourself. Are you happy? Do you think that you are satisfied with your life? What can you do differently in order not to fall into one of the mentioned categories?
I hope that I don’t sound like a strange psychologist at the moment, but I believe that every person should be aware of the most important aspect of their lives: Happiness.
Do not let ”them” (The system, your employer/company, parents, those who critizise you, or whoever it might be in your case) take that away from you.

Santiago de Cuba: How critical are Cubans?

The heat was killing me. It was quite early and I was sitting in the sun and the sun burned on my skin. I was sitting in a park and two drunk men were energetically dancing around, one was playing the violin (horribly, probably because of the alcohol) and they were singing and dancing around and trying to engage with people.
In the morning I had already done a little excursion to the Viazul in order to buy the ticket to my next destination: Baracoa. The trip to the bus station with the bici taxi was really interesting. It was 28 December and it seemed like the whole city had already started the preparations for New Year’s eve. This means that Santiago was like a butcher shop. We crossed a little poorer neighbourhood and there was meat everywhere. Whole pigs laying around on the streets and people cut them into pieces, I saw two men on bikes both holding a stick- with a dead pig hanging on the stick. Although I don’t eat meat I don’t mind watching dead animals, I found it quite funny.
Anyways, the heat. Oh Santiago. I ended up in a cafe again, and this time it was really interesting.
Some people on the table next to mine started talking to me- I had black coffee without milk or sugar and they asked me how I could drink that.
Cubans throw tons of sugar in everything- juice, coffee, ice cream, sweets, EVERYTHING. But I don’t really like it.
Anyways, we started talking, and of course, the voice inside of me pushed the conversation in a political direction again.
And they started! Lively, completely critical, and it was like as if they couldn’t stop!
The most active guy said the following

”I don’t believe in change. Cuba cannot and it will not change. Ever. A normal Cuban makes about $10 US per month, the minimum wage is $9US. There is extreme poverty in Cuba. You might not be able to see it, and actually also we don’t see it, but we know that it’s there. An extremely poor person in Mexico for example has to live on the streets, whereas an extremely poor Cuba might not live on the streets, but they live with their family. Cubans have a different understanding of family values as we do. If your brother is poor then it is normal to have him and your family live with you in your house. No biggie. And yes, people seem happy. Rum, music, dancing,… but this is just a little fairy tale that people create in order to hide their problems. ‘’
Three of his friends joined the conversation and also complained about the lousy economic situation. And they also talked about ‘inventar’, a thing which I had heard that often. People in Cuba have to be creative and think of solutions in order to make a living. Somehow everyone is trying to make some extra income, by being a taxi or ripping off tourists.
The only thing which they seemed to value was that there is no violence in Cuba and that the country is absolutely safe. ‘’Cuba is not like Colombia or Mexico’’

And then all of them started talking about Varadero. Tourists who are planning on travelling to Cuba always have a hard choice to make. Varadero or not? You could buy the whole package. 10 days Varadero, beach, happiness, sun and cocktails. But Varadero is not Cuba. It is a hotel paradise which attracts large numbers of Europeans and Canadians every year.
It is relatively ok price-wise.
The other option then is to see the actual country. To travel. It is harder. It is more expensive. But it is real Cuba.
But the guys in the café were absolutely positive about Varadero. It seems to be the dream of every Cuban to spend their holidays there. And those guys wouldn’t mind if the whole country would turn into Varadero.

But how funny again. I thought it would be hard to have a critical conversation with Cubans. But no, they are absolutely critical and they are not afraid to speak out. Even the waiters joined in to our conversation and it was really nice. But maybe they also knew each other well and were sure that no one of them would report them to their local CDR (Comite de la defensia de la revolucion).
Those guys in this bar though were about 30 years old. A new generation of Cubans.

Summit of the America’s: Turning point in US-Cuba relations?

Until now, Most of my posts were focused on my time in Cuba. Although it’s been a couple of months since I am back, I still follow the development in Cuba closely.
When I was there, I saw the speech that Raul Castro held in parliament. Honestly, I did not understand much, was rather confused and did not pay too much attention to it. When I watched a concert and baseball game that was held in order to celebrate the return of the Cuban Five, everything started to make some more sense. And of course, I talked to many Cubans about the development of the relations between the United States of America, the state that has rejected Cuban’s revolution and was angry about their backed dictator Batista who had ensured to the US that Cuba would be sort of a Las Vegas island for the US and who could exploit the island of its resources. The United States, that has ruined the country because of its isolating policies and economic blockade.

And now? Obama and Castro shook hands the day before yesterday at the summit of the Americas. Turning point or just empty words?

”A significant change in policy and the relations between the two governments”

”After a policy that had not changed for fifty years on the part of the United States. It is my belief that it was time to try something new.” – Obama

The CNN reporter continues to talk about the differences between the two states that will remain. She notes that on one hand, Cuba is a one-party communist state whereas the United States represents a democracy and that it promotes democracy and freedom all over the world
HOLD ON! We see again, the assumption that A is good and B is bad. Even though both states are now trying to get normal relations, it is the core attitude that hinders successful cooperation. THE UNITED STATES IS NOT A DEMOCRACY. That’s a fact. CUBA IS NOT A DEMOCRACY. That’s also a fact. One could argue, that the US is more free than Cuba, that might be right, but still there are many things which go horribly wrong and I personally believe that politics in the US is insanely dirty.
One thing which makes Cuba however a country which makes a greater effort is that they acknowledge that not everything is going great. They say that their economy has problems, they try reforms, Cubans also say that you have to be careful of what you are saying- but they are honest, not hypocrites.

(statement starts 37:33)

You can see again how the role of the US at the Summit of the Americas is focused on the economy- he speaks of ”commercial opportunities” and trade, also he announces the sums that the US will guarantee. What about bigger problems? Crime? Violence? Drug wars in Colombia, Mexiko and Peru?
Speaking of Cuba, he underlines the diplomatic relations, commerce and small contacts.
The thing that the Cuban people is waiting for however is a clear explanation:
Why was this hostile way conducted? Is the US going to acknowledge that Cuba decided to go a different way? Will the US tolerate it? We are waiting for Obama to spill it out: The blockade was a mistake. And it is a shame that it took them more than 50 years to start normal interaction again.

I am tired. Tired of this ”we believe in human rights and democracy”- blabla although everyone knows that the US is also not respecting it: Iraq? Afghanistan? Killing masses of civilians in drone strikes in Pakistan? Snowden? Fracking? NSA spying on the entire world? US not even signing international treaties like the Rome Statute (ICC)?

The Cuban people are extremely critical. During my travels, I have seen people, angry about the USA, angry about the problems of their country as well. They are not stupid. They won’t trust the USA blindly. Without honesty and a clear start from scratch, these new ties won’t be stable.

But hey. It’s a beginning at least… Right?