Democracy visits Caribbean’s communist Cuba

President Barack Obama, right, arrives with first lady Michelle Obama as they exit Air Force One at the airport in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, March 20, 2016. Obama’s trip is a crowning moment in his and Cuban President Raul Castro’s ambitious effort to restore normal relations between their countries.
Associated Press / Pablo Martinez Monsivais

More than ever, Cuba gets bragging rights as the Caribbean’s choice destination for hosting high profile celebrities. Sunday when President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle, daughters Sasha and Malia and Marian Robinson, the leader’s mother-in-law stepped out of Air Force One and onto the Havana tarmac of the Spanish Caribbean island, a beaming international spotlight focused on the communist nation.

It was the first day of spring and showers rained the seasonal change that annually signals hope, new growth and a budding and flowering future. From all accounts, crowds were jubilant and the downpour did not dampen the spirit of the occasion.

“This is a historic visit and historic opportunity,” President Obama reportedly said after landing.

Eagle-eyed viewers watched to see how the one-party political system and its proponents would welcome their capitalist and biggest rival.

While some skeptics adversely opposed the trip, most Cubans seem to relish the visit with the first family and an entourage that included media correspondents, economic advisors and political insiders.

The visit by the two-term president who made history in 2008 when he was elected the first African-American voted to lead the United States marks another landmark breakthrough since he was elected but is also historically significant because he is the first sitting leader to visit the nation in 88 years.

Not since President Calvin Coolidge walked onto the Havana capital January 1928 to give a speech to the 6th International Conference of American States has any commander-in-chief while in office made a diplomatic visit to that country.

Not only will the unprecedented trip resonate with historic significance as a final remnant of the Cold War but the fact the president is ending his tenure in the White House this year, boldly inscribes a landmark foreign policy accomplishment for his administration.

More than any other president, President Obama has successfully mended relations between the two countries which have been at odds since a revolutionary government established communist rule resulting with a U.S. trade embargo that has continued for more than 50 years.

Ironically, during this election year, two Republican candidates of Cuban descent campaigned to win the nomination for president of the United States.

Throughout the raucous campaign, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Florida’s Marco Rubio consistently argued against establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Should a Republican successor win the elections, President Obama’s action will not be reversible.

While in Cuba for three days, the president met with the country’s leader Raul Castro, toured Old Havana, delivered an address from the Grand Theater and witnessed a baseball game between Cuba’s national team and the Tampa Bay Royals.

Talks between the two leaders were expected to focus on trade, investment, tourism and other issues that could impact on both nations. However, it was widely publicize that issues related to human rights will not likely find its way into conversation.

Pres. Obama and Cuban Pres. Raul Castro first met at the Summit of the Americas in Panama last April.

It was the first meeting between U.S. and Cuban heads of state since 1961.

Although former President Jimmy Carter has paid multiple visits to the island since leaving office, the last sitting president to visit the island was President Harry Truman.

Even then, President Truman’s visit was not considered an official state visit because he only visited the U.S. controlled Guantanamo Bay and did not meet with any Cuban government officials.

Slated to arrive on the heels of the visit of the most powerful leader in the world, later this week, The Rolling Stones — one of the music industry’s most iconic rock bands will inscribe their imprint on Cuban history by making their first visit to the island.

The super-group will perform a free, outdoor, groundbreaking concert on Friday at the Ciudad Deportivo de la Habana, a sports complex there.

The event will mark the first open air concert in the country by a British Rock band.

Billed “Concert for Amity,” headliners Sir Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood are the most famous musicians to play there since 1959 when Fidel Castro led a revolutionary coup on the island.

Throughout five decades, the true pioneers of rock music — the Rolling Stones — have toured the globe and perhaps because of the massive amounts of equipment necessary to deliver their usual high octane performances, the Caribbean has been elusive to the group.

“We have performed in many special places during our long career but this show in Havana is going to be a landmark event for us, and, we hope, for all our friends in Cuba too,” a statement said.

How their new audience will rate a repertoire stocked with million selling hits produced by symbols worthy of acclaim championing Western capitalism might not be different from those they have enjoyed performing throughout democracies.

Although prohibited in the communist country, the music might not be as foreign now that government restrictions on cultural events in Cuba have loosened and relations with the United States have normalized.

Rumors of a concert emerged last year when lead singer, Jagger reportedly spent holidays in Havana.

At that time, he was seen touring Havana’s historic centers.

Among them, a chic hotspot known as La Fabrica de Arte Cubano, which is a music venue and cultural center run by musician and video director Equis Alfonso.

As a matter of fact, Granma, the official Cuban Communist Party newspaper reported sightings and quoted a hotel maid as a source saying that “El Rolling” was traveling with one of his children and checking out clubs in the city. Jagger also reportedly stopped by dance club Shangri La and saw a performance by Bamboleo, a local, timba band.

The unprecedented Caribbean appearance will culminate the group’s America Latina Ole tour which is currently receiving rave reviews after performances in stadiums in Santiago, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Rio De Janeiro, São Paulo and Porto Alegre with Lima, Bogotá and Mexico City.

In addition to the end of March concert, the band will fulfill a commitment they agreed to lead a musician to musician initiative in which musical instruments and equipment will be donated by major suppliers for the benefit of Cuban musicians of all genres.

The event is allegedly being made possible by Fundashon Bon Intenshon on behalf of the island of Curaçao. They reputedly initiate and support international charitable projects in the fields of education, athletics, cultural literacy, healthcare and tourism in order to subvert poverty.

Earlier this year, Pope Francis also visited the only Caribbean Communist nation.

After leaving Cuba, the commander-in-chief will head to Argentina and will arrive in the capital city of Buenos Aires on the 40th anniversary of a brutal coup. He is expected to issue a human rights statement there.

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