As the only Latino columnist for EveryJoe, I feel I should tell you the real deal about President Obama’s visit to Cuba. There is some confusion, I think, about what Latinos really think about Obama, about the U.S., and about Cuba, so here is my experience on the subject.
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) March 21, 2016
I’m sure Obama thinks that he’s winning points with the Latin world by posing in front of Che, letting Raul Castro manhandle him or issuing a mea culpa about the evils of America. Or when he claimed that the United States could learn a lot about human rights from Cuba. After all, don’t all Latinos love Cuba and hate the Yankees? And don’t all Latinos love Obama, just like liberals think the whole world outside of the U.S. love him?
It’s not as simple as that. In very broad terms, there’s three distinct types of Latin Americans as far as opinions on the USA are concerned. And none of them are going to be be impressed with America by Obama’s activities.
Obama’s legacy: limp wrist diplomacy. pic.twitter.com/ULwixpGErH
— kerry (@K1erry) March 22, 2016
First, you have a group that absolutely and truly hate the United States. They blame America for everything bad that ever happened to the Latin-American world, they despise capitalism, they think the U.S. has rigged every election ever, and they love Cuba and Castro (Fidel, but his brother too).
That group will never like America or Obama, no matter what you do. The best hope in terms of American policy is just that they gradually die out (and there are less of them now than they used to be, though there’s still an awful lot). To them, Obama is just a corporate tool of capitalism and imperialism (yeah, I know, it seems crazy), who is deceiving the world by just pretending to have socialist leanings. To them, Obama’s visit to Cuba was potentially terrifying, as their nightmare scenario is a post-Castro Cuba that once again becomes a thriving nation under capitalism. Or from their point of view, that gets flooded with Starbucks and McDonald’s and all the countless evils they can imagine from a capitalist system. So imagine their relief when they saw that instead, the visit was used by the Castro regime to humiliate the President of the country they hate, and made Cuba look strong and America look so, so weak.
Second, you have a group, smaller than the first, that really love the United States. They love its tradition of democracy, of human rights, they love its prosperity, and envy it only in the sense that they wish their own nations could manage to be as prosperous and democratic. This group hates communism (and Chavista-style socialism) and what it has done to their region. Thus, they love when America stands up to Cuba and condemns what they rightly see as the most evil and oppressive regime in the hemisphere. So imagine their horror when they saw Obama letting himself be treated like a rube by the Castro regime. When he let himself appear to pay homage to butchers and mass murderers like Che Guevara, or to pretend that Cuba – the greatest human rights violator in the Latin world – had something to teach the most free country in the Americas about human rights. This group of people will like America no matter what, but are unspeakably disappointed by this President and his actions.
Third, you have the largest group by far: Latinos who are in the middle. They will often spout anti-American sentiments, usually ridiculously ignorant, and will sometimes act like they hate America. But at the same time they’ll seem to like almost everything American. They’ll condemn America as a regional bully but will mostly like everything about American democracy. They’ll complain about American capitalism but they’ll always want to buy name-brand products and take their kids to eat at McDonald’s. They’ll claim to hate American culture but will obsessively watch American movies and TV shows. Their kids will spout off anti-American slogans their commie teachers taught them in school, but they’ll also know every song lyric of the latest Disney-owned teeny-pop star (even if they don’t actually know what the words mean in Spanish).
In some ways this is the most dangerous group. They can go either way. And they’re the ones that Obama has caused the most harm with, as far as American interest is concerned. They’re prone to be open to American ideas, and to anti-American ideas. A U.S. President going to visit Cuba could have been a good way to win them over. But that would have required that the President look strong, and that he be a strong spokesman for democracy.
Instead, Obama made himself look weak, and he made Castro’s Cuba look strong. He literally backed up the Castro regime’s lies about how it pretends to be a champion of human rights while it brutally oppresses its people. He let Castro put hundreds of political dissidents in jail, and refused to speak out for them. This was the literal opposite of a “tear down that wall” moment.
Some people might think that the whole idea of a President visiting Cuba was wrong. But I think that if it had been done the right way, it could have been an incredible coup for American interest. However that would have required a very different kind of President. Instead, Obama only managed to look weak, to make America seem weak, and to make Castro’s Cuba seem both strong and right. Latinos who hate America feel vindicated, those who love America feel terribly betrayed, and the great gullible middle just saw a President tell them that Cuban propaganda was right all along.
Kasimir Urbanski doesn’t write on a specific subject; he’s EveryJoe’s resident maniac-at-large. A recovering Humanities academic and world-traveler, he now lives in South America and is a researcher of fringe religion, eastern philosophy, and esoteric consciousness-expansion. In his spare time he writes tabletop RPGs, and blogs about them at therpgpundit.blogspot.com. Follow Kasimir on Twitter @KasimirUrbanski.
Read more from Urbanski by clicking through the gallery below.
Gun ControlRead about what other countries can teach us about the gun control debate.
Photo by Elrepho385/Getty Images
Election 2016Find out about how Trump's fake Christianity might help him win the election.
Photo by Branden Camp/Getty Images
CensorshipBelieve it or not, millennials are begging the government to censor them, and all of us.
Photo by Ferenc Gerak / Getty Images
Climate ChangeFind out more about the history of climate change and what you can REALLY learn from it.
Photo by Getty Images
SocialismA primer on how to rate your socialist craphole.
Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images
Right vs LeftNever mind why the Right stands up against censorship, why doesn't the Left?
Photo by Nomadsoul1 / Getty Images
CensorshipFundamentally, the claim that only government can censor is a cheap way to weasel out of admitting that you’re pro-censorship.
Photo by StockWithMe / Getty Images
ComedyLiberals claim they are funnier than their conservative counterparts, but is that really true?
Photo by Brad Barket / Getty Images