An Obama Win Could Shift Balance in Cuba, Scholar Says

BUFFALO, N.Y.

Electing Barack Obama president could significantly change the balance of power in Cuba and among Latinos in the United States because Cuba would be forced to deal with the first American administration in decades that is poised to strengthen ties with the country’s military government, a University at Buffalo scholar predicts.

Jose F. Buscaglia, associate professor of American studies and director of UB’s Caribbean Studies Program said.”For the first time since President Eisenhower, the Castro brothers are becoming aware that come next year they might be dealing with a chief executive in Washington whose policy will be to re-establish dialogue leading to the normalization of relations between Washington and Havana.”

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The United States broke relations with the Cuban government shortly after Fidel Castro became prime minister in 1959, following the overthrow of the Batista government. Since coming to power, the Bush administration has tried to raise tensions and impede the normalization of relations with Havana, Buscaglia said.

In a statement issued by the university, Buscaglia, who has spent the past decade traveling with students to Cuba, said the prospect of Obama as president sends a “profound sense of unease into the darkest precincts of power in Havana.” An Obama

administration will be a “perilous threat” to the reigning military government now ruling Cuba, Buscaglia added.

“Nothing could be more threatening to the long-held views of the Cuban ‘comandantes’ and generals, as well as to the institutions they have carefully developed over the last half century to keep their country under the tightest control,” said Buscaglia.

Electing Obama, who has said he wants to open talks with the Cuban government, would be a more serious threat to the military elites who now control Cuba than the loss of Soviet aid in the early 1990s and the subsequent collapse of the island’s economy, Buscaglia said.

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“Will the Castro brothers engineer a crisis to prevent the reestablishment of normal relations?” Buscaglia asked. “Will they be able to contain the people of Cuba, predominantly young and non-white, if they are attracted to a figure sitting in the Oval Office whose face will seem more familiar and whose vision will be all the more coherent than those of the elusive old men who rule their lives from a secret hospital room or a bunker in Havana?”

He said electing John McCain, the Republican candidate, would send a different message to Cuba. Because he would continue to support the Bush doctrine of isolating Havana,

After two consecutive elections won by George W. Bush with the support of the Cuban exile community in Florida, the wealthiest and politically most-powerful sector of the Latino community in the U.S. may stand to lose much clout in the power centers of what in Havana is known as the “monster” or the “empire,” according to Buscaglia.

“An Obama victory could change the balance of power in favor of Chicano, Puerto Rican and other Central and South American Spanish-speaking constituencies in the U.S. that are more liberal and populist than the often conservative and sometimes outright racist Cuba-American elites,” said Buscaglia. “This would be no insignificant change as Latinos become the majority of the population of the country. It could set a new tone on internal political debates and it certainly would be a welcomed change for most of our neighbors in the hemisphere and indeed throughout the world.”

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