HAVANA – A few hours before knowing who will be the next U.S. president, Cubans are getting through election day with apparent calm and in hopes that the winner will continue the reconciliation process begun by President Barack Obama, something that for the moment seems more likely with Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“Of the two candidates, I’d go for her, la Clinton, she would be more to our benefit,” said David, a chauffeur who had the chance to greet Obama on his historic visit to the island last March.
For David, neither Hillary Clinton nor Republican hopeful Donald Trump has the “courage” that Obama showed in reestablishing ties with Cuba and openly advocating an end to the embargo that has burdened the island since 1962, but believes the Democrat will continue his legacy.
In the first U.S. presidential election since diplomatic ties were resumed, Cuba has been part of the debate, with the two candidates taking opposite positions: Clinton will continue the thaw while the controversial Trump has promised to dump the progress made over the past two years and reverse the process.
More than 2 million Cubans live in the United States, mostly in Florida, a key state for determining who will win the election. The Cuban exile has great power there and both candidates have worked at winning their vote.
“The Cuban emigration has changed a lot – it’s more diverse and less monolithic. There’s a sector that is still aggressively negative about the new Cuba-U.S. relations. I don’t know if that segment is powerful enough to cancel out the younger segment that is pushing for more normal relations,” Cuban economist Juan Triana told EFE.
Trump has aligned with the most belligerent element of the Cuban exile, who see closer ties with Cuba as a concession to the Castro regime. He has even met with representatives of the anti-Castro exile who took part in 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion to destabilize the revolution that had taken over the island two years before.
The economist hopes the president who is elected will think that “what is best for the U.S. is to stay on the path that Obama started,” but is not sure Clinton will be the best option.
“It wouldn’t be the first time Hillary Clinton changed her position on foreign policy. Her husband (Bill Clinton, U.S. president between 1993-2001) at the beginning of his term in office was all in favor of relations with Cuban, but then signed the Helms-Burton Act that made the embargo ironclad,” Triana of the Cuban Economic Studies Center said.
The economist indicated that a “moderate concern” exists on the island about the result of the U.S. election – “because it’s very near to us...2 million Cubans live there and we have a really serious problem with the embargo” – though “nobody in Cuba is losing any sleep over it.”