– Excitement and cold reality –
Obama’s visit has raised hopes among struggling Cubans that decades of economic and political stasis may be coming to an end.
But the brief detention of dozens of pro-democracy protesters on Sunday and the deployment of a horde of secret police around the old town served as a stark reminder of the regime’s iron grip on power.
And despite the excitement among ordinary Cubans, officials appeared to be taking pains to give a restrained welcome.
Raul Castro did not greet Obama at the airport Sunday, sending his foreign minister instead, and the heavy police presence has ensured that Cubans have no chance of gathering spontaneously at any of Obama’s appearances.
“I think Raul does not want a warm relationship with the US. He sees it in limited terms for the moment – tourism revenue and remittances plus the changes to the sanctions,” said Paul Webster Hare, a former British ambassador to Cuba who teaches international relations at Boston University.