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Reality kicks in as US, Cuba enter talks

Updated: 2015-02-27 07:35
By Associated Press in Havana, Cuba (China Daily)

 Reality kicks in as US, Cuba enter talks

Cubans chat backdropped by a wall decorated with images of Cuban revolutionary heroes, Che Guevara, Fidel Castro and his brother, President Raul Castro, in Havana, Cuba, on Wednesday. Ramon Espinosa / Associated Press

The jubilation that greeted the announcement of US-Cuban detente two months ago has faded to resignation for many Cubans who are realizing they are at the start of a long process unlikely to ease their daily struggles anytime soon.

Dreams of US products flooding Havana stores and easy visits to family members in Florida have dissipated, in part because of a coordinated campaign by Cuban state media and officials to lower expectations and remind people that the main planks of the half-century-old US trade embargo remain in place.

As Cuban officials head to Washington for a second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations on Friday, many working-class islanders say they no longer expect immediate changes in their lives regardless of what emerges from the negotiations.

"The great expectations that surged with the news that first day have been lowered a lot and now the man in the street barely talks about it anymore," said Magali Delgado, a retired worker in the Ministry of Foreign Commerce who subsists on a pension of $11 a month. "People are so desperate ... they wanted immediate, concrete results."

It's a stark contrast to the giddy moments on Dec 17 when Cubans cheered in the streets after presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro announced that they were exchanging imprisoned spies, moving to reopen embassies in Havana and Washington, and seeking to normalize their countries' long-dysfunctional relationship.

"Expectations went far beyond what was in the announcements," said Joaquin Borges, a sociologist and widely read cultural critic. "Some people misunderstood things, particularly on the street, as if everything was going to be solved and the shortages that Cuba has had because of the embargo and the economic crisis were going to be resolved from one day to another."

Gustavo Machin, Cuba's deputy head of US relations, said the government felt it needed to make clear to its people and the rest of the world that an opening with the US did not mean things would change overnight.

"I think that not just Cubans but Americans and the whole world needed to be made clear about the reality of what was being announced and unfortunately the expectations had to be lowered," Machin said.



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