Obama the man who came with rain
|By Orsola Casagrande|
|By JM Arrugaeta|
Havana, March 22: It had not been raining for two months in the Cuban capital and on Sunday, until early afternoon, nothing presaged the God of rain would begin to mourn at precisely the same time the impressive US presidential plane, Air Force One, touched down at Havana's Jose Marti airport.
The huge plane carrying US President Barack Obama and his family (his wife, two daughters and his mother in law) in addition to a high selected staff. There was definitively a bit of confusion both outside and inside the plane at the unexpected inclemency of the weather, and certainly a good deal of swearing by the dozens of reporters waiting for hours to get "the" photo of the year, maybe even of the decade. But the rain didn't seem to ease, indeed was calling for more water, and the greyness of the sky threatened to worsen even further the reception.
The situation caught by surprise Obama's wife and daughters, dressed in light, fresh and casual clothes, fit for a visit to a postcards Cuba all sun and heat rather than the one they had before their eyes: battered and wet by the cold fronts coming from the very North they had just come from. The confusion at the door of the presidential plane however did not last long, the first to appear was President Obama, umbrella in hand to protect his wife, Michelle, gentlemanly and informal. Waiting for them, at the bottom of the stairs, the Cuban delegation in charge of the first reception, headed by Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, followed by Josefina Vidal, the Cuban energetic negotiator in this new stage of relations.
Relaxed and smiling, despite the water, the umbrellas, and the rather intermediate level reception committee, the Obama family greeted their hosts and quickly got themselves into the "beast" as the huge presidential armored car is known, heading directly to the recently re-opened (August last year) US Embassy in Cuba, located in the Havana's Malecon. Several hundred people, umbrella in hand, spontaneously stood at a crossroads and under some bridges to greet the Obama family, but the conditioned reflex of a "warm welcome" (the type granted to Pope Francisco's visit) was "for fun" as the Cubans say, because the route the presidential convoy would take had not been disclosed and indeed was kept secret to the very last minute. After a brief meeting with the staff of the Embassy, and warmed up thanks to some warm clothes, the Obama family visited the Havana Vieja (the historic centre), under an increasingly heavy rain, and amidst extreme security measures which prevented in practice any direct contact with people.
It turned out to be a certainly shorter and colder visit than the one the presidential family would have wanted and which ended in a well lit and empty cathedral where Cardinal Ortega received the guests. A strange image if you consider that for several months now Havana has being virtually “besieged” by a hordes of tourists, many of them Americans and Canadians. Already one million people have been visiting the Cuban capital since the beginning of this year. By Monday the rain had disappeared giving way to a sudden drop in temperature and a grey sky. The day was dedicated to diplomatic activities, a tribute to José Martí in the Plaza of the Revolution (with the images of Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos in the background) and the main meeting of this visit, a private meeting of more than two hours between the Presidents of Cuba and the US. The meeting concluded with a press conference, broadcast live on Cuban television, which reflected a relaxed and positive relation between the two leaders, who didn't hide differences and spoke frankly to each other.
Moments of tension, though, were experienced during question time. In the afternoon Obama attended a business meeting between businessman and enterprises of the two countries. A seemingly minor but crucial meeting, as these new relationships will finally have one of its essential pillar in the business world and the economy. Today, Tuesday, an intense and high public agenda: the speech Barack Obama will deliver at the Gran Teatro García Lorca, broadcast live on all Cuban radio and television channels, and in the afternoon the baseball match, Cuba- Tampa Bay. Certainly not just a sport game.
The Oslo Times