March 31, 2018

Transition in Cuba

During November 2017, Maureen and I again traveled to Cuba with Friends of Caritas Cubana. Much has changed since our last visit. In order to understand the current state of affairs, I’ll digress into a short primer in US – Cuba relations.

The US Embassy in Cuba was reopened in 2015 for the first time since 1961, as part of President Barack Obama’s initiatives to improve relations with Cuba. In late 2016, US Embassy personnel began seeking medical care for hearing loss and ear-ringing that they linked to weird noises or vibrations, initially leading investigators to suspect “sonic attacks.” The Cuban government has denied any role in this matter and has cooperated with an FBI investigation which concluded that there was no evidence of any such wave attacks or that the Cuban government was involved.

Nevertheless, the Trump administration has charged Cuba with responsibility for health problems affecting some two dozen diplomats or their families. As a result, the US Embassy has been reduced to a skeleton staff, 15 Cuban diplomats have been expelled from Washington, DC, and travel to and doing business with Cuba has seen increased restrictions. These actions have had a significant adverse impact on Cuba’s economy. This comes at a time when Cuba will soon go through its biggest political transition in 60 years as Raul Castro steps down as President in April 2018. So, just as the US and Cuba were starting to make political progress, it seems as though Cold War era tensions have reappeared.

What this all means for the guarderías that Keenan’s Kids supports is that food will be much more difficult to obtain. Maureen and I witnessed the severe shortage of eggs, fruit, beans, and meat, not to mention medicine and hygiene products. We are hopeful that humanitarian aid assistance will be allowed sooner rather than later.

Unfortunately, it seems that it’s always the children who suffer most. Still, thanks to the extraordinary Cuidadoras (children’s care givers), the children seem happy and are well cared for. Keenan spent much time with very poor and politically oppressed children. She was herself, a wonderful Cuidadora, who always had a warm smile and a big hug for all the children who came her way.