Betrayed again but how much longer can Cuba wait for change?

When Obama opened up diplomatic relations with Cuba it seemed everyone would prosper. Six years on, and Trump has scuppered any such hopes. Mary Dejevsky looks at why an island with huge potential continues to be neglected

Friday 20 March 2020 15:32 GMT
Going nowhere fast: little improvement is evident in Cuban people’s lives
Going nowhere fast: little improvement is evident in Cuban people’s lives (Getty)

One of the saddest sights in Cuba, perhaps in the whole of the Caribbean, is the cruise terminal in the port of Havana, where the berths lie deserted and renovation and expansion have stalled. The reason is not coronavirus, though that has already blighted global travel and cruising in particular. The reason is Donald Trump’s decision to reverse much of the tentative US opening to Cuba launched by his predecessor at the White House, Barack Obama.

The sadness is only in part that the terminal lies idle. It is more that in very recent memory, in the two years from 2016, it had embodied Cuba’s hopes of boosting tourism and speeding up its opening to the outside world. Contracts had been exchanged with a Turkish company to increase three berths to six. Havana was being included in more and more international cruise itineraries, and tourism to the island overall – by sea and air – had doubled from 2 to 4 million.

For would-be tourists, the aborted development is a shame and a waste. The port of Havana offers a worthy introduction to what could and should be a glorious world city. Unlike some modern terminals that host ships so large that the berths have to be built in utilitarian docklands, Havana’s port is only a short walk from the atmospheric old city, where restoration of the Spanish-era buildings is gathering pace and small private shops and restaurants make for a lively street scene. With its glowing colours and constant soundtrack of Cuban jazz, Havana ought to be the world’s party central.

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