Eusebio Leal: “In Cuba There Is No Anti-US Sentiment, Only Anti-Imperialist”

Eusebio Leal in the streets of Havana
Eusebio Leal in the streets of Havana

A few days before the American flag will fly above the embassy in Havana, the city’s historian and Cuban intellectual Eusebio Leal said in an interview with EFE that Cuba had never had “an anti-United States sentiment, only an anti-imperialist sentiment.”

“Cubans have always understood this subtlety. Many things unite us in history and culture,” said Leal, who is a kind of mayor of the Cuban capital and the principal force behind the restoration of Old Havana, the historic center of the city and one of the main tourist attractions on the island.

Leal, who was a part of the Cuban delegation that traveled to Washington for the opening ceremony of the Cuban embassy on 20 July, insists that normalization between Cuba and the United States is “necessary,” but still ahead is “a long process in which a number of issues, still unclear, will have to be clarified.”

“We, who are the victims because the blockade still remains intact, were the first to go there to raise our flag,” said Leal, who is committed to a relationship between both countries based on “respect and always equal standing.”

With the embassies already open, and after US Secretary of State John Kerry presides over the August 14 ceremony in Havana to hoist the “stars and stripes” flag, the road will open for the second phase of normalization between the two countries, in which “infinite steps” still remain.

“We, who are the victims because the blockade still remains intact, were the first to go there to raise our flag”

“What happens is that everything doesn’t have to be public. There are things that, to show them, would cause difficulties too formidable (…). So these have to be resolved delicately and without sensationalism,” explains Leal, who is also a deputy in the National Assembly.

The Cuba-US relationship still irritates some groups, especially among the Cuban exile community in Miami, and hence Leal approves the discretion and considers the secret negotiations to have been “one of the best kept secrets in the history of both countries,” maintained over 18 months with the mediation of the Vatican and the pope.

He also opines that the actions orchestrated by president Barack Obama in his approach to Cuba have been “brave,” aimed at trying to leave a “positive legacy” and “to earn at the end of his presidency what they awarded him at its beginning,” referring to the controversy and, for some, the premature concession to him of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009.

With regards to the presidential elections in the coming year in the United States, without naming names he notes that, although he will not vote, “it is a campaign to avoid the most reactionary and conservative parties, who carry hatred even in their blood, prevailing at this particular time.”

“The current trend in this part of the world favors maintaining the change, maintaining the sensible, the positive,” says Leal, which seems an endorsement of the continuity guaranteed by the democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, who spoke last week in Miami in favor of lifting the embargo and deepening the rapprochement with Cuba.

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