Havana, Waiting for Obama… and The Beast
Havana, Waiting for Obama… and The Beast / Iván García
Posted on March 13, 2016
Iván García, 10 March 2016 — It does not take a Secret Service expert to
determine, by the rush of the building work, the sites which Barack
Obama is predicted to pass by or stop at during his two days in Havana.
If Air Force One touches down at Terminal 3 of the José Martí
International Airport, the presidential Cadillac would travel via the
East-West Highway to link up with 25th Avenue and on to the residence of
charge d’affaires, Jeffrey De Laurentis, in El Laguito, where, it
is assumed, the Obamas will spend their only night in Havana.
Terminal 2, the closest thing to a train station, and where US flights
are received, was ruled out for the president and his entourage,
according to an official of the place.
The other point of arrival may be the Terminal 1. If so, then it is
expected that the government of Raul Castro has prepared a popular
welcome for the US leader.
The Castro brothers have a doctorate in multitudinous greetings for how
high-ranking personalities that arrive to Havana are received. From
Leonid Brezhnev to Pope Francis, the creole autocracy usually puts
together huge receptions. When this happens, the capital is paralyzed
for the day.
Urban transport is disrupted and thousands of workers and students are
moved to different points where the procession will pass. There will be
no end of paper banners and flags made in the Frederick Engels print
works of the Communist Party, nor slogans and chants for the occasion.
However this time, a considerable segment of Habaneros and residents of
the western provinces would go spontaneously. Out of curiosity and a
friendliness towards Obama. The fabled average Cuban would have a golden
opportunity to record with their cell phones the passage of The Beast
along Rancho Boyeros Avenue.
There are still two weeks before Obama arrives and already the rumours
have started. “They say where The Beast passes the wi-fi and mobile
phone sigals are disconnected for a hundred meters around,” says an
engineer in telecommunications.
Not even Fidel Castro, with his impressive personal security entourage,
comes near the deployment of men and technologies that is triggered by
the movement of a US president.
Some people already say that they have seen, walking in the streets of
Havana, overly burly, serious looking characters, scrutinising
everything, and trying to pass as tourists.
“Police look the same in Cuba or Timbuktu. On Friday I saw two big men
who looked like rugby players around the University of Havana. Their
square jaws and military haircuts did not fool anyone. They were Obama’s
secret service, “said Eugenio, a private taxi driver.
Inside the university the bustle of workers renovating the old
institution was observed. “It is said that Obama will give a lecture at
the Aula Magna,” said a teacher in a low voice.
True or not, San Lazaro Street, which flows up to the university steps,
was re-surfaced and the road markings were painted with white lime.
In the old Estadio del Cerro a swarm of workers and funcionaries work
without rest. On the field they replaced the grass and the clay was
raised. The bleachers were painted deep blue and television broadcast
cubicles were renovated.
“It’s amazing the things that happen in this country. Since 2009, work
has been going on at the stadium, at a snail’s pace, and according to
the schedule it was expected to conclude in 2020 as the authorities said
there was no funding. But as soon as it was known that Obama would come
to see Tampa Bay play against the Cuban team, the money appeared right
away, “says a worker.
Dilapidated housing in the neighborhood of Carraguao, adjacent to
El Latino, as Estadio del Cerro is known today, received a coat of paint
and the inner streets were repaired. All of 20th of May Avenue is being
“Apparently ’the man’ will enter the Latino by this avenue. It makes
sense, it is a wide street and in fairly good condition which leads
directly to Paseo Street and the Palace of the Revolution. And the
buildings and houses of this area are the best preserved. If he entered
by Calzada del Cerro or Infanta, Obama would be frightened with dirt and
destruction, “said Orlando, local resident.
Nilda, an employee of ETECSA, says her company will enable 300 telephone
lines in El Latino. “And a wifi area as well. Things happen. If anyone
requests a phone transfer you tell them that there are no lines. But for
these things, resources appear immediately. Two months ago 50 lines went
to the area of Laguito, where Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel lives.
Several areas of El Vedado, Miramar and Havana Vieja preen for the visit
of Barack Obama. Also, a fleet of ’almendrones’ or old american cars are
ready if the head of the White House wanted to tour the city in a
US officials, visiting Havana, like to ride in vintage cars dressed in
crisp white guayaberas, take selfies in front of novel buildings and
drink mojitos in El Floridita, Hemingway’s favorite bar. We’ll see if
Obama skips the protocol.
Translated by: Araby
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