Cubans Fear Trump to Reverse Opening, Army Drills Announced

Castro and Obama President Obama makes a historic visit to Cuba — the first by a sitting U.S. president since Fidel Castro’s guerrillas overthrew the U.S.-backed government of Fulgencio Batista in 1959 and the first since President Calvin Coolidge’s trip to the island 88 years ago. Here, Cuba’s President Raúl Castro, left, walks with President Barack Obama, as they inspect the guard in Revolution Palace, Monday, March 21, 2016. Brushing past profound differences, President Obama and President Castro sat down for a historic meeting, offering critical clues about whether Obama’s sharp U-turn in policy will be fully reciprocated. CREDIT: Ramon Espinosa/AP

HAVANA — Cubans worried on Wednesday that President Donald Trump would throw the United States’ 2-year-old detente with Cuba into reverse, erasing their hopes for a more prosperous future of normal ties with Washington.

The Cuban government, meanwhile, announced the launch of five days of nationwide military exercises to prepare troops to confront what it called “a range of actions by the enemy,” using terminology that almost always refers to the United States.

The government did not link the exercises to Donald Trump’s U.S. presidential victory, but the announcement of maneuvers and tactical exercises across the country came nearly simultaneously with Trump’s surprise win. It was the seventh time Cuba has held what it calls the Bastion Strategic Exercise, often in response to points of high tension with the United States.

Trump has promised to reverse Obama’s opening unless President Raul Castro agrees to more political freedom on the island, a concession considered a virtual impossibility. Many Cubans said they feared they were on the verge of losing the few improvements they had seen in their lives thanks to a post-detente boom in tourism. Along with a surge in visitors, normalization has set off visits by hundreds of executives from the U.S. and dozens of other nations newly interested in doing business on the island.

“The little we’ve advanced, if he reverses it, it hurts us,” taxi driver Oriel Iglesias Garcia said. “You know tourism will go down. If Donald Trump wins and turns everything back it’s really bad for us.”

The first Bastion Strategic Exercise was launched in 1980 after the election of Ronald Reagan as U.S. president, according to an official history. The announcement by Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces in red ink across the top of the front page of the country’s main newspaper Wednesday said the army, Interior Ministry and other forces would be conducting maneuvers and different types of tactical exercises from the 16th to the 20th of November.

It warned citizens that the exercises would include “movements of troops and war materiel, overflights and explosions in the cases where they’re required.”

Speaking of Cuba’s leaders, Communist Party member and noted economist and political scientist Esteban Morales told the Telesur network: “They must be worried because I think this represents a new chapter.”

Carlos Alzugaray, a political scientist and retired Cuban diplomat, said the Trump victory could please some hard-liners in the Cuban leadership who worried that Cuba was moving too close to the United States too quickly.

“There’s been a lot of rejection of what’s been done with Obama,” Alzugaray said. “Many Cubans think that a situation of confrontation is better for the revolution.”

Associated Press writer Andrea Rodriguez contributed to this report.

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