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Cubans in the audience shouted “Viva, viva,” as if to acknowledge the shared triumph of Obama’s visit and the reconciliation under way between the two nations.Or so it seemed. Later that day, in a meeting with a friend who is a longtime loyalist of the Revolution, I asked her what she had thought of Obama’s speech. She wrinkled her nose. “Well,” she began. “He said a lot of nice things, and he was very polished, but let’s see what the reality is.” I noted that Raúl himself had applauded Obama in the Teatro. He hadn’t signalled any doubts, and indeed he had accompanied Obama to the Cuba-U.S. baseball game afterward; we had all seen the two of them chummily seated together, talking animatedly. Later, Castro, who had not been at the airport when Obama arrived, had seen him off, walking him to the foot of the stairway of Air Force One. So what was the real issue worrying her? My friend shrugged. It had all been a bit too much, she said. She couldn’t really explain.
My friend’s reaction was an early hint that Cuba’s deep state, in the form of its Communist Party hard-liners, was unhappy. Their pushback came swiftly, during that evening’s televised broadcast of a program called “Mesa Redonda” (“The Roundtable”), in which several apparatchiks sat around humorlessly dissecting the implications of the Obama visit. On Wednesday, Granma, Cuba’s official Communist Party newspaper, ran an editorial titled “What Obama Says and Doesn’t Say,” in which the writer pointed out that Obama had used a teleprompter during his speech—“something the people can’t see”—and questioned the sincerity of his intentions.