Trump win prompts fear, uncertainty in Cuba

Just when Cuba was starting to warm up to the United States, Americans elected Donald Trump president, throwing the countries' rapprochement into doubt and causing stunned reactions in Havana.

The brash Republican billionaire's shock victory cast uncertainty over two years of moves by President Barack Obama to end more than a half-century of Cold War enmity with the communist island.

Trump has sent mixed messages about the thaw.

He gave it a lukewarm welcome at first, saying "50 years is enough" - although he characteristically insisted the Democratic president should have struck a "better deal." Then as the Republican primary heated up, he vowed to reverse the new policies unless the Raul Castro regime agrees to democratic reforms and other demands.

"I'm afraid," said Marcos Creach, a 27-year-old cell phone repairman in Havana.

"Obama did a lot" for US-Cuban relations, he added, and now Trump "can come in as president of the United States and put up a wall, an obstacle to make sure it never becomes reality." Creach counts himself among those Cubans who stand to benefit from resumed ties between Havana and Washington and a softening of trade and tourism restrictions - part of a new generation of entrepreneurs Obama said the thaw aims to help thrive.

Droves of Cubans descended on the capital's few Wi-Fi hotspots from the early hours Wednesday, trying to contact relatives in the United States to help make sense of the shock result.

Alison Taylor, an 18-year-old epidemiology student, worried Trump's proposed anti-immigration policies mean she will have a hard time reuniting with her boyfriend.

Two years ago, he joined the exodus across the Florida Straits that started with the Cuban Revolution in 1959.

"All Cubans dream of meeting their families (in the United States) someday," she said. "For many, it's been so long since they've seen them.

"I'm chatting with my boyfriend in New Jersey right now and we're talking about that, and how much it hurts." She called Trump's election "the worst thing that could have happened." "I think all Cubans feel that way," she said, calling Trump a "man with no scruples, a fascist, a horrible person." .

Cuba's government said in a terse note that President Castro sent his congratulations to Trump.

But it raised eyebrows when it published a notice Wednesday morning in the Communist Party's official newspaper, Granma, that it will hold military exercises from November 16 to 18.

The nationwide exercises would prepare to confront "the enemy," it said, employing its longstanding term for the United States.

Although Cuba has periodically held such exercises since 1980, the timing was conspicuous.

It is unclear how Trump as president will act on Cuba.

The US president-elect has been "ambivalent" about the issue, said political analyst Jorge Duany, director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University.

But Trump's shift to a hardline stance - fending off attacks from primary challengers such as Cuban-American Senator Marco Rubio of Florida - probably helped him win that key swing state in the general election, Duany said.

"This new position probably won him a large part of the conservative Cuban-American vote in southern Florida." .

Obama enacted his signature Cuba rapprochement using executive authority.

Donald Trump wins US presidency in stunning upset

  • Donald Trump has stunned America and the world, riding a wave of populist resentment to defeat Hillary Clinton in the race to become the 45th president of the United States.
  • The Republican mogul defeated his Democratic rival, plunging global markets into turmoil and casting the long-standing global political order, which hinges on Washington's leadership, into doubt.
  • "Now it is time for America to bind the wounds of division," Trump told a crowd of jubilant supporters in the early hours of Wednesday in New York.
  • "I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans." During a bitter two-year campaign that tugged at America's democratic fabric, the bombastic tycoon pledged to deport illegal immigrants, ban Muslims from the country and tear up free trade deals.
  • His message appears to have been embraced by much of America's white majority, disgruntled by the breath and scope of social change and economic change in the last eight years under their first black president, Barack Obama.
  • Trump openly courted Russian leader Vladimir Putin, called US support for NATO allies in Europe into question and suggested that South Korea and Japan should develop their own nuclear weapons.
  • The businessman turned TV star turned-politico - who has never before held elected office - will become commander-in-chief of the world's sole true superpower on January 20.
  • The results prompted a global market sell-off, with stocks plunging across Asia and Europe and billions being wiped off the value of investments.
  • Although he has no government experience and in recent years has spent as much time running beauty pageants and starring in reality television as he had building his property empire, Trump at 70 will be the oldest man to ever become president.
  • Yet, during his improbable rise, Trump has constantly proved the pundits and received political wisdom wrong.
  • Opposed by the entire senior hierarchy of his own Republican Party, he trounced more than a dozen better-funded and more experienced rivals in the party primary.
  • During the race, he was forced to ride out allegations of sexual assault and was embarrassed but apparently not shamed to have been caught on tape boasting about groping women.
  • And, unique in modern US political history, he refused to release his tax returns.
  • But the biggest upset came on Tuesday, as he swept to victory through a series of hard-fought wins in battleground states from Florida to Ohio.
  • Clinton had been widely assumed to be on course to enter the history books as the first woman to become president in America's 240-year existence.
  • Americans have repudiated her call for unity amid the United States' wide cultural and racial diversity, opting instead for a leader who insisted the country is broken and that "I alone can fix it."
  • If early results hold out, Trump's party will have full control of Congress and he will be able to appoint a ninth Supreme Court justice to a vacant seat on the bench, deciding the balance of the body.
  • So great was the shock that Clinton did not come out to her supporters' poll-watching party to concede defeat, but instead called Trump and sent her campaign chairman to insist in vain the result was too close to call.
  • "I want every person in this hall to know, and I want every person across the country who supported Hillary to know that your voices and your enthusiasm mean so much to her and to him and to all of us. We are so proud of you. And we are so proud of her," chairman John Podesta told shell-shocked supporters.
  • "She's done an amazing job, and she is not done yet," he insisted.
  • Musician Lagy Gaga stages a protest against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on a sanitation truck outside Trump Tower in New York City after midnight on election day November 9, 2016.
  • A street performer dressed as the Statue of Liberty hold photos of U.S. presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton at the financial Central district in Hong Kong, China November 9, 2016, after Trump won the presidency.
  • A "Naked Cowboy" performer supporting Donald Trump walks through Times Square in New York, November 9, 2016.
  • People react as they watch news on a screen to follow the results of the final day of the US presidential election at an event organised by the American consulate in Shanghai on November 9, 2016.
  • Protesters against president-elect Donald Trump march peacefully through Oakland, California.
  • A separate group earlier in the night set fire to garbage bins and smashed multiple windows.
  • Police officers chase a group of about 50 protesters.
  • University of California, Davis students protest on campus in Davis, California.
  • An invitee places a cookie depicting U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on a table at the US presidential election results watch party at the residence of US Ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, in Tokyo.

Blocked from ending the US embargo on the island by a Republican-controlled Congress, he pushed smaller reforms through with the power of his presidential pen.

That means Trump can now change course just as easily, reinstating trade and financial restrictions and reversing developments like the resumption of air and cruise-ship travel, and postal service.

However, Cuba will probably not be a "priority issue" for Trump, said Michael Shifter, head of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based think tank.

"It's not clear if he will try to roll back policy toward Cuba that is fairly popular, according to polls," he said.

One thing is certain: with the Republicans retaining control of Congress, the 54-year-old embargo is probably not going away anytime soon.