According to the signals sent out by Miguel Diaz-Canel, the new president of Cuba, his government represents the continuity of the revolution. On one hand, this continuity means maintaining an authoritarian regime characterized by a lack of freedom, but on the other hand, it also means defending and promoting the reform program that his mentor, Raul Castro, initiated a decade ago.
Unfortunately, this process of change on the island has been very difficult. There are sectors in Cuba that have prevented progress, but serve as a counterweight to any decision the new president may take. Therefore, in the interest of continuity, Diaz-Canel needs to consolidate his power.
Here is where the U.S. can have a key role. If Donald Trump toughens his policy against Cuba, Diaz-Canel will have enough of an excuse to strengthen his leadership in order to face the external threat. The economic reforms would be very difficult to implement in the short term, making the regime more authoritarian and leaving the survival of Cuba in the hands of China and Russia.
Trump could instead follow the example of Barack Obama and help establish Diaz-Canel's presidency by facilitating the difficult reforms he seeks to implement. The improvement in the economic situation of the Cuban people would be the best way to legitimize his leadership. The U.S. can be key in promoting tourism, trade and investment, facilitating the transformation of Cuba.
However, it is more likely that the Republican government will interpret this as a moment of weakness in Cuba and try to sink the regime, forgetting that in the last 60 years, the U.S. has already tried that on several other occasions, without any results.