The Obama Administration may not specifically want “regime change” to be defined as seeking to replace those who are in the leadership of the Republic of Cuba, but the President does want to change the behavior of those guiding the country of 11.3 million citizens ninety-three miles south of Florida.
It's a soft war… using visitors as the soldiers, commercial airlines as the air force, and cruise ships as the navy. United States diplomats as the marines.
While President Obama's fifteen-month-and-counting commercially-focused five-act (thus far) regulatory drag race is not nearly at the finish line, there has been at least one significant parallel political shift by the government of Cuba- it has been forced to adapt to the materially impactful irreversible influence that the re-emerging middle class is having on Cuban society. Approximately 10% of the Republic of Cuba’s official workforce of 5.1 million are registered as Licensed Entrepreneurs.
Reconstituting the middle class that was abridged as a result of the 1959 Revolution is a foundational fulcrum upon which much of President Obama's Cuba strategy has been based since December 2014.
While the government of Cuba commenced changes to the self-employed categories (201+) and acknowledged a need for a reduction in the government payroll prior to President Obama's initiatives announced in December 2014, there are now additional pressures from within for structural changes to the ideological foundation of the country.
Ironically, these pressures are partly a result of Cuba's outreach in 2015 to the international community- Paris Club of Creditor Nations, governments, companies, financial institutions... because in order for those renewed and new areas of support to be repaid, Cuba must do more than reform the commercial and economic sectors of the country; it must aggressively reform and redefine the "Revolution."
In 2016 and beyond, the Revolution will be defined less by what is desired as by how much there is to spend to support it; the traditional sources of support, the USSR (long gone), Russia (lessening), China (retaining its connection), and Venezuela (lessening) are no longer reliable. Important to note that the Russian Federation and China view somewhat their outreach to the Republic of Cuba as having a dual result- commerce and annoying the United States.
Cuba has looked as it does primarily because others paid for it... Those customers are no longer as interested and the customers that replaced them are investing for a return of cash, not slogans.
What does this mean for United States-based companies? The government of the Republic of Cuba will create opportunities to “showcase” its “willingness” to engage with, respond to, the Obama Administration initiatives. But, that showcase will be small to medium in size and it will be moveable and it will be breakable.
There will be an effort by the government of the Republic of Cuba to retain the distance between aspiration and operation; by authorizing just enough on-the-ground activity so as to not to render dry the salivary glands of executives from United States companies; as the government of the Republic of Cuba requires those vocal abilities to advocate on their behalf in Washington for additional regulatory and statutory changes preventing an unrestricted North-to-South and South-to-North commercial landscape.