As always, the latest poll sponsored by the Cuban Research Center (CRI) of Florida International University (FIU) has elicited the most diverse analyses and commentaries because of the reliability of its results and the chance it gives us to analyze the evolution of the political attitudes of the Cuban-American community in Miami-Dade County for more than 20 years.
From my point of view, the most relevant question in the poll is the one about support for, or opposition to, the embargo (I call it blockade, but I respect the pollsters’ language), inasmuch as it focuses on the essence of the current U.S. policy toward Cuba.
The results of the survey give a conclusive result about the sustained increase in number of the people who oppose the current policy (52 percent), for the first time a majority position compared with previous studies, and effectively reflects a trend, because only those 65 and older support its continuation, as a majority.
It is even possible that, analyzed in a general manner, this position is stronger, because 68 percent support the reestablishment of diplomatic relations, which presupposes a prior lifting of the embargo. The same happens with the fact that more than 70 percent support the sale of medicine and food, and that 76 percent back a broadening or continuation of business with Cuba, all of which goes counter to the rules set by the embargo.
Almost three fourths of the respondents opine that the policy of embargo has not worked. Nevertheless, it is noteworthy that the greatest percentage of those who consider that it has worked well or very well is precisely among those who arrived in the U.S. after 1981.
I think that that response has a different meaning to them than to the earliest immigrants, because they are people who really suffered the embargo and analyze it from that perspective, while the former conceive it as a failed strategy to overthrow the Cuban regime.
The only response that breaks with the pattern of support for the improvement of relations is the backing by 63 percent of maintaining Cuba on the list of countries that sponsor terrorism. The pollsters believe that this is due to a difference between the attitude of people against the government and those who manifest respect for the whole of Cuban society.
This might be true, but when the majority supports the reestablishment of relations it is referring to an issue that involves governments and doesn’t act in the same manner.
It seems to me that here we’re in the presence of an issue over which ignorance prevails regarding these lists and their implications for the improvement of relations. Only this could explain that those who left the country beginning in 1995 — precisely those who most favor this treatment — show the highest index of support (84 percent) for maintaining Cuba on the list of countries that promote terrorism.
It could be argued that they constitute the most qualified segment, precisely because they’re the ones who best know the Cuban reality, but not even the U.S. State Department can argue with conviction that Cuba is a terrorism-promoting nation, much less a Cuban citizen, as much as he may oppose the regime.
Human and cultural contacts with Cuban society enjoy massive support in all the questions related to that topic, and this issue defines the warring groups regarding policy against Cuba, placing the far right in a frankly minority position, to the point that one wonders if the current level of contacts could be reversed, even if Republican victories occur in the next two elections.
Linked to this is the fact that 64 percent of registered voters consider the topic of relations with Cuba a relatively important issue in the determination of his vote. And 53 percent say that they would support politicians who come out in favor of relations with Cuba.
Even in the youngest age group (18-29), seen as the least interested in Cuba, that position involves 51 percent of the respondents. Those who attribute to it the greatest importance (72 percent) are people 30 to 44, supposedly the most politically active group in the Cuban-American community.
Anyway, a factor that impacts negatively in the potential of voters in favor of this line is the number of people who are not registered to vote. Among these, the poll says, a greater rejection is seen to the current U.S. policy toward Cuba.
That’s partly because many of them still are not U.S. citizens, but it is also a consequence of the apathy that explains the high level of abstention, especially in the mid-term elections like the ones that will be held late this year.
The fate of some Democratic politicians in the next elections will depend on whether they can change this trend, so the success of the voter-registration campaigns and the presence of new voters at the election centers will be an important indicator of the Democrats’ chances of success.
Finally, there is an impression that policy toward Cuba matters only to Cuban-Americans. Only Charlie Crist, a candidate to the governorship of Florida, has placed the issue in its right place, when he emphasized the benefits that an improvement in relations with Cuba could have for Florida’s economy.
The FIU survey does not involve other Latin Americans or the rest of the South Florida residents, but it would be interesting to know what they think about it and how their views could influence the selection of their candidates to high office.
Jesús Arboleya, Progreso Weekly
June 26, 2014