HAVANA TIMES — A bipartisan poll caused a jolt to the political fabric of Washington, revealing that most Americans are in favor of changing the policy towards Cuba, ending the economic embargo hanging over the island for half a century.
A total of 56% of US citizens, including 62% of the Hispanics, supported ending the hostility. However, what is truly surprising and paradoxical is that the figure grows to 63% among Cuban Americans, who in the past were the mainstay of the blockade.
The people have spoken… but also the government, and where the captain rules the sailor has no sway. A spokeswoman from the Department of State said that in any case they will continue with the embargo because it is “an important resource to spur more positive changes in the island.”
This time round the position of the White House picks up less sympathy in the media, except for the anti-Castro Miami Press and The Washington Post, which in response to the opinion poll, published an editorial supporting the “carrot and stick” strategy.
The New York Times on the other hand, said that polls show the failure of the policy of isolation waged against Havana. The Los Angeles Times states that failing to recognize “the progress in Cuba reinforces doubts about the willingness of the U.S. to play fair in the region.”
The Huffington Post, the most widely read news blog, lists seven reasons to lift the embargo: the world hates it, it is ineffective, expensive and undemocratic, Cuba is not a threat, it hurts ordinary people and it is so outdated that “it survived 11 US presidents, without any success. Give it a break.”
Similar reasoning comes from Paul Cejas, a Cuban-American US ambassador during the Clinton administration, who said, “if a policy is set to achieve certain objectives, (and) after a while these goals are not achieved, you should change the policies or hte goals.”
Neither did Clinton’s strategy of “people to people contact” bring the desired results. Theoretically US citizens traveling to Cuba should be carriers of democratic ideas to disseminate them among Cubans, encouraging them to struggle against the communist government.
Actually another US survey showed that the visiting gringos actually returned contaminated instead of contaminating. They don’t return home converted to communism but they do delighted with the Cubans and the treatment they received on the island and especially very, very anti-embargo.
It could be the logical reaction of one who discovers the reality of the island after reading the Miami press and hearing speeches by Cuban-American politicians. Surely, getting to know Cuba, many tourists conclude that the tiger was not as fierce as it was painted.
The money to Cuba and exiles
Even former Florida governor Charlie Crist, an old defender of the hard line, realizes that “The embargo has done nothing in more than 50 years to change the regime in Cuba.” He added: “If we want to bring democracy to Cuba, we need to encourage American values and investment there, not block ourselves out and cede influence to China.”
Crist further requests that Washington remove restrictions that prevent Americans from investing in Cuba. He said “there is much construction needed on the island and South Florida would play an important role in this and really countless jobs would be created.”
Among the radical exiles themselves things are changing. The visit to Cuba by businessman Carlos Saladrigas was followed by the Cuban-American sugar magnate Alfonso Fanjul, who expressed his intention to invest on the island as soon the USA will allow it.
These “defections” rocked the most radical anti-Castro hardliners, who have always received financial and political support from the most economically successful exiles, most of whom had left the majority of their wealth expropriated in Cuba.
This could explain the clashes that are occurring among legislators of Florida and the most influential exile group, the Cuban American National Foundation. They hash over who receives the US $17.5 million that Washington disburses each year for dissidents.
Congressman Mario Lincoln Diaz Balart, of Cuban origin, managed to marginalize the distribution to the Agency for International Development (USAID) , thus affecting the Cuban-American National Foundation, whose director Pepe Hernandez said with that Mario “is doing a huge favor to the Government Castro.”
CANF itself reported in the past that 80% of the funds disappear in Miami. A congressional audit discovered receipts for leather coats and chocolates and one exile leader ended up in prison for embezzling $500,000 budgeted to buy radios for Cuban dissidents.
Meanwhile, other exiles begin to dream their worst nightmare that the death of the top leadership does not lead to an end to the Cuban revolution. Journalist and activist Pedro Corzo, in exile in Miami, now predicts bitterly that “the Castro rule will survive the Castros.”
(*) An HT translation of the original published in Spanish by BBC Mundo.