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FIU study urges policy changes in Washington, Havana
CubaNews / October 2011

By Larry Luxner

Only 53% of Cuban-Americans are in favor of continuing the U.S. embargo of Cuba, compared to 64% of all registered voters in South Florida. But well over half of those polled agree that the embargo hasn’t worked at all.

That’s according to the 2011 Cuba Poll, conducted by Florida International Univer-sity’s Cuban Research Institute and released with much fanfare Oct. 10.

Respondents were asked questions like whether U.S. companies should be allowed to sell food and medicine to Cuba; should Americans be permitted to travel freely to the island and should the United States re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Interestingly, 61% of all respondents and 54% of those who are registered voters would oppose a proposed law that would re-establish the same restrictions on family travel and remittances that existed in 2004.

But 72% of Cuban-Americans would oppose such a law — a number that rises to 76% among Cuban-American respondents who came to the United States after 1994 and are more likely to still have family on the island.

On the subject of economy, 62% of Cuban-Americans said recent efforts by the Castro government to allow more of its citizens to start their own private businesses would make life better for average Cubans; 36% said reforms would actually make life worse.

Equally important, 59% of Cuban-Ameri-cans said people living in the U.S. should be allowed to invest in these new private enterprises; 34% said no, and 7% said not as long as the Castro regime remains in power.

On the other hand, only 44% of Cuban-Americans said they’d invest in a private business in Cuba if given the opportunity; 46% said no, and 10% said not as long as the Castros were in charge.

The poll is based on interviewed completed Sep. 19 of 648 randomly selected Cuban-American respondents in Miami-Dade County. The margin of error for the overall survey is +/-3.9%. It was released on the heels of an 81-page study by FIU titled “The Cuban Diaspora in the 21st Century.”

The committee that developed this document worked from February to July, and was led by Cuban scholars Uva de Aragón (FIU); Jorge Domínguez (Harvard); Jorge Duany (University of Puerto Rico) and Carmelo Mesa-Lago (University of Pittsburgh).

Juan Antonio Blanco, committee coordinator, told CubaNews that the effort breaks new ground in studying the Cuban diaspora.

“We have never had a comprehensive report that tries to put together in one document all the different angles of what the Cuban diaspora looks like — meaning not only their economic potential but also their human and social capital, and what that could mean for the future of Cuba,” he said. “What are the obstacles in the U.S. and Cuba for having that potential actually materialize?”

The study also includes “a set of very respectful recommendations to both governments and to the Cuban diaspora, in order to create an enabling environment for the diaspora to fully engage with their country of origin.”

Specifically, the report urges the Castro regime to “change Cuba’s laws and its constitution to remove the requirement for entry and exit permits, and guarantee Cubans unrestricted freedom of movement and the right to freely choose their place of residence.”

It also seeks “additional modification of the existing legal system to recognize all Cubans — emigrants and residents of the island — as equal under the law and in their ability to participate in the national economy. This should include granting them the same or greater rights as those extended to foreign capital under the 1992 reform of the constitution and Foreign Investment Law #77 (1995).”

Change must also occur in Washington — not only Havana, says the report.

“Many Cuban-Americans already assist financially needy relatives and friends eager to explore employment and income opportunities in Cuba’s new emerging private sector,” the FIU study concluded.

“Given this sector’s non-state status, the committee considers that the U.S. government could facilitate cooperation between the Cuban diaspora and Cuba’s emerging private sector by excluding economic transactions with the non-state sector of the Cuban economy from the U.S. embargo.”

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