Cuban-Americans Favor End to Decades-Old Embargo

A recent poll shows that the majority of Cuban-Americans now favor ending the U.S. embargo on trade and travel with Communist Cuba.

The poll by Florida International University shows that — for the first time in the survey's 17-year-history — fifty-five percent of those asked said it is time to change a policy put in place by John F. Kennedy in 1962.

Alfredo Duran, president of the Miami-based Cuban Committee for Democracy said the survey reflects a generational shift in Miami's Cuban-Americans — from the first wave of exiles of the 1960's, whose opposition to Fidel Castro is personal, to a new generation of Cuban Americans, who have never even been to Cuba.

"They really don't know who Castro was, how he got to power and the whole process of the revolution. They were not affected so essentially, so they're looking at the Cuba issue from a less personal point of view, a more distant point of view," said Duran.

Just days after the release of last week's poll, Cuba's president Raul Castro appeared to take a small swipe at Washington on the issue. Meeting with other regional leaders, Castro on Sunday said his country has survived the U.S. embargo for 50 years — and they are prepared to survive it another 50.

All this has raised speculation about what President-elect Barack Obama will do about the long- standing bans.

During the presidential elections, Obama said he would like to revisit U.S.-Cuba policies. Miami's 650,000 Cuban exiles have long been a powerful voting block, although Cuban-Americans are now a minority among the state's Hispanics.

Obama's victory has continued to fuel expectations about a possible thaw in relations. Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, sidelined by illness, remarked that Obama was "intelligent," and his younger brother, Raul, who took the reigns in February, said he would meet Obama anywhere for talks.

Obama may well lift travel restrictions on Cuban-Americans and raise the amount of money they can send to the island. But ending the embargo will need congressional approval, and perhaps more concessions than the Cuban government is ready to give.

"They want to have control and they know that if they begin to open up the economic process, the political power may leave and this thing may fall apart," said Jaime Suchlicki, a professor at the University of Miami and director of the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies.

The Cuban government recently announced new restrictions on bloggers on the island, limiting their access to critical sites. Any talk about a breakthrough in relations may be optimistic.