Tag Archives: Cuban-Americans

CHANGES IN CUBAN SOCIETY SINCE THE NINETIES

Wilson Center Reports on the Americas No. 15: Changes in Cuban Society since the Nineties

By  Joseph Tulchin, Lilian Bobea, Elizabeth Bryan and 2 more

Complete Report: Changes in Cuban Society since the Nineties

This book aims to provide academics, policymakers, NGOs and the media in Cuba, Latin America and North America, with a better understanding of the changes in Cuban civil society since the collapse of the Soviet Union and their implications in the areas of research, academic and literary production, and public policy. It presents and assesses critically the changes that have taken place in Cuban society, economy, politics, and culture as Cuba emerges from the crisis of the 1990s.  This volume also aspires to contribute in a meaningful way to the political debate in the United States and to the dialogue between the United States and Cuba.  It brings together contrasting perspectives marked by occasionally opposing views from both within and outside the island.  It is the result of a seminar held in the Dominican Republic in December 2003 under the auspices of the Latin American Program of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Facultad Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales, with the generous contribution of The Ford Foundation.

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YEA OR NAY ON THE EMBARGO. WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?

What does a recent survey tell us?

by Guillermo J. Grenier

OnCuba News,  May 28, 2021

Original Article C

The French philosophe and essayist Michel Montaigne often used the phrase “What do I know?” to express the subjective limits of knowledge. What can any individual really know about the world? About others who inhabit it? I pose this question to myself often. It’s part of the job description for being a critical sociologist. I scratch my head in puzzlement each time that I gather data to analyze my compatriots in South Florida. What do I really know about Cuban Americans? Many will jump to answer, “You know nothing. You are clueless,” and they might be right. But you would think that after nearly thirty years of writing about and studying Cubans in the United States I would know something about what makes our “moral community” tick.  But when faced with the question Que sais-je?, which translates into a very Cuban, “Qué sé yo?” I have to admit that many of the moving parts of the community remain a riddle wrapped in an enigma inside a pastelito. 

Take, for example, the resurgence of pro-embargo sentiments among South Florida Cuban American. It’s a grim turn even if not totally surprising given the Jarabe de Trump that many have savored in recent years. 

What is driving this macabre enthusiasm to endorse an archaic, cold war policy designed in 1962 to isolate Cuba and bring about regime change because, as stated in Kennedy’s infamous Proclamation 3447, the country is “incompatible with the principles and objectives of the Inter-American system; and, in light of the subversive offensive of Sino-Soviet Communism with which the Government of Cuba is publicly aligned?” Seriously? There is still support for a policy designed to “protect” the Americas from the threat of “Sino-Soviet Communism?” Directed at Cuba? Does this policy remain a vital element in the foreign policy of the United States? The world has changed so much but we seem to have changed so little.

Maybe there is more behind this seeming callous attitude of “que se jodan” exhibited by my fellow denizen of the Cuban diaspora than sheer opportunism. After all, we are not all YouTube mavens making a nice living peddling fear and disinformation. Most of us care about our friends and relatives on the island. About half of us send money when we can afford it and sending food via Katapulk is becoming a thing. Many on the island depend on us, if not for survival, for support, especially during this horrific pandemic period. 

Maybe championing the embargo, in the minds of those who do, is part of a larger plan. Maybe supporters see in the embargo a part of a broader strategy to improve the lives of Cubans throughout the island. Qué sé yo?

I want to understand why so many of us insist on supporting a foreign policy implemented to punish and isolate when we know that change in this globalized world is brought about by contact and negotiation. Why do people support the embargo? Why do they support lifting the embargo? 

With the help of the colleagues at OnCuba News, I floated a questionnaire on their platform and various social media streams (FB, Twitter) to try to understand why Cuban Americans either support or oppose the nearly sixty-year-old sanction. This is not a scientific sample, but the 361 responses (as of May 19) allow us to create broad categories to describe the types of reasons shaping opinions. 

Continue Reading

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Conclusion

To be honest, I harbor no illusions that the Cuban American vox populi will raise in an exilic chorus supporting the end to the embargo. I see no sign that we are willing, as a community to come to terms with our Big Lie. To recognize that the embargo, as a policy to motivate change in Cuba, has been a resounding failure and has not met the expectations of its supporters. It is a zombie policy which should have been killed by years of evidence verifying its failure but stays alive, eating the brains of Cuban Americans. Supporting the embargo is evidence that our community has been successfully recruited to brutalize the Cuban people by assisting the U.S. in its feeble attempt to project American power. I worry about the history we are helping to shape.

The only hope that I hold for seeing the lifting of the embargo in my lifetime is for the U.S. government to act in its best interest. In this unique case, the best interests of the United States are aligned with the best interests of Cuba, its people and government. 

Accepting this might not be easy for those who have developed an identity based on opposition to the Cuban government, but it is the reality we face. Let’s give in to a moment of clarity. We cannot, with any credibility, demand changes in others when we, as a community, remain so unwilling, or unable, to change. 

But, I could be wrong. What do I know?

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‘INVISIBLE CAMPAIGN’ AND THE SPECTER OF SOCIALISM: WHY CUBAN AMERICANS FELL HARD FOR TRUMP

BY NORA GÁMEZ TORRES

Miami Herald, NOVEMBER 19, 2020 11:00 AM,

Original Article: Why Cuban Americans Fell  for Trump

Following his surprising victory in 2016, Donald Trump claimed he got 80 percent of the Cuban-American vote in South Florida.

He was exaggerating.

But 2020 was a different story.

Years of courting voters with tough policies toward Cuba and Venezuela, a strong pre-pandemic economy, an unmatched Republican ground game in Miami-Dade and a targeted messaging instilling fear about socialism coming to America helped the president rally Cuban-American voters, part of the reason he carried Florida.

Although Trump lost the election, his inroads into the Cuban-American community in South Florida suggests trouble ahead for the Democratic Party.

Top of Form

Politics & Policy in the Sunshine State

Definite numbers for 2020 are still in dispute, but estimates reflect the Democratic Party’s poor performance among Cuban Americans, and among Hispanics in general, in Florida.

While Trump won more Cuban-American votes in 2016 than Hillary Clinton in Miami-Dade County, his margin was somewhere between 54 and 57 percent, below Mitt Romney’s 60 percent share in 2012.

Separate analyses of tallies in more than 30 Cuban-majority precincts in Hialeah, Westchester and the suburbs of southwest Miami-Dade by Republican and Democratic strategists suggest that four years later, Trump made double-digit gains, getting as much as 69 percent of the Cuban-American vote. Giancarlo Sopo, a Trump campaign staffer, and Carlos Odio, director of the Democratic research firm EquisLabs, independently concluded that President-elect Joe Biden’s percentage of the Cuban-American vote in Miami-Dade was in the low 30s.

But this might not be the whole picture, said Eduardo Gamarra, a professor and pollster at Florida International University. While Trump undeniably improved his numbers in heavily Cuban areas like Hialeah and Westchester, Gamarra has found less enthusiasm in more wealthy enclaves like Coral Gables and Key Biscayne.

“If you’re going to analyze the Cuban vote, you need to account for the vote in the entire county,” he said. He cited several exit polls and others done close to the election of people who had already voted, including one poll he was involved in, showing that Trump got around 55 percent of the Cuban-American vote.

Fernand Amandi, a long-term Democratic political strategist who runs the firm Bendixen & Amandi International, believes Biden’s share of the Cuban-American vote in Miami-Dade might be about 38 percent, and a bit higher statewide, about 41 percent, according to exit polls and surveys his firm conducted.

But Sopo and Odio disagree with these estimates because many polls proved to be off during this election cycle. If Trump had won only a 55 percent share of the Cuban American vote in Miami-Dade, that number would not reflect the enthusiasm shown by pro-Trump Cuban-American voters nor help explain his overall winning margins in the state, where he got around 371,000 votes more than Biden.

Regardless of the final number, all agree the Biden campaign was not up to the challenge.

“It’s still a poor result,” Amandi said, calling the Biden campaign at times “invisible” in Miami-Dade County. The COVID-19 pandemic had much to do with it, Odio added, since the campaign did not knock on doors till weeks before the election and decided to limit in-person events, and was unable to match Trump’s energetic rallies.

But Trump never really stopped campaigning in Florida. For years now, the Democrats have not been able to match the strong presence of the Republican Party in the community, which has given many Cuban Americans “an identity,” Florida International University professor Guillermo Grenier wrote in a two-part analysis of the Cuban vote. He is the director of the FIU poll that every two years surveys the opinions of Cuban-American voters residing in Miami-Dade.

“The fundamental problem is that the Democrats took their foot off the accelerator from engaging with the Cuban community,” said Amandi, who was part of the team that helped Barack Obama win the support of Cuban and other Hispanic voters in the county. “Meanwhile, the Trump campaign never stopped in its efforts to win the Cuban vote for four years.”

While Cuban Americans have been a reliable Republican voting bloc, supporting the traditional themes of low taxes, small government and family values, there was “a perfect storm” of things particular to this election that ended up helping Republicans, Odio said.

He cites a prosperous economy, the strongman aspect of Trump’s character that apparently appealed to some Cubans and other Hispanics, and the election to Congress of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, which further fueled the narrative about the Democratic Party steering to the left. Acts of vandalism amid protests over police brutality and slogans like “Defund the police” were also exploited by the Trump campaign and Trump’s surrogates to instill fear of a progressive left that would dictate Biden’s agenda.

HIALEAH FELL HARD FOR TRUMP

The Democrats also learned the hard way that “demography is not destiny,” as the American political scientist Ruy Teixeira wrote in his influential essay warning that changes in the electorate do not always favor the Democrats.

For many years, Democrats assumed that as older Cuban exiles were being replaced by new Cuban arrivals and younger voters, Cuban Americans would become less Republican. The 2020 presidential election was a surprise: The FIU 2020 poll found that many Cuban immigrants coming after 2010 had been registering Republican and becoming strong Trump supporters.

“We ran an innovative grassroots and advertising effort that directly engaged newer Cuban arrivals — who had been largely ignored by both parties — as well as young U.S.-born Cuban Americans in ways that were culturally relevant to them and different than how you’d engage my abuelos’ generation,” said Sopo, a Miami native who was one of the architects of the messaging targeting Hispanics in Florida.

The campaign ran a Spanish video ad featuring popular Cuban actress Susana Pérez, who is better known among Cubans who came to U.S. after 1980. Another radio ad with fictional characters “Marita y Yesenia” mimics the speaking style and slang used by recent arrivals.

Most observers agree that there is no single issue that could explain why most Cuban Americans mobilized so forcefully this year to support the president.

Take Hialeah, a working-class city with the most Obamacare enrollees in the nation and where many recently arrived Cubans live. The Trump administration asked the courts to strike down the entire Affordable Care Act. Yet, the Democratic Party was unable to exploit this to its advantage, and Trump grew his share of the vote by 18 points in the city, compared to 2016, beating Biden 67% to 32.5%, according to Sopo’s analysis.

There have been several attempts to explain why Cuban Americans in Hialeah would vote for a candidate whose policies could affect their healthcare or have already limited their ability to travel to the island or reunite with family members.

Gamarra believes that working-class Cuban Americans do not behave that differently from non-college-educated white voters, a core group in Trump’s base. And Odio argues that many might be attracted to the image of the successful businessman, who is politically incorrect and stands against Washington’s establishment and the media.

Trump’s nationalist populism also seems to have resonated with many Cuban Americans.

The chorus of a viral song by the Cuban musical group Tres de La Habana that later became part a Trump campaign ad says, “If you feel proud to be Cuban and American, raise your hands!”

But beyond issues of cultural identity and nationalist rhetoric, a lot of the burden for Biden doing poorly among Cuban Americans is on the decisions taken by the Democratic Party and the Biden campaign, most analysts agreed.

Gamarra said besides “being late,” the Biden campaign made other mistakes, like deciding it was not worth investing much in improving their numbers with Cuban Americans and taking for granted that other Hispanic groups, like Colombians, would vote Democratic.

The Biden campaign acknowledged it didn’t need to win the support of a majority of Cuban Americans to win Florida but was hoping to match Clinton’s numbers or compensate for those votes somewhere else, for example, with non-Cuban Hispanics. That didn’t happen either.

“We built a new conservative coalition in South Florida consisting of Cubans, Colombians, Puerto Ricans and other Latinos in Miami-Dade County,” Sopo wrote in a memo obtained by the Miami Herald. ‘This netted approximately 255,657 additional votes for President Trump in Miami-Dade in 2020, which accounted for around 69% of his 371,686-vote victory over Joe Biden in Florida.”

THE SOCIALISM DEBATE IN MIAMI

Amandi was one of the first in sounding the alarm about the Democrats’ problem with Cuban voters, especially regarding their lack of response to attacks portraying their candidates as socialists or communists, which were successfully deployed against Andrew Gillum in the 2018 Florida gubernatorial race.

“The biggest mistake was when it was decided that the accusations about socialism and communism were not going to be rebuked because they were considered absurd,” Amandi said.

The Trump campaign made a concerted effort to misleadingly portray Biden as a socialist, posting manipulated images of him embracing Venezuelan strongman Nicolás Maduro and claiming he was “the candidate of Castro-Chavismo” in one of its most viewed ads in South Florida. Such accusations found fertile soil in Miami Cuban media and were amplified on local Miami radio, TV stations, and by social media influencers who had welcomed Trump’s tough talk on Cuba and Venezuela.

Shortly after Trump’s victory in 2016, Cuban exile groups who felt left out from the policy-making process during the Obama administration became more vocal in their criticism of what they saw as Obama’s failed engagement policies with Cuba and concessions made to the Cuban government.

Increased government repression on the island, the Cuban leadership’s unwavering support of Maduro in Venezuela, and Cuba’s reluctance to implement reforms to rescue a rapidly deteriorating economy all reinforced perceptions about the failures of engagement. With its eyes on Florida 2020, Trump vowed in Miami to reverse “the prior administration’s terrible and misguided deal with the Castro regime,” and made Cuba and Venezuela the center of its Latin American policy.

The picture is nuanced: While most Cuban Americans approve of President Trump’s sanctions campaign against the Cuban government, they also support many of Obama’s policies, such as maintaining diplomatic relations or travel to the island, as shown by the FIU 2020 poll. Pro-engagement advocates still contend that Obama’s policies did not hurt the Democratic Party. But others believe that misses a crucial point.

“The weaponization of U.S. policy towards Cuba was the entry point to help cement the idea that the Democratic Party is the party of socialists,” Amandi said.

Then there was the 2020 media environment, with voters watching or reading partisan media, living in information bubbles, and plenty of misinformation circulating among the Hispanic communities, making it difficult for the Democratic campaign messaging to make it through. By the time the campaign started responding to the socialism accusations, it was too late.

Just weeks before the election, Mike Bloomberg financed a round of TV ads featuring members of the Bay of Pigs Brigade and Cuban exile writer Carlos Alberto Montaner pushing back on the accusations that Biden and running mate Kamala Harris were socialists. Internal polling data suggest the ads were able to move the needle in favor of Biden. But the effort came too late to have a larger impact on the race.

However, analysts believe that, with the right strategy, the Democratic Party could again reach the historic support Obama obtained among Cuban Americans in 2012. In that election he won 53 percent of Cuban Americans who cast a ballot on Election Day, and an overall 48 percent of the Cuban-American vote in the state, according to a poll by Bendixen & Amandi.

“It would be a mistake for both parties to believe that these numbers are permanent,” Amandi said.

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UNITED STATES: HOW DID LATINOS VOTE?

Eric Hershberg, Director of the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies and Professor of Government, American University.

AULA Blog, November 17, 2020

Original Article: United States: How Did Latinos Vote?

Amid considerable discussion of how the Latino vote in the U.S. Presidential election impacted the outcome, evidence already shows that Latino voters played an important role in Joe Biden’s razor-thin majority in key states and will be a crucial, if diverse, electorate in the future. A frequent trope is that there is no such thing as the Latino vote, given the heterogeneity of the population that identifies as Latino (or Hispanic, Latina, or Latinx). Latino voters are of diverse national origin, geographic location, educational achievement, income, language preference, and religiosity. Some trace their roots in the United States back many generations, while others are immigrants. These factors conditioned voter behavior on November 3.

  • Exit polls, which are not entirely reliable, indicate that the 13 percent of the electorate that self-identified as Latino voted 65-32 percent for Biden over Trump. This was roughly in line with forecasts. Although the respected polling firm Latino Decisions announced on the eve of the election that at no point in its surveys did Trump exceed 30 percent of voter intentions, the eventual outcome was within the margin of error. The more notable polling miss was with the broader electorate: nationwide polling anticipated a gap of 5-12 percent between Biden and Trump in the popular vote, which in fact turned out to be around 4 percent.
  • As with the white electorate, there was a notable gender gap among Latinos: The margin in favor of the Biden-Harris ticket was 69-30 percent among Latina women versus 59-36 percent among Latino men, totals that replicated almost perfectly the 2016 contest between Trump and Hillary Clinton. Age was a factor as well. Biden came out ahead by 69-28 percent among Latinos under 30, contrasted with 58-40 percent among those over 60 years of age. This is not remarkable, since young white voters also trended similarly toward the Democrats. Evidence suggests that Trump made inroads among non-college educated males, mirroring his strong performance among white males with lower educational levels.

Several factors may account for what some observers deemed a surprising level of Latino support for a president whose explicit racism had not disgraced the presidency since the days of Woodrow Wilson more than a century ago.

  • Cuban-Americans and migrants from Latin American countries who frame their life experiences as resisting or escaping socialism tilted strongly to Trump, whose campaign spent months branding Biden and Democrats more generally as “socialists.” Painting the Democrats as a red menace was critical in Florida, as the Latino vote helped to deliver the state to Trump and unseated Democratic House incumbents from Miami-Dade County.
  • Evangelical Latinos, like evangelical whites, disproportionately cast their votes for Republicans. Just as socially conservative evangelicals have been a powerful force in Latin American elections, they are and will remain so in the United States. Trump’s success in appointing judges opposed to abortion rights and same sex marriage helps to explain his strong performance with this segment of the electorate, some of which identifies as Latino.
  • Law and order was another theme pushed in Trump advertisements and actions. The specter of leftists defunding the police weighed heavily in some sub-sets of the Latino electorate. Images of children in cages that were promulgated by Democratic Party advocates did little to sway voters in Texas, where jobs in policing and border enforcement involve placing migrants in those very cages. This may in part account for Trump’s surprising strength among Latinos in sparsely populated Texas counties in the Rio Grande Valley. While this has attracted the attention of many pundits, this small swath of voters was more than outweighed by unprecedented turnout for the Democratic ticket among urban Latinos in Texas.

A number of factors operated in Biden’s favor. Most important was the government’s grossly inadequate response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has affected Latinos disproportionately. That a Biden administration would consolidate Obamacare became all the more relevant in the context of the pandemic. The Administration’s assault on immigrant rights mattered as well for many Latino voters.

The impressive margins that Biden racked up among Latinos contributed to his victory in the key battleground states of Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and Pennsylvania, and it almost secured the electoral votes of North Carolina. If Latinos – the most rapidly expanding segment of the electorate – continue to favor Democrats, they will prove central to a coalition that might advance the Democrats’ standing in the 2022 mid-term elections and dictate the outcome of the presidential contest in 2024.

  • More immediately, the Latino vote could prove crucial in the January run-off elections for Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats, which will determine whether the Biden Administration has a working majority or faces a wall of resistance from Mitch McConnell’s GOP. More than a quarter million Latinos are registered to vote in Georgia, which Biden won by less than 15,000 votes. According to exit polls, Biden won support from Latinos in that state at a rate of 62-39 percent. That is not an overwhelming margin, but in a cliffhanger election that mere 5 percent of the electorate could be critical to determining the relationship between the White House and Senate for the next couple of years.

November 17, 2020

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WHY FLORIDA’S CUBAN POPULATION IS SUSCEPTIBLE TO TRUMP’S PROPAGANDA

Opinion by Alexandra Martinez

CNN, Updated 6:32 PM ET, Wed September 30, 2020

Original Article: Cuban-American Susceptibility to Trump’s Propaganda

Why Florida is a battleground state like no other

Alexandra Martinez is an award-winning Cuban American writer based in Miami, Florida. Her work has appeared in Vice, Catapult Magazine, and Miami New Times. Find her at alexandra-martinez.net. The views expressed in this commentary are her own.

 

Alexandra Martinez

On a blistering August morning in 1973, my grandparents, mom and aunt left Cuba. My maternal grandparents had met as a result of the Revolution; my abuela (grandmother) was a volunteer teacher in the literacy movement, and my abuelo (grandfather) was a technician and organizer who helped remove the previous dictator, Fulgencio Batista, and was exiled to Venezuela.

After 1959, he was allowed to return and was celebrated by the Revolution. As the years passed, their living conditions and civil liberties withered. It became abundantly clear that Cuban dictator Fidel Castro would not uphold the rights of the people they had fought for. They spent five years being called gusanos (worms) while my abuelo labored in a forced-work agricultural camp to earn his family’s exit. When they were granted permission to leave, they left behind everything they had ever known: generations of family, their homes, and a bittersweet love for their island. Their only solace was the flickering thought that their young daughters would have a better life.

Today, my 80-year-old abuela lives in her dream home in the predominantly Latino suburb of Miami, Kendall, a house she and my late abuelo built as the fruit of their decades of labor, wistful regret, and trauma after leaving their homeland. Her story is not unlike those of others in Miami’s Cuban-born community, which in 2017 accounted for more than a quarter of Miami-Dade County’s population and six percent of Florida’s voting power, according to 2016 exit polls.

Continue Reading: Cuban-American Susceptibility to Trump’s Propaganda

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TRUMP CONNED MIAMI’S CUBAN-AMERICAN SUPPORTERS WHILE CHASING BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES IN CUBA

By Fabiola Santiago

Miami Herald, September 22, 2020 05:35 PM,
Once again, the truth about what President Donald Trump really thinks about Cuba has come to light.

He may peddle the hard line to his Republican Cuban-American supporters in Miami, but when he looks south of the city, he only sees dollar signs.

He promises that he won’t do business until Cuba is free of the Castro brothers’ regime — and prohibits Americans from traveling to the island — but Trump and his team have been chasing business opportunities in Cuba for the past decade.

A new el Nuevo Herald report has unearthed more proof of how seriously Trump tried to gain a foothold in Cuba, despite the U.S. embargo that’s in place.

Documents show that the president applied to register his Trump trademark in Cuba in 2008 so he could conduct business and invest in real estate. His plans included not only erecting a Trump Tower in Havana and putting a golf course in Varadero and other possible sites, but building casinos as well.

To do so, Trump hired a Cuban lawyer on the island, Leticia Laura Bermúdez Benítez.

A screenshot of the Cuban Industrial Property Office website shows details of the Trump trademark application — which included beauty pageants.

A screenshot of the Cuban Industrial Property Office website showing details of the Trump trademark registered in Cuba. 

Trump plays both sides

To truly gauge Trump’s cretinous hustler nature, you have to go back to 1999 when he was already courting Cuban Americans with anti-Fidel Castro rhetoric and hinting at a presidential run.

He was betting on an aging Castro dying soon. The way Trump saw it, the wealthy members of the Cuban American National Foundation were going to be the ones calling the shots on the island.

“So what Jorge is saying is that when Cuba is free, I get the first hotel? Is that true? Sounds like a good deal to me,” Trump quipped during a CANF speech, referring to Jorge Mas Santos, who had taken the reins of the influential organization after his father died in 1997.

Ever the Conman: Trump courting the Cuban  American National Foundation – while registering his brand in Cuba.

It was a crass thing to say — and harmful to efforts to democratize Cuba, and not install a U.S. puppet government to service the likes of Trump — but Cuban Americans laughed and later applauded him.

That year, Trump also wrote an op-ed in the Miami Herald slamming Castro, which prompted the Brigade 2506, veterans of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961, to correspond with Trump and begin a relationship that would culminate with their endorsement in 2016 and again in 2020.
See also: Herald falsely claims as its own, story on Trump and his interest in Cuban hotels disclosed by Progreso Weekly, By Álvaro Fernández Last updated Sep 30, 2020

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THE 2020 FIU CUBA POLL: BEHIND THE PARTISAN NOISE, A MAJORITY OF CUBAN-AMERICANS SUPPORT ENGAGEMENT POLICY.

Read the full 2020 FIU CUBA POLL report here.

The results of the 2020 FIU Cuba Poll suggest the link between political party and Cuba policy preferences among Cuban-Americans is not as clearly defined as it used to be. Put another way, although a majority of Cuban-Americans respond postively to Trump’s anti-socialist rhetoric, most still support engagement policies that help the Cuban people.

To illustrate, when asked to rate Trump’s performance in a host of national issues ranging from his handling of immigration and healthcare to Covid-19 response, responses split along partisan lines, with roughly two-thirds consistently in favor of the Republican president. This was also true when respondents were asked to rate Trump’s handling of “Cuba policy” (66% in favor). But when respondents were asked about support for individual components of Cuba policy without mentioning Trump, political parties or “the embargo,” the partisan lines disappeared and previous trend lines in favor of engagement resurfaced, with U.S.-born Cuban-Americans and recent arrivals leading the way:

  • 56% support diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba.
  • 57% support the temporary suspension of trade sanctions on Cuba during Covid-19.
  • 69% support the food sales to Cuba by U.S. companies.
  • 71% support the sale of medicine to Cuba by U.S. companies.
  • 58% oppose the suspension of visas services at the U.S. Embassy in Havana.
  • 58% support the resumption of the Cuban Family Reunification Program (suspended in 2019).

Support for unrestricted travel to Cuba—for Americans and Cuban-Americans alike—did drop below 50% for the first time since the Bush-era, with cruise ship being the least popular (40%). Yet, 62% favor allowing U.S. commercial airlines to re-establish routes throughout the island, not just to Havana. This suggests that while a majority of Cuban-Americans may now favor some restrictions on U.S.-Cuba travel, they remain lenient on what those may be.
Notably, on questions that define U.S.-Cuba policy in terms of “carrots” and “sticks”, strong majorities supported a combined approach: 68% favor policies “designed to put maximum pressure on the Cuban government” while 66% support policies directed at “improving the economic well-being of the Cuban people.” In other words, the Obama-era view that “U.S. policy should be tough on the government but soft on the people” continues to hold firm. So has the shrinking salience of U.S.-Cuba policy among key election-year issues for Cuban-American voters, ranking below the economy, healthcare, race, immigration and even China policy across party affiliation.
Perhaps the most significant number in the poll is the percentage of newer émigrés who identify as Republican: a whopping 76% of those who migrated to the United States between 2010 and 2015. Paradoxically, these are also the Cubans-Americans who most frequently travel to Cuba, maintain relations on the island and favor most of the same engagement policies that their Republican representatives so ardently strive to dismantle. This contradiction is shaped by too many factors to explore here. The appeal of Trump’s strongman/ business mogul persona and anti-socialist bombast is certainly one of them. Yet it is also true that these migrants harbor deep antipathies toward a Cuban government that did precious little to seize the opportunity for reform presented by President Obama’s diplomatic opening. Their party affiliation likely represents a rebuke of the system they left behind more than a defined ideological orientation. Nonetheless, this should serve as a wakeup call for Cuban officials. Those who arrived between 2010 to 2015 aren’t batistianos. They are a direct product of the Revolution. By continuing to resist meaningful reforms, the Cuban government runs the risk of forging a new generation of aggrieved exiles supportive of U.S. presidents who take a hardline approach against Cuba.

Finally, there are important lessons here for whoever wins the White House come November. Should it be Joe Biden, reversing Trump’s most hurtful measures toward Cuba in his first 100 days will be popular among Cuban-Americans. These include the re-establishment of island-wide commercial and charter travel, lifting remittance limits, re-opening consular services and fully staffing the U.S. Embassy in Havana. For Trump, the FIU poll suggests that Cuba sanctions have a political ceiling, which his policies reached long ago. In a second term, Trump could ease harmful restrictions on travel, remittances, and some trade in pursuit of a “better deal” without losing support.

“The poll estimates about 52.6% of Cuban Americans in Florida are registered Republicans compared to 25.8% who are registered Democrats and 21.5% who are registered independent.” (NBC Miami, October 2, 2020)

Read the full 2020 FIU CUBA POLL report here.

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