Known in Cuba as el bloqueo, the United States placed an embargo against Cuba on October 19, 1960, nearly two years after the Batista regime was deposed by the Cuban Revolution. The economic, commercial and financial embargo placed restrictions on exports to Cuba, with the exception of food and medicine; on February 7, 1962, the embargo was extended to include almost all exports.
Fifty years later, polls indicate that half of Cuban-Americans in Miami standing relations with Cuba, while still supporting certain elements of the current policy, according to a survey conducted by Florida International University. Respondents expressed strong support for increased contact between U.S. citizens, including Cuban-Americans, and the Cuban people.
Cuba’s violation of human rights, their sponsorship of terrorism, and $6 billion held in financial claims against the Cuban government by the United States fuels the embargo; and the embargo will last “so long as [Cuba] continues to refuse to move toward democratization and greater respect for human rights.” Nonetheless, the UN General Assembly has, since 1992, passed annual resolutions condemning the ongoing impact of the embargo, claiming that it’s a violation of the Charter of the United Nations and international law. Cuba, itself, believes that the embargo is a violation of human rights.
A large majority (68 percent) of the 2014 FIU Cuba Poll respondents favor reestablishing diplomatic relations with Cuba, and 69 percent support the lifting of travel restrictions. The new poll shows that younger and more recently arrived Cubans favor a change in the policy toward the island, though Cuban Americans, overall, are just about equally split on their support for the embargo that’s considered to be the “centerpiece of U.S. policy toward the island nation.” Seventy-one percent believe that the embargo isn’t working at all.
Fifty-two percent of total respondents stated they were opposed to the continuance of the embargo. However, embargo support is strong among Cuban-American Republican registered voters, many of whom are Cuban exiles; 51 percent of registered voters are in favor of continuing the embargo. The Cuban exodus from the island of Cuba to the U.S. occurred between 1959 and 1980; almost 900,000 Cuban exiles fled to Miami-Dade County in South Florida (an area that is home to 48 percent of Cubans in the nation) to flee Fidel Castro’s regime.
The earliest waves of exiles traditionally registered as Republicans and are the strongest supporters of the U.S. embargo. Younger generations of Cuban-Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 are not only opposed to the embargo against Cuba, but they are in favor of reestablishing relations with Havana. Fifty-eight percent of all Cubans who came to the United States since 1995 agreed with that sentiment.
In 1991, support for the embargo was at 84 percent. Now, 68 percent of the country’s Cuban-Americans want diplomatic relations with Cuba, a figure that jumps to 90 percent among the youngest Cubans. The general U.S. population (56 percent) is in favor of normalizing the relations between the U.S. and Cuba.
President Barack Obama began shedding restrictions on Cuban-Americans traveling to the island in 2009, also allowing Cuban-Americans to send remittances and humanitarian packages to their families there. Obama has asked that Cuba’s economic reforms be accompanied by an addressing of human rights concerns. The president has outlined a series of steps that could demonstrate a willingness to open its closed society. Those steps include: the release of political prisoners, allowing the United States’ telecommunications companies to operate in Cuba, and ending government fees on U.S. dollars sent by relatives from the U.S.
But, even if Cuba takes the steps to have the embargo lifted, it’s likely that pro-embargo Cuban-American exiles, who have terrific political sway in Florida, will continue to be opposed to the idea that trading freely between Cuba and the U.S. would be good for both nations.
By Nicole Akoukou Thompson July 3, 2014