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Thursday, February 08, 2007

US Policy on Cuba Needs Review, Poll Indicates

By Circles Robinson

A poll released by Associated Press indicates a huge number of US citizens would like to visit Cuba if Washington ends its prohibition on traveling to the island.

While around three quarters of adult US citizens do not have a passport and a majority have never traveled abroad, a whopping “40 percent of those polled said they would be interested in vacationing there [in Cuba] if the long-standing travel ban were lifted.”

The AP poll also asked the 1,000 participants their opinion on whether the US should establish normal diplomatic relations with Cuba.

“A large majority of people — 62 percent — said the United States should re-establish diplomatic ties,” broken off unilaterally by the Kennedy administration in 1961.

While his biggest current battleground is over Iraq, President Bush is also under fire in Congress for his hard-line Cuba policy.

A bipartisan group of ten Congress members led by Arizona Republican Jeff Flake and Maryland Democrat William Delahunt, visited Cuba last December, returning to Washington ready to begin another battle for improved diplomatic and economic ties.

Several bills have been introduced in the current legislature that would end or chip away at the nearly half century blockade on the island, which besides the travel ban also stymies trade.

Leading the charge to maintain the status quo are the powerful rightwing Cuban-American groups in Miami, who have long been heavy donors to Republican and also Democratic campaign coffers.

The poll, which AP says “has a plus or minus 3 percentage point margin of error” indicates that 72 percent of Democrats and 51 percent of Republicans think it is time to establish diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Both Cuban President Fidel Castro and his first Vice-President Raul Castro have repeatedly said they seek normal relations with the United States based on mutual respect for each country’s sovereignty.

Speaking at a rally in Havana last December, Raul Castro reiterated Cuba’s stance: “We take this opportunity to once again state that we are willing to resolve at the negotiating table the longstanding dispute between the United States and Cuba, based on the principles of equality, reciprocity, non-interference and mutual respect.”

Cuba has also asked Washington to cooperate in the fight against international drug-trafficking, terrorism and people smuggling, but the White House has turned a cold shoulder to the offers.

The AP poll, taken Jan. 30 – Feb. 1, further states that a majority of people in the US do not think their opinion in favor or against Cuban President Fidel Castro should be an obstacle in doing business or conducting people-to-people exchange with the island and its government.


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