Most Cuban Exiles Say US Policy of Confrontation a Flop
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The Miami Herald - December 4 2001
Most Exiles Say Policy of Confrontation with Cuba a Flop
by Andres Oppenheimer
In sharp contrast with their stands two decades ago, most South
Florida Cuban exiles believe that the U.S. policy of confrontation
with Cuba's communist regime has been a failure, and that more travel
to the island would help bring about change there, according to a
poll sponsored by a new group of Cuban-American business leaders.
Yet a 55 percent majority of Cuban exiles still support the U.S.
embargo on Cuba, most likely because they have not yet found a viable
alternative to the current sanctions, says the poll conducted by
Bendixen and Associates and scheduled to be released later this week.
In addition, the poll found what it described as a "leadership
vacuum" in the Cuban exile community: 78 percent said they wanted a
leader, but could not identify one.
"What surprised me the most is the percentage of exiles who said
that the strategy of confrontation has failed," Sergio Bendixen said
Monday. "In the '80s and '90s, there was a nearly 80 percent support
Asked about the seeming contradiction between the exiles' growing
preference for a negotiated solution to the Cuban crisis and their
continued support for the U.S. embargo, Bendixen said that "exiles
are still not seeing an alternative to the embargo. The poll suggests
that if they were to be presented with a reasonable alternative, they
would consider it."
The new survey of 837 Miami-Dade County residents who identified
themselves as Cubans or Cuban Americans interested in Cuban issues
has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.
Compared with similar polls in the past, it suggests a growing
support among Cuban exiles toward a negotiated solution in Cuba.
Fifty-three percent of those polled support the Cuban Roman Catholic
Church's policy of "pardon and reconciliation," while 37 percent
said they disagree with it, and 10 percent did not respond.
A 1997 survey of Dade County Cuban exiles by Florida International
University's Institute of Public Opinion Research showed that 48
percent of the exiles favored a national dialogue to solve the Cuban
crisis, while the same poll in 1993 found that only 36 percent
favored a dialogue with the Cuban regime.
According to the conclusions of the new poll, the hard-line segment
of the Cuban exile community "is surprisingly small," but has a big
influence over local media.
Based on the responses, the survey concluded that only 23 percent of
Miami's Cuban exiles could be described as "hard-liners," while 28
percent are "pro-change" and 49 percent are "centrists," or up
The "hard-liners," who don't want any changes in U.S. policy toward
Cuba, are mostly exiles who arrived in the 1960s and are U.S.
citizens, it says. By comparison, most of those in the "pro-change"
faction are younger, arrived in the '80s and '90s, and only half of
them have become U.S. citizens.
"The survey tells us that the Cuban-American community has not
abandoned its fight against the Castro dictatorship, but is willing
to seek new methods and strategies that could be more effective,"
said Carlos Saladrigas, a leading member of the Cuba Study Group,
sponsors of the poll.
Among the poll's other findings:
* There is growing support for the work of dissidents in Cuba: 58
percent of Cuban exiles described them as "patriots," while 19
percent described them as "Fidelistas in disguise" and 23 percent
did not answer.
* A 53 percent majority of Cuban exiles said they believe travel
to Cuba "is an important factor in bringing about change in the
island," while 43 percent said travel "has not had any real
impact" on Cuba, and 4 percent did not answer.
* Asked to identify a Cuban exile leader, 73 percent could not
name one. Ten percent named Cuban American National Foundation
President Jorge Mas Santos, another 10 percent named Republican Rep.
Lincoln D=EDaz-Balart, and 2 percent named radio show host Armando
The Cuba Study Group, a group of a dozen influential Miamians who
have been meeting privately in recent months, describes itself as a
nonprofit organization of Cuban business leaders and philanthropists
whose mission is "to study and propose projects and ideas that
promote and facilitate nonviolent change in Cuba."
"We're not going to be a lobbying group, and we're not trying to
compete with any other group," Saladrigas said. "What we want to do
is to facilitate information and facts that can assist
MIAMI POLL RESULTS ON CUBAN EXILE POLITICS
The Cuba Study Group commissioned a poll in Miami-Dade County among
Cuban exile adults (born in Cuba) and Cuban-American adults (born in
the United States) who are interested in exile politics and issues
relating to Cuba. Here are a few of the findings from the interviews
with 837 people (with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage
=> Believe that travel to Cuba is an important factor in bringing
about change in the island:
Has been an important factor 53%
Has not had any real impact 43%
Don't know / no answer 4%
=> Want embargo to continue:
Embargo should continue 53%
Embargo should not continue 32%
Don't know / no answer 15%
=> Believe that the 40-year-old policy of confrontation between
exiles and the Cuban government has been a failure:
A failure 55%
The best strategy 31%
Don't know / no answer 14%
=> Think that the Cuban exile community needs a leader:
Don't know 3%
CUBA STUDY GROUP
- Jose P. Bared, former chief executive officer of Farm Stores
- Paul L. Cejas, former U.S. ambassador to Belgium and CEO of
PLC Investments Inc.
- Manuel Jorge Cutillas, former chairman and president of
- Carlos M. de la Cruz, chairman of Coca Cola Puerto Rico
Bottlers and Eagle Brands Inc.
- Ernesto A. de la Fe, manager of Lehman Brothers Private
Client Services, Latin America
- Alfred Estrada, chairman of Pan American Enterprises and
Hispanic Publishing Corp.
- Alfonso Fanjul, chairman of Flo-Sun Inc., and Florida
- Roberto Martinez, partiner of Colson, Hicks, Edison
- Richard O'Connell, private investor based in Paris
- Juan T. O'Naghten, attorney,founding shareholder of DSL
- Luis J. Perez, attorney, represented General Motors
- Carlos Saladrigas, chairman of Premier American Bank
Copyright (c) 2001 Miami Herald
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