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Cuba Policy Enters the Presidential Race

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For the first time in a presidential election, U.S. policy toward Cuba has held national prominence. Two presidential candidates, Senators Barrack Obama (D-IL) and Chris Dodd (D-CT) have challenged the Bush Administration's stance on Cuba.

In an August 21st op-ed published in the Miami Herald, Senator Obama called for an end to restrictions on family travel and remittances to the island stating, "the (Bush) administration's decision to restrict the ability of Cuban Americans to visit and send money to their relatives in Cuba… is both a humanitarian and a strategic issue… It has also made them [Cubans] more dependent on the Castro regime and isolated them from the transformative message carried there by Cuban Americans."

Senator Dodd went even further, stating in a September 9th Univision debate, "I would begin to unravel that embargo. I would lift travel restrictions, so Cuban Americans can go visit their families. I would be lifting the restrictions on remissions." Fellow candidate, former Senator John Edwards (D-NC), called for an end to travel restrictions but stopped short of calling for a change in remittance caps. Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) echoed Senator Dodd's call for a complete normalization of relations between the two countries and Governor Bill Richardson (D-NM) has also vowed to repeal Bush's restrictions on Cuban-American family travel and remittances.

Not all candidates support change in U.S.-Cuba policy, however. Frontrunner, Senator Hillary Clinton, favors maintaining the status quo toward Cuba and keeping the embargo and other restrictions in place. The Republican frontrunners, former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA), Senator John McCain (R-AZ), former Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN) and former Mayor of New York City Rudolph Giuliani (R-NY), have all voiced similar views to those of Senator Clinton and the Bush Administration.

Presidential candidates have always looked at the Cuban-American community as a monolithic entity, whose hard-line conservative base needed to be appealed to take Florida during the election. A recent poll that measures Cuban-American sentiment in Miami-Dade County in Florida, however, shows a growing rift on Cuba policy within the Cuban-American community. The Florida International University Cuba Poll is carried out every couple years by the Institute for Public Opinion Research and the Cuban Research Institute of Florida International University to assess Cuban-American opinion on U.S.-Cuba policy and their views of the island. In the 2007 poll, researchers found that 65 percent of Cuban Americans in Miami-Dade County support starting a dialogue with Cuba. This is up from 55.6 percent in the 2004 Cuba Poll. Support for the U.S. embargo has also declined, from 66 percent in 2004 to 57.5 percent in 2007. Furthermore, 64 percent of the respondents would like to return to the 2003 policies governing travel and remittances.

Cuban-Americans are not the only ones with changing views toward U.S.-Cuba policy. In a 2007 Associated Press (AP) poll, 62 percent of Americans polled favored establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba. Based on these numbers, it would seem that the Republican presidential candidates might not want to rely on archaic Cuba policies as a means of winning votes – even in the key primary state of Florida.

In an August 21st op-ed published in the Miami Herald, Senator Obama called for an end to restrictions on family travel and remittances to the island stating, "the (Bush) administration's decision to restrict the ability of Cuban Americans to visit and send money to their relatives in Cuba… is both a humanitarian and a strategic issue… It has also made them [Cubans] more dependent on the Castro regime and isolated them from the transformative message carried there by Cuban Americans."

Senator Dodd went even further, stating in a September 9th Univision debate, "I would begin to unravel that embargo. I would lift travel restrictions, so Cuban Americans can go visit their families. I would be lifting the restrictions on remissions." Fellow candidate, former Senator John Edwards (D-NC), called for an end to travel restrictions but stopped short of calling for a change in remittance caps. Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) echoed Senator Dodd's call for a complete normalization of relations between the two countries and Governor Bill Richardson (D-NM) has also vowed to repeal Bush's restrictions on Cuban-American family travel and remittances.

Not all candidates support change in U.S.-Cuba policy, however. Frontrunner, Senator Hillary Clinton, favors maintaining the status quo toward Cuba and keeping the embargo and other restrictions in place. The Republican frontrunners, former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA), Senator John McCain (R-AZ), former Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN) and former Mayor of New York City Rudolph Giuliani (R-NY), have all voiced similar views to those of Senator Clinton and the Bush Administration.

Presidential candidates have always looked at the Cuban-American community as a monolithic entity, whose hard-line conservative base needed to be appealed to take Florida during the election. A recent poll that measures Cuban-American sentiment in Miami-Dade County in Florida, however, shows a growing rift on Cuba policy within the Cuban-American community. The Florida International University Cuba Poll is carried out every couple years by the Institute for Public Opinion Research and the Cuban Research Institute of Florida International University to assess Cuban-American opinion on U.S.-Cuba policy and their views of the island. In the 2007 poll, researchers found that 65 percent of Cuban Americans in Miami-Dade County support starting a dialogue with Cuba. This is up from 55.6 percent in the 2004 Cuba Poll. Support for the U.S. embargo has also declined, from 66 percent in 2004 to 57.5 percent in 2007. Furthermore, 64 percent of the respondents would like to return to the 2003 policies governing travel and remittances.

Cuban-Americans are not the only ones with changing views toward U.S.-Cuba policy. In a 2007 Associated Press (AP) poll, 62 percent of Americans polled favored establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba. Based on these numbers, it would seem that the Republican presidential candidates might not want to rely on archaic Cuba policies as a means of winning votes – even in the key primary state of Florida.