The U.S. and Cuba: From Confrontation to Dialogue?

Havana (The Havana Reporter) – A majority of Americans now support a normalization of relations between their country and Cuba, according to a poll commissioned by the Atlantic Council, a prominent Washington research institution which described the results as an unprecedented reflection of shifting American attitudes toward Cuba that confound some long-held assumptions.¨

Influential media, including the New York Times (NYT) newspaper, highlighted the results of the survey. One notable fact is that a growing majority of residents in the state of Florida, where most Cuban-Americans live, now favor a normalization of relations or a more direct engagement with the Cuban government.

The results, added the NYT, come at a time of increasing feeling in Florida and elsewhere that the economic and political isolation imposed against Cuba has failed, as the United States has not achieved its goal of unseating the Cuban government.

The poll revealed that most Americans, both Democrats and Republicans, are ready for a political change towards Cuba, according to an introduction to the survey written by Peter Schechter and Jason Marczak, the two top executives at the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center of the Atlantic Council, the NYT said.

The poll also found that 56 percent of those interviewed nationwide favor a change of policy toward Cuba, a majority that rises to 63 percent among Florida´s adult population and to 62 percent among Latinos nationwide.

The survey also says that the economic cost to the US of maintaining the blockade against Cuba has also influenced the current view against that policy and it was also an important reason for a majority of Americans to favor a normalization of relations between the two countries, the NYT added.

More than six out of ten respondents nationwide want to see a change in policy that would enable US companies to do business in Cuba and allow US citizens to travel and spend money there without any restriction, the newspaper noted.

Meanwhile, US-based Mexican writer and journalist Margot Pepper said in an article published by the Dollars & Sense magazine that the blockade Washington maintains against Havana costs the United States much more than the damage it causes the Caribbean island.

Pepper recalled that the pretext for the blockade as formulated by the U.S. Foreign Claims Settlement Commission – is that it is a response to the expropriation of US assets worth $1.8 billion dollars by the Cuban government.

However, she pointed out that ¨representatives of a dozen important entities, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, sent a letter to president Barack Obama last December asking him to lift the blockade. In the said letter, the cost of the blockade on Cuba for the US economy was estimated at $1.2 billion dollars annually.”

In addition to the economic cost of such a policy, it must be recalled that it also prevents U.S. citizens from having access to Cuba´s breakthroughs in the field of medicine.

Cuba developed the world´s first vaccine against Meningitis B, as well as a treatment for retinitis pigmentosa, a preserver for conserving milk without refrigeration, an anti-cholesterol medication widely accepted in many countries for its collateral effects, and CimaVax EDF, the first therapeutic vaccine against lung cancer, Pepper’s article shows.

Her article concluded with the following question: “If the only concrete threat the Cuban revolution poses to the U.S. is its example, isn’t it time to bury the blockade?”

Meanwhile, a growing movement exists within the Cuban-American community, favoring a policy of greater exchange with Cuba, no matter the reasons and prospects for such exchanges, with the most absolute respect for Cuba´s sovereignty.

Moreover, the Mexican daily La Jornada said recently that there is a surprising chorus from figures involved in U.S. policy towards Cuba, including senators and business representatives, who believe that “a new song in bilateral relations is necessary”, all of which generates speculation about whether a greater redirection in Washington´s strategy towards the island is underway.