Archive for Thursday, February 8, 2007

Poll: Americans want ties with Cuba despite Castro

February 8, 2007


— In nearly equal measure, Americans say they do not like Cuban President Fidel Castro but want the United States to re-establish regular diplomatic relations with the communist island nation after 46 years of estrangement.

Fewer than half of those polled think Cuba will become a democracy after the 80-year-old revolutionary leader dies or permanently steps aside. However, 89 percent in The Associated Press-Ipsos poll say they think Cubans will be better off or about the same when Castro is gone.

Castro has appeared to be in failing health for six months and has temporarily shifted power to his younger brother Raul. Rumors have been rampant about his ailments and how long he can survive.

The poll suggests the Cold War animosity that has defined U.S.-Cuba relations for nearly a half-century may be fading.

Cuba's government had no immediate reaction to the poll.

Although U.S. administrations from left to right have called Castro a dictator and a tyrant and have spent millions trying to undermine him, 27 percent of poll respondents said they hadn't heard enough about Castro to form an opinion.

The poll showed 64 percent of respondents had a very or somewhat unfavorable opinion of Castro, the revolutionary leader who has said he will be a Marxist-Leninist until the day he dies.

"He hasn't done much for his country. The country has not progressed," said Shiraz Damji, 61, of Woodland Hills, Calif. "It's still in the '40s or something like that. Leadership must grow the country and he's not done that."

Even so, a large majority of people - 62 percent - said the United States should re-establish diplomatic ties. The scant contact between the two countries is now handled through Switzerland or via low-level diplomatic offices called interests sections.

The U.S. cut off diplomatic ties with Cuba in 1961, two years after Castro led an armed revolution that drove out U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista. Decades-old trade and travel embargoes made it illegal for American businesses to trade in an economy they once dominated, and few Americans have visited Cuba.

Although the tropical island 90 miles off Florida was once a vacation playground famed for its nightlife, nearly half of those polled, 46 percent, said they would not be at all interested in vacationing in Cuba. Forty percent of those polled said they would be interested in vacationing there if a long-standing travel ban were lifted.


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