W. Alejandro Sanchez
Matisak's Blog (A Stamp on the World)
According to one published poll US President Barack Obama is much more popular in Cuba than Castro brothers. Why would you say it is so, how would you read the mood of Cubans out of it?Read few comments.
W. Alex Sanchez, Research Fellow, Council on Hemispheric Affairs
It would be bizarre to believe that in 2015 the population of an authoritarian state like Cuba would truly believe that the U.S. is “the enemy.” Sure, the internet does not have a widespread presence in the Caribbean island as in other countries, but it does have an impact. Additionally, relaxed travel rules allow for Cuban Americans to return to the island and tell their relatives that Washington is some kind of “evil empire,” that is prepared to invade their country.
Moreover, since his election, President Obama himself has been viewed positively by the Latin American masses. His handshake with President Raul Castro during Nelson Mandela’s funeral, while it may have been improvised and inevitable because the two leaders ran into each other and it would have been too awkward for them not to greet, was widely covered in Latin America, as a sign that Washington and Havana under Obama and Raul Castro could fix their historical differences.
Finally, this poll was taken in March, months after the historic December 2014 speech in which both governments declared their intentions to improve relations, so Obama has probably that going on for him.
I would say that this poll may be slightly bias. The Miami Herald explains that this was a “secret” poll taken from 1,200 adults without the knowledge and approval of the Cuban government. So one can only wonder if the support rates for Obama or disapproval for the Castros are in some way skewed even more because of the fear that some Cubans may have felt of getting into trouble for taking part of a secret poll.
Sebastian Arcos, Associate Director, Cuban Research Institute, Florida International University
Although I am not familiar with the methodology used in this poll –and therefore cannot take its validity for granted- I am not surprised by this particular result. Cubans see in President Obama what they would like to see in their own leaders: Obama is young while most of the Cuban leadership is older than 80; Obama is black-like a majority of Cubans are- while the Cuban leadership is overwhelmingly white; Obama is accountable to the media and to a Congress controlled by the opposition party, while the Cuban leadership is accountable to no one; Obama is willing to give his enemies the benefit of the doubt, while the Cuban leadership calls its opponents “mercenaries” and “traitors” and will not even allow the Ladies in White to march in silence to church without harassment.
Cubans are tired of 57 years of sacrifices, scarcity, repression and propaganda. They need hope in their lives, and they are hopeful that the new policy implemented by President Obama will make their miserable lives a little easier. More than anything, that explains Obama’s popularity. Unfortunately, they will be disappointed.