[Marxism] Cubans see hope for change in Obama

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Sun Jun 15 17:16:22 MDT 2008

Cubans see hope for change in Obama
Sun Jun 15, 2008 5:00pm EDT

By Jeff Franks and Rosa Tania Valdes

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban-Americans in Florida have voted solidly Republican for 
years, but 90 miles away many Cubans in the home country hope this election year
is different.

They are closely watching the U.S. presidential campaign and, weary of the Bush 
administration's hard-line Cuba policy, proving to be a receptive audience for
Democrat Barack Obama's promise of change.

His vows to ease the 46-year-old U.S. trade embargo against Cuba and his openness
to dialogue with the Cuban government have sparked hope for better relations with
the United States and improved lives for average Cubans.

In conversations in the streets, business meetings and social gatherings, many Cubans
ask about the U.S. election, then most say they support the Democrats' presumptive
presidential nominee over Republican rival John McCain.

"I go for Obama," said Manuel Echevarria, 55, a hospital supervisor. "Obama
wants to look for a way to have relations, and that would be good for Cuba. To have
a bit of hope is what we Cubans want."

"Obama is a totally different vision," said law student Hugo Hernandez.
"First, it would be the first time an African-American gets into power and 
second, the world needs change."

Former leader Fidel Castro himself weighed in with a few kind words for Obama, saying
in a newspaper column he was "doubtless, from the social and human points of
view, the most progressive candidate for the U.S. presidency."

But he also blasted Obama for criticizing Cuba's government on human rights 
and recognized that "were I to defend him, I would do his adversaries an enormous


Cuba expert Dan Erikson at the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington said Obama's
support on the island is part of a global backlash against President George W. Bush.

"Most politically aware Cubans favor Barack Obama over John McCain, but that
position is hardly unique to Cuba, as most countries around the world are eager 
to see a Democrat back in the White House due to profound fatigue with George Bush."

Beyond the Bush factor, Cubans like Obama because he has vowed to lift restrictions
on family visits and remittances from Cuban exiles in the United States put in place
by Bush to toughen the embargo.

In May, Obama said in Miami he would keep the embargo to maintain pressure for democratic
reforms, but that he also was open to talks with the Cuban government without preconditions.

Cuban President Raul Castro, who the National Assembly elected in February to succeed
elder brother Fidel, has said he would be willing to meet with U.S. officials.

McCain, also speaking in Miami last month, said he would maintain the embargo as
is and ridiculed Obama for his offer to talk to the Cubans.

Most Cubans see McCain as an extension of Bush, and for some government opponents
that is a plus.

"I am, before everything, a Republican, and for me it would be proud that the
Republicans return to power because we will have strong pressure against Cuba,"
dissident Orlando Fundora said. "If the Democrats win, it's going to favor
the government of Castro."

But the opinion of housewife Raiza Martinez, 42, was more prevalent.

"We were saying among friends recently that if McCain wins, we're going
to see the same or worse, and I said if he's crazier than Bush, then we're
going to be very bad."

She was not optimistic that her Cuban brethren across the Florida Straits would 
go for Obama.

"To be president of the United States you have to respond to the interests 
of the people there in Miami," she said. "I think we're going to continue
just the same."

(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

     Los Angeles, California
     Editor-in-Chief, CubaNews
     "Cuba - Un Paraíso bajo el bloqueo"

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