News and Facts about Cuba

US will back dissidents in Cuba – poll shows support for thaw

US will back dissidents in Cuba; poll shows support for thaw
02/04/2015 3:25 AM 02/04/2015 3:26 AM

The Obama administration’s lead negotiator with Cuba is vowing to
maintain U.S. support for democracy and activists there as
she pushes to restore embassies between the countries after a
half-century interruption.

An Associated Press-GfK poll finds broad support in the United States
for warmer ties with Cuba. Forty-five percent of those surveyed backed
the re-establishment of full diplomatic relations between the Cold War
foes, with only 15 percent opposing. Sixty percent backed the end of the
U.S. economic of Cuba, with 35 percent supporting its continuation.

Roberta Jacobson, the assistant secretary of state for Western
Hemisphere affairs, is set to testify before the before the House
Foreign Affairs Committee. On Tuesday she told a Senate panel that she
planned more talks with her Cuban counterparts later this month. The
administration had hoped to reach an agreement on new embassies by
April’s Summit of the Americas in Panama, though that looks unlikely.

Jacobson’s trip to Havana last month made her the highest-level U.S.
official to visit Cuba’s capital in more than three decades. The talks
encompassed the details of reconstituting embassies in each other’s
capitals, managing migration flows and the much larger process of
normalizing ties between governments with unresolved issues such as
fugitives and financial claims.

She said she raised several remaining barriers to full diplomatic
relations during her Havana discussions, including U.S. resistance to
any restrictions on American diplomats, shipments to the U.S. Interests
Section and Cuban access to that building.

Concrete progress was limited, however. This month’s talks are likely to
be in Washington.

Seizing on comments made by Josefina Vidal, Cuba’s top negotiator, after
last month’s talks, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., asked Jacobson for a
commitment that the U.S. would continue backing activists after any
agreement. In an interview with The Associated Press, Vidal had tied the
establishment of embassies to reduced U.S. support for dissidents.

“We would not curtail the activities we’re doing now,” Jacobson answered.

In Congress, positions on Obama’s sudden rapprochement with Cuba
crisscross party affiliation and political interest.

Countering Rubio among Republicans was Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, who
wants to end all U.S. restrictions to Cuba. Sen. Rand Paul of
Kentucky, another Republican who supports the thaw, didn’t show up for
the hearing.

Among Democrats, California Sen. Barbara Boxer defended the Obama
administration after Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey complained that the
U.S. won no concessions from ’s government and
demanded that Cuba extradite a woman convicted of killing a policeman
from his state. Both Rubio and Menendez are Cuban-Americans.

The AP-GfK poll found self-identified Democrats overwhelmingly in favor
of restoring embassies and eliminating the U.S. embargo, which Obama has
eased but only Congress can revoke.

Among Republicans, the blocs are closer. Thirty-four percent want
diplomatic relations, with 30 percent opposed. Forty-nine percent want
the embargo lifted, with 50 percent believing it should stay.

The AP-GfK Poll of 1,045 adults was conducted online Jan. 29-Feb. 2,
using a sample drawn from GfK’s probability-based KnowledgePanel, which
is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of
sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Respondents were first selected randomly using phone or mail survey
methods, and later interviewed online. People selected for
KnowledgePanel who didn’t otherwise have access to the were
provided access at no cost.

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