Posted on Wed, Jun. 18, 2008
Generational gap found on Cuba travel
By ALFONSO CHARDY
There's a split between older and younger Cuban Americans on whether exiles should be allowed to travel more often to visit relatives on the communist island, according to new polls commissioned by a group seeking better U.S.-Cuba relations.
The polls released Wednesday by the Foundation for Normalization of US/Cuba Relations, a group formed in 2006, show that a majority of registered voters in the hotly contested 21st and 25th congressional districts support unfettered exile Cuba travel and money remittances to the island. Voters in both districts are less likely to support a candidate who favors travel and money restrictions, the polls indicate, though the gap is not sufficient to overcome the polls' margin of error of 4.9 percentage points. Another 11 percent of those polled were undecided.
Republican incumbents in both districts, Lincoln Diaz-Balart in the 21st and brother Mario Diaz-Balart in the 25th, favor restrictions President Bush imposed in 2004 limiting exile travel to once every three years instead of annually. The 2004 rules also limit money remittances to close family members like spouses, parents or children instead of any relative.
The issue has become central to the Diaz-Balarts' reelection because their chief Democratic challengers, former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez and former Cuban American National Foundation executive director Joe Garcia, favor lifting restrictions.
Martinez is running against Lincoln and Garcia against Mario.
''This is now the latest in a series of polls done by third parties that show that Cuban Americans overwhelmingly disagree with the Diaz-Balart-Bush policy on Cuba,'' said Jeffrey Garcia of the Martinez campaign.
Ana Carbonell, Lincoln Diaz-Balart's campaign manager, said: ``It's amazing that with all the issues that need to be addressed, from healthcare to rising gas prices, the one issue this poll chooses to prioritize is how to offer economic relief to a state sponsor of terror.''
Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart's spokesman, said: ``It is regrettable that while Mario is fighting in D.C. for lower taxes, affordable healthcare and a solution to the housing crisis, the opposition is promoting push-polls to divide our community.''
In samples of 400 registered Cuban-American and other voters in the two Diaz-Balart districts, older Cuban-Americans oppose travel to Cuba by fellow exiles while younger Cuban Americans favor lifting restrictions.
The polls were conducted by the Hamilton Campaigns, a Washington research and political strategy firm that on its website (http://www.hamiltoncampaigns.com/) says it helped Democrats ``take back control of Congress.''
Polling also was done in the 17th district, which is represented by Kendrick Meek, a Democrat who has remained neutral in the Diaz-Balart races.
Read more about Cuba and South Florida's exile community at http://www.miami herald.com/newsamericas/cuba/ and the blog http://miamiherald.typepadcom/cuban_colada/