Informacion economica sobre Cuba

Obama victory leaves Cubans relieved, hopeful

Wed Nov 7, 2012 3:35am EST

* Cubans feared Romney would toughen U.S. policy

* Obama lifted restrictions on remittances, travel to Cuba

* U.S.-Cuba relations slightly improved under Obama

By Jeff Franks

HAVANA, Nov 7 (Reuters) – Cubans breathed a collective sigh of relief on

Wednesday over U.S. President Barack Obama's re-election victory and

expressed hope he might still bring a change in U.S. policy toward Cuba

that many expected after he won his first term in 2008.

They generally supported him over Republican candidate Mitt Romney

because they feared Romney would be the second coming of President

George W. Bush, who toughened the longstanding U.S. trade embargo and

hardened relations with the Cuban government during his time in the

White House.

"Bush made it really hard for us economically and even to see family who

live in the United States. If Romney had won most of the people here

would have been really sad," said Havana domestic worker Violeta

Gutierrez as she washed dishes in her employer's kitchen.

Obama's 2008 victory raised hopes that the U.S. trade embargo against

Cuba, imposed in 1962 with the intent of toppling the island's communist

government, would finally be lifted and U.S.-Cuba relations, hostile

since the 1959 revolution led by Fidel Castro, would improve.

The embargo is still in place and relations have improved only slightly,

but in 2009 Obama lifted Bush-era restrictions on remittances and Cuban

American visits to the country 90 miles (145 km) from Florida, both

heartily welcomed by Cubans.

The flow of remittances has risen to an estimated $2 billion, a huge

help to Cubans who earn on average $19 a month, and 300,000 to 400,000

Cuban Americans have been pouring into the island annually, bringing

their families a steady flow of consumer goods, food and medicines hard

to find in Cuba.

They have helped Cuba's budding self-employed sector by bringing items

for Cubans to sell, although stiff new import duties imposed by the

government threaten the influx of goods.


"The money people receive from their family has changed their lives. It

helps them eat better, dress, buy soap for a bath, everything thanks to

that money," said Gutierrez, who gets money occasionally from family

members in Miami.

Romney had threatened to roll back Obama's changes if he won the

presidency and was supported by Cuban American lawmakers who say the

easing of restrictions had only helped the Cuban government, led by

President Raul Castro, younger brother of now retired Fidel Castro.

"The Cuban American extremists favor policies that hurt the Cuban people

and give the Cuban government excuses for their failures," said

dissident Miriam Leiva at an election night function at the U.S.

Interests Section in Havana, which the United States has instead of an

embassy because the two countries have no official diplomatic relations.

A straw vote by those in attendance, among them Cuban dissidents and

diplomats from the United States and other countries, went to Obama 64-19.

Obama also renewed U.S.-Cuba talks on immigration and postal issues, but

the mild rapprochement ended when Cuba arrested American Alan Gross and

sentenced him to 15 years in prison for setting up Internet networks on

the island.

Washington insisted he was only trying to improve Internet access for

Cuban Jewish groups, but he was working for a U.S. program that promotes

political change on the island, which the Cuban government views as


Despite the setbacks, handicrafts vendor Rene Castillo said four more

years of Obama still held the promise of hope for better days between

the two ideological foes.

"Obama is the hope that more things change between Cuba and the United

States. Not even under (President Bill) Clinton, who also did his part

in favor of better ties, was there so much interaction as there is with

Obama," he said.

"Now it's needed that he fill himself with courage and lift the embargo,

but here everyone knows he can't do it alone," said Castillo.

Cuban officials have expressed less optimism about Obama, saying before

the election they expected no major changes in U.S. policy no matter who

won because Obama and Romney shared the goal of toppling Cuban

communism, but with different tactics.

Obama "proposes to liquidate the Cuban Revolution, but with softness,"

Cuban National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon told Venezuelan

television network Telesur in a recent interview.

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