The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

June 21, 2013

Cuba, US try talking, but face many obstacles

(Continued)

Another Cuban-American politician from Florida, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, scolded Obama for seeking "dialogue with the dictatorship."

Despite that rhetoric, many experts think Obama would face less political fallout at home if he chose engagement because younger Cuban-Americans seem more open to improved ties than those who fled immediately after the 1959 revolution.

Of 10 Cuban-Americans interview by The Associated Press on Thursday at the popular Miami restaurant Versailles, a de facto headquarters of the exile community, only two said they were opposed to the U.S. holding migration talks. Several said they hoped for much more movement.

Jose Gonzalez, 55, a shipping industry supervisor who was born in Cuba and came to the U.S. at age 12, said he now favors an end to the embargo and the resumption of formal diplomatic ties. "There was a reason that existed but it doesn't anymore," he said.

Santiago Portal, a 65-year-old engineer who moved to the U.S. 45 years ago, said more dialogue would be good. "The more exchange of all types the closer Cuba will be to democracy," he said.

Those opinions dovetail with a 2011 poll by Florida International University of 648 randomly selected Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade County that said 58 percent favored re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba. That was a considerable increase from a survey in 1993, when 80 percent of people polled said they did not support trade or diplomatic relations with Cuba.

"In general, there is an open attitude, certainly toward re-establishing diplomatic relations," said Jorge Duany, director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University. "Short of perhaps lifting the embargo ... there seems to be increasing support for some sort of understanding with the Cuban government."

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Associated Press writers Christine Armario in Miami and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

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Paul Haven on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/paulhaven

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