Poll shows Cubans optimistic over reforms, but long way to go
The Miami Herald
By Juan O. Tamayo

A poll of Cubans shows that huge majorities favor democracy and a market economy, and that although 70 percent remain skeptical of Raúl Castro’s reforms, there’s been a slight increase in the optimism over the changes.

The survey by the International Republican Institute (IRI) also showed 52 percent of those questioned had seen no evidence of any reforms, and most said that significant economic changes are impossible without political reforms.

“There are a lot of headlines here in the U.S. about changes coming to Cuba, but IRI’s survey shows that the Cuban people themselves are not necessarily seeing it so far,” IRI President Lorne W. Craner said in a statement Monday.

Overall, he added, the survey suggests “that while Cubans desire economic opportunity and private property ownership, they closely tie these economic changes to political change in the form of free elections, free expression, access to information and the right to dissent.”

It was the sixth Cuba survey conducted since 2007 by IRI, a Washington nonprofit that works to advance freedom and democracy worldwide. The chairman of its board of directors is Sen. John McCain, R-Az.

The 572 adult Cubans surveyed in July showed an increase in optimism over Castro’s reforms. Asked how things were going overall, 26.7 percent said “well” in July, compared to 16.2 percent in the previous poll in February.

Asked if the government would be able to solve Cuba’s key economic problems in the next few years, 13.7 percent said yes in February and 20.6 percent in July. In February, 77 percent said no and in July the figure dropped to 70 percent.

Castro has announced an ambitious and risky set of reforms to grow Cuba’s economy, primarily by cutting back public spending and allowing more private enterprise. But the changes have been coming at a slow pace that has drawn attacks from critics on both the right and left of the government.

IRI officials have said their polls in Cuba, where the communist government does not permit independent surveys, are carried out “discreetly but scientifically” but declined to provide further details.

Among the other key findings of July’s survey:
• Nearly 90 percent of Cubans interviewed said they favor a market economy, with the right to own property and run private businesses.

• Three out of every four favor multi-party elections, freedom of expression and other elements of democracy.

• Three-in-five believe that substantive economic changes are not possible without political reforms.

• Less than 7 percent of those questioned said they had access to the Internet, and only 22 percent said they had access to cellular phones.

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