Thursday, October 16, 2008

Opinion polls

You will be happy to hear that the Havana Bureau of the giant American television network NBC has conducted an “informal survey” of 100 ordinary Cubans on that burning question: do you think Cubans deserve to have free and fair, multi-party elections, like citizens in most other countries?

Just kidding, folk.

The actual question asked by the network was much more predictable and a lot less confronting: they asked the lucky 100 Cubans whether they'd vote for Barack Obama or John McCain?

According to NBC’s Havana bureau chief, Mary Murray, the vast majority of those surveyed – 63 per cent - plumped for the Democrat candidate, compared to just two votes for the Republican contender. The rest either had no preference (13 per cent), or perhaps wisely, declined to answer (22 per cent).

“Hands-down, the average Cuban prefers Obama to McCain,” Ms Murray concluded, adding that most Cubans believe Obama “is the more likely candidate to loosen trade and travel restrictions while engaging the Cuban government”.

Which is all very well except for the fact that the travel restrictions most Cubans want lifted have nothing to do with the man who ends up sitting in the Oval Office after November, but everything to do with the Castro brothers sitting back in the Palace of the Revolution in Havana.

Still, some of the supposedly ordinary Cubans surveyed by NBC had plenty to say about the US presidential candidates – and much of what they said sounds suspiciously like the officially approved Communist Party line. You know, American elections are a capitalist charade but when push comes to shove, we’d rather Senator Obama.

Take Rev. Juan Ramon de la Paz, dean of the Holy Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Havana, who told the network: “Who here supports George Bush? Not many. Bush tightened the embargo. He cut us off from our families.”

What NBC failed to say was that Rev de la Paz is no ordinary Cuban and certainty not an independent observer.

In fact, he is a well known supporter of the Castro brothers - the same man who organised a meeting a couple of years ago to pray for Fidel Castro’s speedy recovery, comparing the semi-retired dictator to a “prophet”, a “friend” and “like a father worried about his large family”.


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