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Miami's Cuban-Americans Are Wary of Eased Cuban Policies

By Sue Anne Pressley
The Washington Post

For the many Cuban-Americans here who view any easing of U.S. restraints against Cuba as a triumph for President Fidel Castro, the Clinton administration's announcement Tuesday to allow more U.S. travel and cash into Cuba was a reason to breathe easier: At least, they said, President Clinton stopped short of naming a formal commission to review overall policy toward the communist government.

Hard-liners had feared that such a commission would threaten strict trade embargoes the United States has had in place against Cuba for 36 years. For that reason, they fought hard to discourage the administration from embarking on any reevaluation, despite support for the idea from 24 senators from both parties and some Cuban-Americans outside the generally conservative Miami exile organizations.

"The hard-liners have been able to shoot the commission out of the water," said Max Castro, a senior research associate at the North-South Center at the University of Miami, who is no relation to the Cuban leader. "The commission symbolized the prospect of big, big changes."

Hard-liners still fear that any additional money flowing into the island will only benefit Castro and his government. But as always, reactions here in the nation's largest, most active and vociferous Cuban-American community were suspicious, divided and hotly debated as residents tried to decipher what the changes really mean and who in the homeland will benefit the most.

"I think this is a little bit for everybody, a carrot for everybody," said Jaime Suchlicki, a professor of international relations at the University of Miami.

"For the hard-liners, it means no commission and more money for TV Marti and Radio Marti," the U.S.-funded stations beaming to Cuba, he said. "For the Cuban-Americans, it means more travel to Cuba and more money to Cuba. It may encourage more independence for economic groups. But it's not going to bring about any political changes, because Castro is not willing to provide any political changes."