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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08HAVANA488 2008-06-25 14:06:00 CONFIDENTIAL US Interests Section Havana
Cable title:  

SOCIOECONOMIC SURVEY OF USINT APPLICANTS

Tags:   ECON PGOV PINR PREL CU 
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1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Post conducted an informal socioeconomic
survey of USINT applicants for visa and refugee status during
the first five months of 2008. The sample was composed of
1,320 Cubans, one-third of whom completed the survey before
the February 24 handover of power to Raul Castro and
two-thirds after that date. Although this survey is not
statistically significant given the total population of Cuba
and other parameters that are unavoidably biased, analysis of
the results nevertheless provides interesting information
about the many Cubans who have contact with USINT, and their
opinions about economic conditions and attitudes towards the
current regime. End Summary.



2. (SBU) Of the total number of respondents, about 30% were
applicants seeking refugee status, while the remainder were
applying for immigrant or non-immigrant visas, or one of
several parole programs that exist for Cuban nationals.
Analysis of the survey results sought to compare and contrast
the responses of each group -- hereinafter, Refugee and
Consular -- in order to draw conclusions about the
differences in each group's overall economic condition and
views toward the GOC. In addition, an effort was made to
distinguish variations between two periods: before and after
the February 24 handover of power -- pre- or post-Raul
Castro.



3. (SBU) The majority of survey respondents in both periods
were in the 35-60 age group. Roughly half of the Consular
respondents were from Havana, whereas only a third of Refugee
respondents were from Havana. The rest came from other
provinces. Slightly more than 25% of Refugee respondents
were unemployed vs. only 7% of Consular. While this is a
potentially important difference, it is important to note
that one of the criteria for qualifying as a refugee is the
inability to find gainful employment.



4. (SBU) More Refugee respondents were self-employed (20%)
than Consular (11%). Roughly between 15-25% of respondents
worked for state companies.



5. (SBU) Overwhelmingly, more Consular respondents received
remittances by a factor slightly greater than 2 to 1. Given
that the majority of Consular respondents have at least one
family member in the U.S., it would make sense that a greater
number report receiving remittances.



6. (SBU) Of those who receive remittances, Consular
respondents reported receiving greater quantities than
Refugee respondents. 53% of Consular respondents received
more than USD 50 per month vs. only 21% of Refugee
respondents. Most Refugee respondents (79%) received under
USD 50. Only 5% of Consular and 4% of the Refugee
respondents received more than USD 100 per month.



7. (SBU) In both categories and during both periods, more
than 80% of the survey sample declared that current salaries
and/or pensions are not sufficient to cover basic needs.
Refugee respondents declared this to be true in slightly
greater proportions (96% vs 89%). This slight difference
could be explained by the greater number of Consular
respondents who reported receiving remittance income, which
could make them feel like they have enough money to cover
basic needs, even if it is not actually coming from their
state salaries.



8. (SBU) While the discrepancy is more pronounced in the
second period than in the first, more Consular respondents
stated their main sources of income were salaries/pensions
(24% Consular vs. 14% Refugee) or remittances (50% Consular
vs. 23% Refugee). On average, more than half of Refugee
respondents reported their main source of income was
self-employment, which could involve activities ranging from
renting rooms to selling goods on the black market.



9. (SBU) Consular respondents reported spending 17% more
monthly of their national Cuban pesos (CUP) than their
Refugee counterparts. The difference in monthly expenditure
became more dramatic when respondents were asked their hard
currency (CUC) expenditures. Consular respondents spent

HAVANA 00000488 002 OF 002


between about 50% more CUC than Refugee respondents. In
contrast, two-thirds of Refugee respondents spent less than
50 CUC per month. This difference could be explained by the
fact that more Consular respondents reported receiving
remittances.



10. (SBU) For more than 90% of respondents in both
categories, including more than 99% of Refugee respondents,
the ration card does not cover basic needs. These results
clearly point in one direction and cannot be explained away
easily by the response bias mentioned above. Consular
respondents reported making complementary purchases at hard
currency (CUC) stores more than Refugee respondents (58% vs.
19%). More Refugee respondents, however, reported making
complementary purchases at agricultural (CUP) markets (70%
vs. 59%).



11. (SBU) The rate of vehicle ownership is low for both
categories, with Consular respondents reporting a slightly
higher rate of ownership (19% vs. 6%). The likely
explanation for a higher rate of vehicle ownership among
Consular respondents has to do with their ability to use
remittances and other sources of income that Refugee
respondents cannot access to purchase and maintain a vehicle.




12. (SBU) When asked for their opinions about the education
system, only 22% of Consular and 4% of Refugee respondents
stated that the system has improved. About 41% of Consular
and 33% of Refugee respondents answered that the system has
remained the same, and a total of 36% (Consular) and 62%
(Refugee) of respondents expressed the view that the system
has deteriorated.



13. (SBU) An even lower percentage of respondents --13% of
Consular and slightly over 1% of Refugee -- stated that the
medical system has improved. About 40% of Consular and 20%
of Refugee respondents answered that the medical system had
stayed the same, and nearly 48% of Consular and 77% of
Refugee respondents thought the medical system had
deteriorated.



14. (SBU) In response to a question regarding the overall
economic situation, the majority of respondents in both
categories stated that is has deteriorated (54% of Consular
and 82% of Refugee). Notably, only 0.2% of Refugee
respondents reported that the economic situation has
improved, whereas about 7% of Consular respondents thought
the situation has improved.



15. (SBU) Asked for their opinion on the impact of
government measures on the standard of living, the
overwhelming majority of respondents in both categories (75%
of Consular and over 99% of Refugee) thought living standards
in Cuba will not improve.



16. (SBU) Comment: There are several biases inherent in our
sample group that unavoidably skew any conclusions to the
point of rendering them statistically worthless. For example:
Almost every respondent is seeking to visit or emigrate to
the U.S.; some respondents who thought their survey results
might somehow be traced back to them may have provided
inaccurate information in order to not prejudice their
applications; likewise, in order to advantage their
applications, some respondents could have provided answers
they may have thought would "please" USINT staff.
Consequently, we should be cautious in making any
generalizations about the Cuban population based on this
sub-set. Nevertheless, this survey provides an educational
window into the makeup of USINT's biggest customer base, and
offers insights into the broader Cuban population.
PARMLY