Friday, August 28, 2009

Stuck on stupid

In 2002, President Bush offered scholarships for “Cuban students and professionals who try to build independent civil institutions in Cuba, and scholarships for family members of political prisoners.” The Cuban government apparently saw it as an effort to train the next generation of its political opposition, and it didn’t go very far.

In the final months of the Bush Administration, the State Department made the smart move of removing the political criteria and offering scholarships just as we would in any other country. (In January, I wrote about this here.)

It hasn’t worked.

Wilfredo Cancio reports in El Nuevo Herald that 28 students were selected, but the Cuban government denied them permission to travel to the United States. The Cuban government said that while these students won’t be allowed to go, it may allow others to participate in the future, according to a State Department source cited in the article.

State Department spokeswoman Sara Mangiaracina says the scholarships will continue to be offered to Cubans. Whether Cubans will continue to apply on the hope that their government will change its mind, is another matter.

One can’t help but recall Cuban protests about the Bush Administration’s interference in academic freedom when it denied Cuban scholars visas to attend conferences of the Latin American Studies Association in 2004 and 2006.

It took six years for the Bush Administration to move off its dumb position with regard to this scholarship program. Let’s hope it takes the Cuban government much less time to move off its own.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is very shameful that the Cuban government still violates intellectual freedom and is afraid that the new generation comes into contact with the developed world. However, I would like to highlight that the political criteria has not been removed completely from the scholarships. For example, during the course of the interview students were asked about the future actions that they would take to spur democracy in the island; and things such as forming anti- communist political parties were implied. I consider such questions to be manipulative and unfair because it is nearly impossible for young people to make a Revolution against Castro. This generation does not possess the means to do it. They do not have access to any kind of information, not even internet. In addition, most students were afraid to answer such compromising questions. Students were afraid of spies and even more afraid of being expulsed from school if this information got revealed by any chance. Moreover, those students that were honest and said that they did not think they could do much after coming back were simply not chosen to participate in this program. Once again, I think it is a flaw of the program to ask questions such as the student ‘s political affiliations. According to my knowledge, it is an academic exchange program and whatever ideology students possess should not matter. Even Communist students should be invited, so that they can experience by themselves what the U.S really is. We , as a democratic nation should make this program more academically oriented and less politically biased. Thus, Castro‘s regime will be left with no excuses, showing to the world and to its own people how oppressive it is.