Sunday, May 19, 2019

Threat to University Programs in Cuba

On the agenda of the upcoming NAFSA and LASA conventions should be discussion of the danger of renewed restrictions on travel to Cuba.  If National Security Adviser John Bolton is to be taken seriously, drastic steps are on the horizon to eliminate all forms of travel long denounced by his Western Hemisphere director Mauricio Claver-Carone as "veiled tourism".

Presumably safe, if policy returns only to the Bush era, are semester long academic programs.  However the cumbersome and costly process to obtain specific licenses from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) could be reimposed.  More vulnerable are the short-term faculty led introductory or special interest visits currently conducted under the general license for people to people educational travel.  This is the same category used by virtually all escorted tour groups, a prime target during the Obama administration of Claver-Carone.  We hope that participation in professional conferences and trips for research purposes will not be affected, but restored regulatory requirements could affect both individual scholars and their institutions.

Like earlier Administration threats, Bolton's speech could come to almost nothing.  Based on economic self-interest, cruise companies and airlines presumably are using their considerable lobbying power in Washington to push back, although so far they have not sought to mobilize the more than one million Americans they have carried to Cuba.  As importantly, President Trump is reported to be increasingly disenchanted with Bolton's hard line and the risk of overt conflict with Iran and Venezuela/Cuba as well as North Korea.  A petition responding to Bolton is here

We are interested in knowing the thoughts of academic exchange specialists and their institutions as well as the impact on next year's schedule.  Public comments can be posted below.  Private or longer comments can be sent to

Thinking optimistically, Cuba's 12th International Congress of Higher Education, Universidad 2020, has been scheduled for Havana February 10-14.  It offers an unequaled opportunity to meet people from the nationwide system of Cuban higher education.  IIE has sponsored a booth in the past as has our organization, the Fund for Reconciliation and Development.  Details here

Exchange specialists are welcome to join our July 20-28 program that will introduce the potential of Santiago and Guantanamo for faculty led trips focused on a special cultural event (Carnival), US-Cuba history, and current policy (the base).  Informal meetings with staff from the Universities of Santiago and Guantanamo are included.  Cost will be under $2000 plus air for participants using a casa particular (bed and breakfast), about $500 more for a hotel.  Information here

No comments:

Post a Comment