PL: Academic Diplomacy, another element of the Cuba-US conflict
- Academic Diplomacy, another element of the Cuba-US conflict
By Miguel Lozano*
Washington (PL) As the ping-pong diplomacy, which brought China and the U.S. closer, Cuban and American experts hope today that their "academic diplomacy" initiate a dialogue between the two parties involved in a conflict of more than half a century.
To do this, for four years they have been devoted to find a consensus of areas in which Washington and Havana can begin to talk, despite mutual distrust.
This exercise was called Cuba United States Academic Workshops (TACE, by its Spanish acronym) and presented in Washington at the XXXI Congress of the American Studies Association (LASA), which was held from May 29 to June 1.
The Regional Coordinator of Economic and Social Research (Cries) acted as a facilitator to achieve a result that its president, Andrew Serbín, highlights for the consistency of the recommendations.
In an interview with Prensa Latina, Serbín stressed that one of the first aspects of the proposal is having reached specific points with the consent of both parties, and after a long period of estrangement necessary bridges in terms of improving relations were created.
This, in his opinion, creates conditions to make that much of what is done in the hemisphere to improve relations between the two countries, can progress.
At the same time, he admits that in the American political system negotiations become extremely complicated, even though the outlook is positive due to certain economic actions taken without consulting Congress.
Among them, he refers to the flexibility of sending remittances to family and traveling for Cubans and Americans, as well as the sale of food, which even with restrictions put in doubt the blockade, he says.
Philip Brenner, from American University, said that the spirit of TACE is to help initiate a process of removing distrust, and therefore they will send proposals to U.S. and Cuban officials.
In statements to Prensa Latina, Brenner considered the most important of TACE is having maintained continuity over four years with the participation of senior officers and advisers of President of the United States.
He said that those Americans were able to meet with former officials and Cuban academics to find the roots of the problem and search ways to deal with distrust, exacerbated by the long history of U.S. aggression against the revolution in Cuba.
About the space for such initiatives in the administration of Barack Obama, he said that there are chances of taking small steps, though unfortunately the president has not shown much interest in Latin America.
If the Obama administration really paid attention to Latin America and understood that Cuba is a very important symbol for the region, there would be great potential to advance, he said.
In turn, the Cuban former diplomat Carlos Alzugaray, another participant of TACE, said that improving relations is inevitable, because the current U.S. policy is a failure.
We have chosen very specific issues but in all we have agreements, and if there is agreement among scholars that have been diplomats, they may be present between the two governments, he said.
Obama, he added, has all the conditions to take a step: he won election, he does not have to go for re-election, he proved that you can win with no extreme positions, without being either what one would hope, even with these positions you can win an election in Florida.
In total there were 25 proposals published in the book Opportunity for Cuba-US Relations in the fields of Scientific-technical and cultural academic collaboration; Freedom to travel; International Trade and Development, Terrorism and Security, and Environment.
Two Cuban participants, Milagros Martinez and Rafael Hernandez, were absent from the presentation for having been denied a visa by U.S. authorities along with a dozen other scholars of the island, which shows that context of mistrust and hostility.
One of the points suggests "that the United States government removes Cuba from the list of state sponsoring terrorism, for inclusion in this list is a hindrance to cooperation between the two countries in the fight against terrorism."
Also the high official exchange, mutual recognition of the proposals to improve safety, talks for agreements against terrorism and drugs, and a review of the sentences of those convicted of crimes committed in the name of the other country.
For academic collaboration, they propose to improve processes for visas grants, immigration policy adjustments, promoting personalities meetings and disposal by the United States of restrictions on the acquisition of research equipment for civilian use.
Likewise, simplifying paperwork for travel, eliminating penalties to commercial banks and companies linked to the right to travel, facilitating mutual insurance and medical care, monitoring the practices of operators, eliminating limits on American travel expenses and the prohibition for using credit cards.
They ask Washington to recognize the economic changes in Cuba, and Havana to continue this process, to modify regulations forcing to buy food and medicine prior payment, not to hinder remittances and to analyze Cuba's re-entry into international financial organizations.
On environment, they propose to eliminate technology transfer bans for disaster risk mitigation, to foster cooperation between local governments and NGOs, to talk for facing disasters, to make joint plans for earthquake and to agree fishing protocols.
Completed this academic exercise, they need to send the 25 proposals to the two governments, with which scholars seek to create opportunities to replace mistrust and hostility separating the two countries for more than half a century.
* Vice President for Information of Prensa Latina News Agency. Special Envoy to the Congress of the American Studies Association (LASA).
"Cuba - Un Paraíso bajo el bloqueo"