Infiltration of American academic group by Cuban spies denounced
The U.S. decision to deny visas to three Cubans invited to an academic conference has sparked a surprising protest not only against Washington, but against three pro-Castro American academics who supposedly control the conference’s Cuba agenda and the spies from Havana who will be attending.
The influence Cuba has over the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) has been rumored among American academics for a long time. Few, however, have publicly complained, fearing that Havana would prohibit them from entering Cuba and deny them access to investigative materials.
But now the complaints have gone public.
“The Cuba department of LASA has fallen into the hands of supporters of the revolution and has been completely politicized,” said Ted Henken, professor of Latin American Studies at Baruch College in New York.
“Those of us in LASA also know that there are ‘cops’ within the Cuban ‘delegation’ just like you would see at Coppelia on a Saturday night,” said Haroldo Dilla, a Cuban socialogist alluding to the famous ice cream shop in Havana.
Evelyne Huber, president of LASA, said that the Cuba department “is open to all members of LASA, and LASA itself is open to all researchers and other professionals interested in Latin America. No one is excluded from membership based on their political opinions.”
The association’s meetings are also open to all who register, added Huber, who is the director of the University of North Carolina’s Political Science department. The LASA website states that it has more than 7,000 members throughout the world.
The remarks by Henken and Dilla were provoked by reports that the U.S. Department of State has, for now at least, denied visas to three Cubans invited to attend the LASA annual conference that runs from May 29 to June 1 in Washington.
They have been identified as Elaine Diaz Rodriguez, a reporter for Granma and professor at the University of Havana, and bloggers Isbel Diaz Torres and Dimitri Prieto Sansonov.
Dilla wrote in a column published on April 15th in Diario de Cuba that the trio should be allowed to participate in the LASA conference since they have already “been known for their critical positions against certain aspects of the Cuban reality.”
Henken, who is a member of LASA and who also leads the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE), alleged that the denial of visas were “a lost opportunity for the U.S. to listen to hear critical and authentic voices from inside Cuba.”
Nevertheless, although academic liberty and exchanges are always desirable, both men alleged that the academic relations between the U.S. and Cuba are clouded because of the lack of reciprocity or for reasons that may be worse.
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