The Association of Latin American States (LASA in Spanish), celebrated almost forty years of forging closer academic ties between Cuba and the U.S. and its fiftieth anniversary at the end of May in New York.
It was in Houston back in 1977, in the heart of the largest professional organization in the world with some 12,000 members, that professors from both nations first shared opinions and ideas about Cuban and regional realities.
The XXXIV LASA Congress, held in The New York Hilton Midtown Hotel between May 27 and 30, included an unedited pisode of the now traditional date for academics from the United States, Cuba and Latin America about the state of diplomatic relations between Havana and Washington following a more than 50 year freeze.
This is why various sessions were dedicated to the Cuba Section (the Association’s largest) the analysis of bilateral ties, their impact on the continent and their short, medium and long term perspectives.
Professor Lisandro Pérez of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice told the Havana Reporter that 97 panels had dealt with Cuba related topics.
He expressed his view that during the congress there had been worthwhile and profound debates on subjects as diverse as relations with the U.S., youth, religion, the current economic situation, the empowerment of women, agriculture, tourism, television, literature, theater, employment, migration and the private sector.
The professor of Cuban origin said that “it would difficult to summarize the full range of activities, but what matters is that we conversed and paved the way for future discussions in the context of this bridge”.
According to Perez, the reestablishment of diplomatic ties in July 2015 leaves North American and Cuban academics in a good position to further promote ties that, thanks to LASA, go back a long way.
RECORD NUMBER OF CUBAN DELEGATES
The other co-president of the Cuba Section, Milagros Martínez, a researcher at the University of Havana emphasized that, even though Washington had denied almost 50 of the visas sought, 250 delegates from the Island traveled to the New York Congress, a figure unprecedented in the previous 33 encounters.
Martínez agreed that the consolidation of the academic bridge looks promising following the December 17 2014 announcement by presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama of their decision to move towards the normalization of relations.
In an evaluation given to The Havana Reporter, the veteran of the 1977 Congress described debates on the subject of Cuba, both within the country and abroad, as intense because of the updating of the economic model, the Latin American context and the resumption of ties to the U.S.
One of the events at the XXXIV LASA Congress that generated most interest was the participation of Josefina Vidal, Director General for the United States at the Cuban Foreign Ministry and Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Charge de Affairs at the North American Embassy in Havana, in a session dedicated to the progress of bilateral relations.
The diplomats reiterated the willingness of government to seek a normalization of ties in spite of their differences and the long and complex path to overcome.
Vidal highlighted agreements reached in areas such as civil aviation and postal services and the intention of both sides to reach further agreements in the coming months on, amongst other issues, health, the fight against drugs, search and rescue, meteorology and the monitoring of sismic activity.
She nevertheless reiterated the obstacle that the more than fifty year old -- and still in effect -- Blockade imposed on Cuba and the ongoing implementation of obsolete policies represented, a reference to the incentivization of illegal migration and subversion promoting TV and radio broadcasts.
Both Vidal and DeLaurentis highlighted Obama’s visit to Havana in March and his meetings with the Cuban leader, Raul Castro.
The US diplomat expressed the expectation of his government that Obama’s use of executive powers would allow the rapproachement to progress.
DeLaurentis gave an assurance that the White House wanted to lift the Blockade but was linhibited by the short time left until the present administration left in January 2017.Share on FB Share on TT