Friday, May 18, 2012

Cubans and LASA

The State Department is allowing Mariela Castro to visit the U.S., in part to attend the Latin American Studies Association conference next week. The bizarre thing is that other, less controversial, Cubans were not allowed to attend.

A copy of one visa denial letter, issued last week and obtained by The Washington Post, stated that Soraya Castro Marino, who directs a study institute in Havana and was a visiting scholar at Harvard in 2010, was found ineligible this time because her presence would be “detrimental to the interests of the United States.” All rejected applicants reportedly received the same letter.

This is flat out dumb. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, any of these Cubans can do that is detrimental to the interests of the United States. This has been a bone of contention for years with LASA, and for a while even prompted the organization to meet outside the U.S. in protest (which over time became an untenable decision). It doesn't make any sense at all.

They will come and speak their minds; much of that will have nothing to do with Cuban politics and will focus instead on their own research. This is called free speech, which is not present in Cuba. Why in the world would the U.S. want to censor Cubans while condemning censorship in Cuba?

Even if they do talk about Cuban politics, as indeed Castro will, then we can all listen and make up our own minds. There will be plenty of contrary opinions published everywhere. Again, this is called free speech.

Finally, this decision to allow some and reject others highlights the completely arbitrary nature of this policy. The Obama administration does not seem even to bother trying to follow any coherent logic.

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