Release Date: December 22, 2014
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Stephen Dunnett, PhD, vice provost for international education at the University at Buffalo, says President Barack Obama’s move to normalize relations with Cuba is unexpected and stunning.
Dunnett helped establish a student and faculty exchange program with the University of Havana (UH) in 1998 and a joint master’s degree program in Caribbean studies with UH in 2000. At that time, UB was the only American university to have a joint program in Cuba. The program remains popular and has been expanded to include Latin American and Latino studies.
Dunnett is a major figure in the field of international education, and has written and presented papers on institutions of higher education as active and essential players in U.S. public diplomacy.
“I am stunned to hear of the president’s decision to normalize our relationship with Cuba. I had expected some easing of travel and remittances, that sort of thing, but never full diplomatic relations. I guess President Obama is thinking about his legacy or his place in history and I admire his courage in taking this action.
“It makes eminent sense to do this since the U.S. has found itself on the wrong side of history in its relations with Cuba. In fact, our regressive Cuban policy has affected all of our relations in Latin America. Unless we lift the trade embargo, however, diplomatic relations won’t have a lot of meaning for the Cuban people or for Americans who would like to trade and engage with Cuba for that matter.
“You can’t have normalized relations with a country that you are subjecting to one of the most stringent and harsh trade embargos known in modern times. It is virtually a blockade, which is actually the word the Cubans use for our trade embargo. Unfortunately, lifting the trade embargo requires congressional action so I am not so optimistic about that happening any time soon, but who knows? Of course if the trade embargo is indeed lifted I don’t think the current regime in Cuba would endure for very long.”
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