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LASA 2003
Latin American Studies Association
Dallas, Texas

Over 100 scholars were due to attend, with some interesting contributions on AfroCuban culture and society. The Bush Administration's War on Culture has whittled this down to 4 or 5.


Cuban Scholars Blocked From Attending Scholarly Meeting in Dallas, 3/5/03

The Chronicle of Higher Education
Wednesday, March 5, 2003 


When the Latin American Studies Association holds its next International Congress in Dallas this month, one group will be absent: almost all of the 103 Cuban scholars who had registered to attend, including 40 invited to present papers. With only three weeks to go before the once-in-18-months gathering, scheduled for March 27 to 29, only four or five of the Cubans have received an entry visa from the United States.

This contrasts with previous congresses, when almost all Cuban scholars applying for a visa to attend the gathering received one. The group is the largest professional association of individuals and institutions engaged in the study of Latin America. Four thousand scholars are expected in Dallas this month, about 40 percent of them from outside the United States.

Arturo Arias, director of Latin American Studies at the University of Redlands, in California, and president of the Latin American Studies Association, said that he and many colleagues think the situation reflects a desire by the Bush administration to prevent dialogue between Cuban and American scholars. Visa denials "are being interpreted as ploys to deter academic exchanges," he wrote in an e-mail message.

Four of the 103 Cuban scholars planning to attend the congress have had their visa applications rejected, apparently under a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act that allows the president to ban the entry into the United States of any foreigners whose presence "would be detrimental to the interests of the United States."

The rest of the Cubans have been left waiting without any response to their visa requests. Some of the Cuban scholars have been required to undergo fingerprinting, and to pay an additional $85 fee for that purpose. Their American colleagues complain the fee is onerous, since Cuban faculty members earn, on average, the equivalent of about $200 a month.

Kelly Shannon, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs, denied that there was any new policy intended to keep out Cubans. The State Department will not comment on individual cases. But Ms. Shannon said that under the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Reform Act, which came into effect last summer, visa applicants from Cuba and six other countries designated as "state sponsors of terrorism" must undergo security checks by "federal U.S. law-enforcement and intelligence agencies and any other interested agencies."

The authorities are under no obligation to either accept or reject a visa request within any time limit, Ms. Shannon added.

The David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, at Harvard University, invited six Cuban scholars to visit Harvard after attending the Latin American Studies Association's meeting. But as of Tuesday, only one of them had received a visa. "It's very difficult to organize meetings and events when we don't know when the scholar is coming" said Lorena Barberia, director of the Rockefeller Center's Cuba program. "And when you make arrangements at the last moment, costs go up."

Most of the Latin American studies congresses have taken place in the United States. But Eloise Linger, a faculty member at the State University of New York at Old Westbury and a co-chairwoman of the association's section for scholarly relations with Cuba, said that continuing to meet in the United States may no longer be desirable if Cuban scholars are going to be kept out.

"If the academic integrity of our conference is threatened by bureaucratic inabilities to process visas, or by political hostility, then we should just have the conference in another country where we are all welcome."


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