The Obama Administration's Cuba policy will get some high-level scrutiny at Boston University on Friday, from leading political players as well as prominent academics. The timing is excellent: policy makers are debating whether to lift the US ban on travel to Cuba and whether to ease the trade embargo.
Senator John Kerry, chairman of the influential Foreign Relations Committee, will deliver an opening address, followed by Massachusetts Congressman Bill Delahunt, who has a longstanding involvement with Latin American issues through his seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The event, open to the public but with limited seating, runs from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the Trustees Ballroom, 9th Floor, 1 Silber Way (formerly 1 Sherborn Street) in Boston. More details are at the site of the co-sponsoring Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer Range Future.
Congress is considering legislation to lift the 46-year-old travel ban. Growing numbers of Cuban-Americans, who had long supported it, now favor lifting the measure, thinking that more American travel to Cuba would help persuade the country to embrace change. But the Cuban-American delegation in Congress still supports the ban as necessary to isolate Cuba and pressure it to embrace reforms. There appears to be less support to lift the economic embargo, but its usefulness is also being debated intensely.
Delahunt introduced the House bill to lift the US travel ban to Cuba, noting that Americans have the right to travel to Vietnam, Iran and North Korea, but not to Cuba. He frames it more as a matter of freedom to travel than of US-Cuba relations. In September, Obama lifted restrictions on Cuban-Americans traveling back to their native country, but other Americans still may not travel to Cuba.
Academics at the conference include Harvard Professor Jorge Dominguez, a Cuban-born expert in Latin American politics and economics who visited Cuba earlier this year. In a recent article in Harvard magazine, Dominguez offers vivid impressions of the changes in Cuba since Raul Castro succeeded his brother Fidel as president in February 2008.
The conference will be cochaired by BU Professor Paul Hare, a former British diplomat who was ambassador to Cuba from 2001 to 2004, and BU Professor Susan Eckstein, who has written extensively on Cuba.
About this blog
About James F. SmithJim Smith came home to his native Boston in 2002 to become the Boston Globe's foreign editor after spending 22 years abroad. He was previously based in Buenos Aires and Mexico City for the LA Times, and in Johannesburg, Tokyo and The Hague for the AP. In 2007 he became the Globe's national political editor, coordinating presidential campaign coverage. He is a Yale graduate, and has an MBA. He is married to Maxine Hart and has two sons, Matthew and Daniel.
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