The denial of visas to many Cuban scholars, we wish to emphasize, also violates the freedoms of the U.S. citizens who are our members and who participate in our Congresses.
The Latin American Studies Association is urging the U.S. State Department to grant visas to Cuban scholars to attend the group’s annual conference, to be held next month in Washington. In a letter to the secretary of state, John Kerry, the association’s current leaders, and some 20 of its past presidents, said approving the visas was a matter of academic freedom.
In the past, the U.S. government has turned down visa applications from Cuban scholars. As a result, for several years the group, known as LASA, held its yearly meeting outside the United States. After President Obama loosened restrictions on academic contact with Cuba, the association last year moved its conference back to the United States, but a number of Cuban participants were still denied visas.
So far this year, five visas have been denied and two approved, according to Milagros Pereyra, LASA’s executive director. Although the Obama administration has called for greater connections with Cuba, it has sometimes been slow to enact change. For instance, it took more than a year after the president lifted an embargo on academic travel to Cuba for the first independent study-abroad provider to receive permission to take American students to the Communist nation.