Negotiations to bring top Cuban scholars to study at the Center for International Affairs (CFIA) have broken down after two years of delays and "inertia" from the Cuban government, Jorge I. Dominguez, professor of Government, said yesterday.
Dominguez said he has been trying for two years to bring one scholar, a former Cuban ambassador to Vietnam and the People's Republic of China, to the CFIA. But after long delays, he said, the scholar turned down the invitation, saying professional commitments prevented him from leaving Cuba.
Officials at the Cuban interest section of the Czechoslovakian Embassy in Washington yesterday identified the scholar--whom Dominguez called "perfect, just ideal" for a CFIA fellowship--as Pino Santos, author of numerous books and currently an advisor to the Cuban government on political economics and international affairs and the head of a research institute in Havana.
Dominguez said he was never told what Santo's specific commitments were, but that they "didn't seem to cover that long a period of time." He said the invitation was open continually for two years, but the Cuban government never suggested making another appointment.
After Santo's refusal, the CFIA extended the same invitation to include any interested Cuban scholar, but the government expressed no interest and the grant funding the proposed fellowship expired on Dec. 31, 1980, Dominguez said.
"I figured that if they wouldn't accept that, we might as well give up," he said, describing the grant as paying all expenses "from the moment the scholar got on the plane in Havana International Airport till the moment he returned there."
He said he will probably not continue actively trying to promote visits from Cubans, although the CFIA will maintain standing invitations to the University of Havana and the Cuban National Academy of Sciences.
He also speculated that relations with Cuba may worsen under the Reagan administration, making any academic exchange even more difficult.
Cuba has no policy against letting scholars visit the United States, Cuban and U.S. officials in Washington said this week, adding that visits of a week or less for speeches or conferences are common. Some institutions, among them the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, have ongoing programs for the exchange of groups of researchers.
But a Cuban interest section official involved with academic exchanges noted the Cuban government places heavy emphasis on contact in scientific and technical fields that will be valuable for Cuba's economic development, rather than the social sciences, Santos' area. Since opportunities for contact are limited, once Dominguez made the invitation general it probably went to the bottom of the government's priority list, he added.
Dominguez, a consultant to both the U.S. and Cuban governments, called the breakdown in negotiations frustrating, since invitations such as the CFIA's "aren't costing the Cuban government anything." Other Cuban scholars invited by the CFIA, including several officials in the Cuban Foreign Ministry, have apparently wanted to accept the fellowships, since "it's much easier to study the U.S. here than long-distance," he added.
He said he detects no "sense of malice" from the Cuban government, but senses instead that it cannot decide on its policy towards American universities. Cuban interest section officials stressed that some sort of exchange in the social sciences is still not out of the question if the CFIA and Cuba can find a program of mutual interest.
They said Johns Hopkins College in Maryland and American University in Washington have been making similar attempts to promote some sort of exchange in the social sciences, but have had no better luck
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