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Harvard signed a memorandum of understanding with the Cuban Ministry of Higher Education Saturday to strengthen collaboration amid tense relations between the United States and Cuba under the Trump administration.
The memorandum is a formal document that promotes research partnerships through joint publications, academic conferences, and post-graduate training programs. Part of the agreement also encourages Cuban students to apply for admission to Harvard.
University Vice Provost for International Affairs Mark C. Elliott and Aurora Fernández, Cuba’s vice minister of higher education, officially signed the memorandum together in Havana last weekend. Several other Harvard representatives traveled with Elliott to Cuba for a ceremony held around the signing.
The new agreement comes after the White House announced additional sanctions on Cuban businesses and restrictions on travel to the country last month. Since President Donald Trump took office, his administration has moved to reverse Obama-era policies intended to normalize relations with Cuba. The Obama administration restored diplomatic relations with Cuba in 2014, which had been severed in 1961 during the Cold War.
After the Trump administration's announcement, Harvard administrators affirmed the University would continue to support students conducting academic research in Cuba so long as they obtain the proper paperwork.
Erin E. Goodman, associate director of academic programs at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, said the new memorandum signals the University’s “continued commitment to welcoming Cubans to Harvard as visiting scholars and as regular students.”
According to Elliott, the renewed ties with Cuba resemble those established in a similar agreement in 2006 between Harvard and the University of Havana.
Harvard currently maintains close connections with its partner institutions in Cuba through the Rockefeller Center, which runs the Cuba Studies Program. Founded in 1999, the program facilitates scholarly exchanges and holds academic workshops, among various other activities.
The Rockefeller Center also coordinates semester-long study-abroad programs at the University of Havana every fall semester. Goodman said the center will continue to serve as the point of contact at Harvard for projects related to Cuba.
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