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Cablegate: Goc Rejects Official Exchanges;Scholarship Program

VZCZCXYZ0006
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHUB #0085/01 0411647
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 101647Z FEB 10 ZFF4
FM USINT HAVANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5182
INFO RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS HAVANA 000085

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/CCA AND WHA/PD
STATE FOR DRL CNEWLING

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CU PHUM PREL
SUBJECT: GOC REJECTS OFFICIAL EXCHANGES;SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM
POSTPONED

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: During a January 15, 2010 meeting with
USINT representatives, Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Representatives emphatically declined to support USG-funded
exchange programs. USINT subsequently learned that students
and professors were being threatened by University of Havana
officials if any students applied for an Institute of
International Education (IIE) scholarship program supported
by the State Department. As a result, the IIE scholarship
program has been postponed and alternative distance learning
options are being explored. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) On January 15, 2010 the USINT COM, PAO, and
POL/ECON officer met with Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, Director,
and Eduardo Martinez Borbonet, Counselor, of the North
America Desk, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to discuss a wide
ranging agenda, including educational and cultural exchanges.
The PAO specifically raised a January 8, 2010 USINT
Diplomatic note informing the GOC, and inviting facilitation,
of an IIE scholarship program for 50 Cuban university level
students to study for one semester at the University of the
Americas, Puebla, Mexico, or at the Institute of Technology
at Monterrey, Mexico City Campus. The IIE scholarship
program receives State Department funding and was scheduled
to begin in July 2010. Citing the tighter restrictions
imposed in 2003 on Department of Treasury licensing
requirements for visiting American academics, students, and
cultural figures, and visa denials for Cuban academics and
cultural figures which she described as arbitrary and
offensive, Ms. Vidal categorically rejected the possibility
of GoC support of USG-funded exchange programs until these
restrictions are lifted.

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3. (SBU) On January 29, the PAO, DPAO, and PAS Media
Assistant met with university age Cubans interested in
applying for the IIE scholarship program. Several reported
that the University of Havana is administering warnings to
all students that they will be instantly expelled should they
even apply for the IIE scholarship program. Professors are
also reportedly being warned that they will face expulsion if
they support students, applications to the IIE program.

4. (SBU) Background: All Cubans must receive an exit
permit from the Cuban government to travel off the island.
Additionally, Cuban university students must obtain
permission from their university rector as part of the exit
permit application (and to be absent from their academic
program). Consequently, GOC and university approval is
essential for Cuban students to participate transparently in
a scholarship program abroad. The GoC,s refusal to support
USG-funded exchange programs, in this case the IIE program,
means scholarship winners will not be allowed to travel to
participate in the scholarship program.

5. (SBU) Comment: We believe the GOC warnings to the
students and professors are dead serious. Last year, some of
the Cuban students who were accepted to USG-funded
scholarship programs in the U.S. suffered harassment and loss
of academic standing, and in the end none received their exit
permits to participate in the scholarship program. Although
we fully informed the GOC about the IIE scholarship
opportunity and invited official facilitation, this gesture
of transparency and cooperation clearly did not change the
equation. The GOC remains hypersensitive about tighter
restrictions imposed in 2003 on Treasury Department licensing
and State Department visa requirements, and what it sees as
interference in its control over the education of Cuba,s
youth. It is steadfast in its refusal to discuss or engage
in progressive steps to achieve greater educational exchange
flexibility in the near term. We believe we should continue
to seek expanded dialogue and common ground with the GoC on
education and cultural exchange issues, and that we should
continue to support educational and professional exchange and
learning opportunities for Cuban students and other Cuban
contacts. At this moment in the relationship, however, it is
clear that off-island scholarship opportunities are not
feasible.

6. (SBU) Next Steps: Given the real and serious risks
posed to students and professors related to the IIE
scholarship program, IIE has put the scholarship program on
hold. We recommend that IIE explore converting the
scholarship program to a distance learning program that can
be offered through USINT,s new Distance Learning Center. If
the current climate shifts positively, and before the program
funding expires, we recommend that IIE revisit the concept of
an off-island scholarship opportunity. Although the program

concept is excellent, the current climate is not. In the
meantime, post will prepare a response to February 8 GOC
dipnote conveying complaints that our Distance Learning
Center violates the Vienna Convention of 1961. FARRAR

.FARRAR

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