Cuban Professor Sounds off on Relations with U.S. A Failed, 47-Year-Old Policy of Isolationism Has Made Us Look Irrational and Hypocritical

By Weathersbee, Tonyaa | The Florida Times Union, June 23, 2008 | Go to article overview

Cuban Professor Sounds off on Relations with U.S. A Failed, 47-Year-Old Policy of Isolationism Has Made Us Look Irrational and Hypocritical


Weathersbee, Tonyaa, The Florida Times Union


Byline: Tonyaa Weathersbee

HAVANA -- For awhile now, Showtime has been featuring a short special titled: Ask an Iraqi. In it, a young Iraqi man sets up a booth in various spots in the United States and invites Americans to ask him about the Iraq War.

Unfortunately, he winds up wasting his breath on people who'd still rather munch on the ideological junk food offered up by the administration of President Bush than the nourishment of truth; the main truth being that living in freedom means nothing if you can't live at all.

But at least the Iraqi man was allowed into the United States. Cubans like Orestes Fonseca, a foreign language professor who I befriended during my annual journalists' trip to Cuba with the Institute of Advanced Journalism Studies at North Carolina A&T State University.

The U.S. government routinely denies visas to Cuban academicians like him and my friend, Caribbean history professor Digna Casteneda, to partake in learning conferences in the United States and its territories.

Fonseca was told that his visa was denied because he worked for the Cuban government.

That's silly. As is the embargo and the travel ban. A failed, 47-year-old policy of isolationism has made us look irrational and hypocritical. It hasn't force Cuba to change its government to our liking.

But since it is difficult for Cubans like Fonseca to come to the United States without defecting, and since most Americans can't visit Cuba legally, I decided to do what I call "Talk to a Cuban" with Fonseca -- to make up for the people-to-people contact that our protracted Cold War has denied us.

Here's a word about Fonseca. He isn't a member of the Cuban Communist Party. He's a professor who would like to trade his knowledge about techniques of teaching English with U.S. language specialists.

He wants to visit his daughter, who was smuggled into Miami on a speedboat five years ago.

Here's what he told me:

On America: "It is a powerful, beautiful country. I love your music. I listen to American radio stations from the '60s. …

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