During KSU’s Spring Break, a group of “Alumni & Friends” of the Conflict Management graduate program traveled to Cuba to learn more about the evolving trade and diplomatic relationships between Cuba and the US. The Conflict Management Master’s program first took students to Cuba in November of 2012. On that trip, KSU students and faculty watched the US election results come in on TV, alongside Cubans cheering for President Obama. Much has changed since then, but the Cubans still follow US politics quite closely, as incomes from the tourism industry there swings up or down depending upon US party politics. Recent decisions by the Trump administration have resulted in huge reductions in the number of American tourists traveling to Cuba, with negative results for the nascent private sector restaurants and bed-and-breakfast businesses.
Last week, a group of KSU faculty, alumni and students visited the recently reopened US Embassy; met with Cuban lawyers, artists and business people; visited a Catholic church and Jewish synagogue, and even met with the staff of the Havana Martin Luther King Center. They learned about the history of US-Cuban relations, which has been fraught with challenges going back to the Cold War.
Change is in the balmy air of Cuba as the country transitions this month to a leader without the name of Castro for the first time since 1959. Over the past few years, Cuba has been introducing capitalistic reforms such as the freedom to own real estate, access cell phones and the internet, and travel outside of the country---all rights that Cubans lacked for decades. Cuba is an ideal environment for trade as well as educational and cultural exchanges as soon as the US Embargo is lifted. Located only 90 miles south of Florida, Cuba has one of the best systems of higher education and healthcare care in Latin America, without the drug trade that has ravaged the economies and societies of many of its neighbors. Under President Obama, the embargo was loosened, bringing new opportunities for trade and travel. While President Trump has tightened the embargo, the general trend is in the direction of closer relationships. Most experts on US-Cuban relations believe it is only a matter of time until the embargo is lifted entirely.
The School of Conflict Management, Peacebuliding and Development at KSU is working to ensure that its graduates and the Atlanta business community are poised to reap the benefits that will occur with the eventual normalization of trading and diplomatic relations. Toward that end, they hope to bring one or more Cuban attorneys and educators to Kennesaw to speak about the evolving US-Cuban relationship and projects of joint interest. Stay tuned for more developments, as the School of Conflict Management, Peacebuilding & Development builds a bridge of understanding and cooperation between the US and Cuba.
Posted: April 10, 2018