A changing Cuba

Tommy Lopez

Contributing Writer

While the future of Cuba’s government may be unknown, the importance of U.S. influence should not be taken lightly, said a VCU student-led discussion Tuesday.

“Our relations with Cuba are not going to be repaired anytime soon,” said sophomore Brady Rall. “We’re always going to have this angst towards each other.”

The Honors College hosted a discussion at 701 West Grace Street in its “Great Decisions” series to analyze the current political and economic situation in Cuba and to look toward the next decade and beyond.

Great Decisions is an annual national discussion program produced by the Foreign Policy Association. According to the FPA Web site, many world leaders – including Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher and Bill Clinton – have spoken at these discussions.

Jeff Wing, the national scholarship coordinator for the Honors College, spoke with students about the importance of discourse over U.S.-Cuban relations.

“We need to be engaged in the dialogue about what the U.S. policy should be towards Cuba,” Wing said.

Some students and faculty said they agreed that Americans – young and old – are wondering why basic U.S. policy has not shifted much in 50 years.

“I think for the vast majority of Americans, we kind of shake our head and ask how the relations have stayed this way for so long,” Wing said.

Junior Sarah Riddick said she finds it hard to predict how the Cuban economy can be changed when a tipped waiter can out-earn a brain surgeon.

“I feel conflicted,” Riddick said. “I want to have a direct conversation with Cuba’s leaders and see what they have to say.”

The discussion gave students an opportunity to voice their opinions. On the topic of human rights, senior Mary Beth Bird is ambivalent toward U.S. assistance in Cuba.

“I’m all for (the) U.S. sending in humanitarian aid if violations are going on, but it could support the regime if it pacifies the people who need to keep fighting,” Bird said.

The discussion addressed the differences in generational sentiment toward U.S.-Cuban relations.

“The young generation isn’t sure why (the U.S.) is so strict against Cuba, which is really going to encourage the U.S. to instigate diplomatic ties,” Rall said.

The Honors College discussions are based off the ideas of the FPA, which according to the FPA Web site, is the nation’s oldest organization devoted to citizen education in world affairs. The FPA motto is, “an informed public is an educated public.”

If you are interested in attending or leading one of these panels, contact Marisa Day at HONORSNSO@vcu.edu for more information.

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