Icy relations with Cuba may prevent speech at the U

Emily Dalnodar

The fate of a University cultural event now lies in the hands of the U.S. Department of State.
The guest list to the event, planned to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the Spanish-American War, includes Camilo Guevara, son of Argentine Marxist revolutionary and guerrilla leader, Ernesto Che Guevara.
Camilo Guevara, who is a lecturer at the Ernesto Che Guevara Studies Program at the University of Havana, is scheduled to speak in mid-April about his native country and political struggles.
Because Cuba and the United States are not on official diplomatic terms, people need more than a passport to visit each other’s countries — they need a visa, which is often difficult to obtain.
The state department is expected to make the final decision on Guevara’s case in another three weeks, said August Nimtz, associate professor of political science. Even if he is denied access to the United States the event will still go on, said Nimtz, who helped organize the event.
“It’s solely in their hands,” Nimtz said of the Department of State. But with support from a myriad of cultural centers, Nimtz said he hopes to show there is a cultural and academic purpose to Guevara’s visit.
Sponsoring the event are: the Institute of International Studies, La Raza Student Cultural Center and the American, Chicano and women’s studies departments among many others.
At this point, the state department has no information about Guevara’s visa request because it is still in the Cuban government’s hands, said Jim Theis, counselor officer in the state department’s Office of Cuban Affairs.
“He’s a high-profile figure,” said Drew Hempel, who is helping organize the event. “It’s likely the U.S. government may not be supportive of having him speak in this country.”
The visa reviewing process stems from an Oct. 4, 1985, presidential proclamation, which restricts entry to the United States from Cuban government officers or employees.
“That covers quite a few people in Cuba, as anyone who teaches in Cuba is an employee of Cuba,” said Theis, an alumnus of the University’s Law School.
A common reason for denial is the person’s position, officials said.
“Someone who is the son of Che Guevara would be something the Cuban government could use as a propaganda tool. It’s conceivable that the Cubans might be using him that way — but if not, there shouldn’t be a problem,” Theis said.
Some of the cultural groups involved with the event extended the invitation to Guevara some time ago, so the decision to come has little to do with the Cuban government. However, Nimtz said it is still a factor.
“We think the U.S. citizens have the right to hear different viewpoints about Cuba. It’s at the heart of what the academic program is all about,” Nimtz said.