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Havana. October 24, 2014

Blockade causes million-dollar impact on higher education

Yenia Silva Correa

ON October 28 the United Nations will vote on a resolution to put an end to the United States’ economic, commercial and financial blockade of Cuba.
During the past year alone, this policy has resulted in a cost of $3,993,747 dollars to Cuba’s Higher Education system, due to a combination of earnings lost and increased costs, due to trade relocation and technological limitations.
“The damage caused by the blockade is limited thanks to the quality of our teaching staff and the efforts of our students”, Dr. Oberto Santín, deputy minister of Higher Education, stated during a press conference on the impact of the U.S. government’s economic war against Cuba, which has lasted over half a century.
As a result of the blockade, between April 2013 and March 2014, the University of Havana lost income of over $540,000 dollars, which could have been received for goods and services. 
Another higher education institution, the Julio Antonio Mella Polytechnic Institute, lost some $21,000 dollars for academic services it was unable to provide during the same period. 
This policy also affects the other higher educational centers across the country.  The University of Cienfuegos suffered losses of $13,860 dollars due to the expiration of its license for an exchange program established with the University of Washington-Tacoma.
Cuban universities are obliged to acquire supplies through intermediaries in distant markets, increasing the costs incurred.  They also face serious difficulties regarding the importation of computers, a situation which impedes scientific, research and teaching work.  
In the technological and research fields, specialists from the island are unable to publish their work in the most respected scientific journals, and the country is prevented from accessing information and communications technology, as U.S. companies and their subsidiaries are the main producers and suppliers of equipment and services in this area.
The obsolete policy of blockade, so often condemned internationally, also affects the U.S. academic community.
Information from the Cuban Ministry of Higher Education reveals: “The uncertainty regarding the licensing for institutions and universities who wish to open collaborative programs results in many lost opportunities and curbs potential efforts.“
In other words, it is not uncommon for U.S. scientists to be denied permission to participate in events taking place in Cuba.
The limitations imposed by this economic war are many, just as are the country's efforts to overcome them, as was acknowledged by Deputy Minister Santín who stated, "Despite the blockade, we have the support of the Cuban government to guarantee our ability to teach."

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