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SU Abroad plans to host trips to Cuba, though some worry about the future of such programming under Trump

Moriah Ratner | Staff Photographer

President-elect Donald Trump has made a threat to sever ties with Cuba following the death of Fidel Castro.

UPDATED: Nov. 6 at 11:30 a.m.

Syracuse University Abroad currently has two faculty-led programs scheduled for March 2017 in Cuba, but some are hesitant about the expansion of such programming after President-elect Donald Trump’s threatened to sever ties with the Caribbean country.

Louis Berends, director of academic programs at SU Abroad, said investment in a semester-long abroad program in Cuba is too risky because the future relationship between the United States and Cuban governments is uncertain.

Trump recently tweeted a statement saying he would “terminate (the) deal” with Cuba unless the Cuban government were to “make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole.”

A single “deal” has never been made between the U.S. and Cuba. The Obama Administration restored diplomatic ties with the country in 2014 and lifted certain economic sanctions and travel restrictions that have been in place since the 1960s.

Trump has not detailed which of Obama’s policies he plans to reverse. Berends said Trump’s ambiguity concerning the United States’ future policy toward Cuba is the main reason why SU Abroad will not continue organizing a semester-long abroad program.

“It takes a lot of investment, time, energy and resources with partners abroad and here in the U.S.,” Berends said. “If there is this unknown question mark for all things Cuba as result of the recent election in the U.S., putting the semester program on hold has to be a reasonable idea.”

SU Abroad created two week-long study abroad programs that will take SU students to Cuba during the 2017 spring break. For the first time, SU students will have the opportunity to take classes in Havana, Cuba’s capital, and Santa Clara.

The week-long programs in the spring will continue as planned, said Cara Hardy, SU Abroad’s program coordinator for World Partner and Short-Term Programs.

“Cuba seems like a very attractive destination for students to visit and study in because we had a lot of students apply,” she said. 

Berends said the positive student response to the week-long programs in Cuba prompted SU Abroad to consider a longer, more comprehensive semester program. SU Abroad had to make a waitlist for the Cuba program because of the high number of student applications. 

Matthew Cleary, an associate professor of political science at SU’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, said the Cuban government is always skeptical of the U.S. government’s intentions, regardless of who is president. But he said the Cuban government would probably not create policies that would restrict American tourism and travel. 

“The embargo is an American embargo, it’s not an international embargo,” Cleary said. “People travel to Cuba from Europe all the time, and they have an established tourism industry.”

Cleary added that most Cubans are suspicious of the U.S. government, but welcome American tourists. 

As a result of Obama’s relaxation of trade and travel restrictions, the first commercial flight between the U.S. and Cuba in more than 50 years landed on the island last August. New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo has already visited Cuba with New York business leaders interested in investing in the country, Cleary said. 

Berends said SU Abroad will look for other places in Latin America to organize a semester-long study abroad program. He said he did not want students to apply for a study abroad program in Cuba if there were a chance it could be cancelled.

“We hope that Trump won’t go through with the things he’s said about Cuba, but it’s sad that there are students caught in the middle of all that,” Berends said.

CORRECTION: In a previous version of this article, the number of Syracuse University Abroad programs involving Cuba was misstated. SU currently has two faculty-led programs scheduled for March 2017 in Cuba. The Daily Orange regrets this error.

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