Cuba’s scientific community welcomed the announcement of the beginning of diplomatic talks to restore bilateral relations between Cuba and the United States, hoping it will boost the country’s research and science sector.
The presidents of Cuba and the United States, Raul Castro and Barack Obama, announced the start of this diplomatic process last month. Relations between the two countries were suspended in 1961 in the Cold War era when the United States imposed a trade and economic embargo on Cuba.
Ismael Clark Arxer, president of Cuba’s Academy of Science, tells SciDev.Net that lifting the embargo will ease scientist exchanges between the countries, facilitating research cooperation and collaborative work between their scientific institutions.
He adds: “When full normalcy is reached, it will certainly also have a favourable impact on Cuba’s relations and joint efforts in science with a number of countries.”
Among the proposed changes, the removal of Cuba from a list of countries the United States considers sponsor international terrorism would also enable the previously banned import of scientific equipment to Cuba.
In addition, the softening of travel restrictions for US visitors to Cuba would enable international scientific events to take place on the island.
“Research has been conducted in truly precarious conditions and without large budgets. Restoring relations will allow Cuban research institutes to internationalise their work.”
Elsa Beatriz Acevedo
US Congress approval is required to completely lift the sanctions against Cuba, and many Republican Party legislators — the main group opposing Obama’s policies — have already indicated their disapproval.
“It will take time and continued effort for [sanctions] to be completely eliminated,” Clark Arxer warns.
Elsa Beatriz Acevedo, an expert on the scientific relationship between Cuba and the United States, says she expects “the implementation of exchange agreements and the consolidation of collaborative research projects”.
Lifting the embargo would help promote the work of Cuban scientists globally, she tells SciDev.Net.
“Cuba has generated a unique and very exciting type of knowledge society based on home-grown development,” she says. “But research has been conducted in truly precarious conditions and without large budgets. Restoring relations will allow Cuban research institutes to internationalise their work.”