Castros Won't Let Scholarship Winners Study in U.S.

State Dept. awards 30 grants, but students stuck on island

By Jessica Sick
|  Friday, Sep 4, 2009  |  Updated 8:44 AM PDT
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Castros Won't Let Scholarship Winners Study in U.S.

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Who knew studying abroad could be so difficult?

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Cuban students who were supposed to travel to the States to study courtesy of U.S.-funded scholarships have been denied visa requests by the Castro regime, reported the Miami Herald.

A total of about 30 students from the island were to be part of the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs scholarship program, which is available to students around the world who are interested in studying at an American university.

Agricultural science, business management, and journalism were just a few of the fields students were encouraged to explore at the one-year community colleges they were supposed to attend, which were located in Arizona, Tennessee and Idaho.

Instead, many students were not only denied access to the U.S., they were subsequently reprimanded in Cuba.

"I've been told that I have been expelled from the university and that I have a hearing pending with the Communist Youth, where I am to receive a temporary sanction due to the fact that, in self-criticism, I acknowledged having applied for the scholarship,'' wrote a student selected for a leadership program in the United States who requested to remain anonymous.

A document put out by the Ministry of Higher Education obtained by the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald claimed that the program was one way that the U.S. administration was trying to "ideologically permeate university students"and that those who did apply suffered ``a confusion and poor understanding of the basic pillars that sustain the ideology of our revolution.''

A U.S. State Department official, who also requested to remain anonymous, told the Herald that when he/she tried to explain to Cuban officials that these students were chosen based on merit, they responded with "No, we don't know who these kids are, and so we're saying no to all of them."

According to sources in Cuba, this event is a result of a shake-up at the Ministry of Education and the replacement of minister Juan Vela Valdes.

``We are involved in a new process of control and ideological purges," an anonymous University of Havana professor told El Nuevo Herald, "that resembles the worst moments and stages of the past.''

This was the first year students from Cuba were to be included in the program. More than 750 applied.

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