Statement by participants in DePaul University Conference on Latin America’s ALBA and the Peoples’  Continental Integration.

The participants in DePaul University’s "Conference on the Latin American ALBA and the Peoples’ Continental Integration" protest the State Department’s last minute refusal to grant permission to Chief of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, DC, Jorge Bolanos Suarez, to travel to Chicago, Illinois to participate in the March 22-23 conference.

This follows the State Department’s decision on March 16 to deny Patricia Pego, First Secretary, and Juan Lamigueiro, Deputy Chief of the Cuban Interests Section to participate in three panels at the Left Forum at Pace University in New York City, March 16-18.

Jorge Bolanos was to speak with Nicaraguan Ambassador Francis Campbell Hooker, Charge d’Affairs of the Embassy of Bolivia in Washington, Freddy Bersatti Tudela, and Charge d’Affairs of the Embassy of Venezuela, Angelo Rivero.

Cuban diplomats based in Washington, DC and at the United Nations in New York are forbidden by the United States to travel outside a 25 mile radius without obtaining permission from the State Department.

Last November Ambassador Bolaños was permitted to travel to Columbus and Youngstown, Ohio to lecture on US-Cuba relations.

No State Department explanation was given for the refusal to permit him to speak at the DePaul conference.

Despite the State Department’s refusal, Bolanos’s speech was read by Professor Felix Masud of the DePaul University History Department. However, the conference attendees were denied the right to interact with and question the Cuban diplomat.

For more than 50 years the U.S. government has maintained a blockade of Cuba that has been repeatedly condemned by the United Nations, as it has caused harm to the people of Cuba. The U.S. government also imposes severe restrictions on U.S. citizens’ right to travel to Cuba. Denial of Cuban diplomats in the U.S. the right to travel inside our country also denies American citizens the freedom to interact with, and listen to Cuba’s point of view.

This combined with the Obama Administration increasing enforcement of the blockade and with the administration attempts to prevent Cuba from being invited to the Summit of the Americas in Colombia next month; makes it is reasonable to ask: " Why is the American government afraid of Cuba and what doesn’t it want the American people to know?"

We also urge all our friends and supporters to answer that question and then call your representatives in Congress and demand the right for Cuban diplomats to travel and engage in exchanges of ideas with the people of the United States.

Professor Felix Masud, DePaul University, Department of History, 773-325-7472,

Stansfield Smith, Chicago Committee to Free the Cuban 5, 773-376-7521,

March 26, 2012