GSSW Mounting Effort To End Cuban Trade Embargo

    Graduate School of Social Work administrators, faculty and students are seeking to enlist other social work schools in advocating an end to the US trade embargo on Cuba.

    After a school-wide referendum on the issue last year, the GSSW representatives, including Dean June Gary Hopps, sent a letter to President Bill Clinton, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms and Cardinal Bernard Law decrying the three-decade-old restrictions
    The school's 20 years of field research in Cuba, say GSSW representatives, suggests that the US embargo punishes families and children by depriving them of food, medicine and technology, and is failing to erode popular support for President Fidel Castro. It also hampers US businesses who cannot compete in the Cuban market, they add, and is in defiance of the United Nations 1998 vote favoring an end to the policy.

    "The striking characteristic of GSSW is our focus on social and economic justice," said Prof. Demetrius Iatridis (GSSW), who has visited Cuba frequently and is one of the anti-embargo organizers. "We are not interested in the politics or questions of patriotism surrounding the issue. The American embargo is unjust and unfair, and is an obstacle to human, economic and social development."

    "We recognize that there are many Cuban-Americans who strongly oppose lifting the embargo, and we very much respect their feelings," said Assoc. Prof. Robert Castagnola (GSSW), another organizer. "But it is our belief that this policy has a severe and harmful effect on Cuba's poor, and will not be helpful to the country's future."

    The current controversy over whether Elian Gonzalez should be returned to his father in Cuba, Castagnola said, points up the need for improved ties between the two countries.

    "It would be less of an issue if we had normalized relations with Cuba," he said.

    Castagnola and Iatridis are in the process of contacting other social work schools in the US to inform them of GSSW's action and encourage them to join the legislative campaign.

                                                                                                                           -Sean Smith

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