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February 23, 2018

What Does the Future Hold for Cuba and Venezuela? Find Out on March 15 at Ocean County College

Ocean County College’s Global Education Committee presents “What Does the Future Hold for Cuba and Venezuela?” on Thursday, March 15 at 12:30 p.m., Gateway Lecture Hall (Bldg. #101), Main Campus, College Drive, Toms River, NJ.  Free and open to the public. For information, email Jason Ghibesi, College Lecturer of Political Science/History and Chair of the Global Education Committee at Ocean County College,

“What Does the Future Hold for Cuba and Venezuela?” will be presented by Ilan Ehrlich, author of Eduardo Chibás: The Incorrigible Man of Cuban Politics (2015) and Assistant Professor of Latin American History, Bergen Community College, Paramus, NJ.

Forbidden to most U.S. travelers for more than five decades and ruled by one of Latin America’s most charismatic leaders, Cuba has long piqued the interest of Americans. On December 17, 2015, the United States and Cuba established formal diplomatic relations for the first time since 1961. Cubans and Americans braced for a cascade of changes. Cubans expected a wave of American tourists, the withdrawal of banking restrictions that limited the use of U.S. dollars, fewer rejections of visa applications to visit the U.S., cheaper and easier internet access, and more openness in general. Americans hoped for hassle-free travel to the island, fewer restrictions on doing business in Cuba, and a more tolerant political system. While some of these advances have come to pass, there is grave disappointment on both ends.

Venezuela is perhaps Latin America’s most cogent cautionary tale. As a multi-party democracy, flush with oil revenues, a large middle class, and magnet for immigrants, Venezuela proved it could be a bastion of possibility. However, an unsuccessful coup attempt in 1992 by a young military officer named Hugo Chávez uncovered a darker story. Falling oil prices led to debt. The nation’s poor, who felt ignored by Venezuela’s mainstream political parties and outraged by their corruption, were intrigued by Chávez, who elected him president with 56 percent of the vote in 1998. Chávez remained Venezuela’s most popular (and divisive) politicians until his death in 2013, in large part because he spent the profits from high oil prices on services for the poor. He established medical clinics staffed by Cuban doctors to improve public health, controlled the prices of basic food items, and advanced education. However, Chávez’s successor, Nicolás Maduro, counted neither his predecessor’s natural charm or high oil prices. Under his rule, poverty has become dire and the future of democratic elections is in doubt.

Ocean County College’s Global Education Committee sponsors and promotes events that heighten students, campus, and community understanding of the interconnectedness of diverse cultures and nations, and fosters a college climate of global citizenry.