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Cuban expert laments recent developments that further restrict travel to the Caribbean Island


BLACKSBURG, Va., June 25, 2004 – Joseph Scarpaci, professor of geography in the College of Natural Resources at Virginia Tech, has just returned from his 43rd educational tour to Cuba and says that the federal government's latest tightening this week of study travel is a sad development for students and scholars

Scarpaci had a license from the U.S. Treasury that allowed him to take students to Cuba through 2005, but the recent ruling has rendered that license useless. Few licenses had been given out because of federal government restrictions on American travel to Cuba since 1959. The restrictions put into place this week, however, abolish the short term trips and mandate that study trips must be at least 10 weeks long, which few students can afford, so essentially most student travel will now be curtailed.

Scarpaci says the study trips transform those who go. "Students come back with a new understanding and appreciation of the Cuban culture and the hardships the people have endured."

The recipient of the Carl O. Sauer Distinguished Scholarship Award of the Conference of Latinamericanist Geographers this spring, Scarpaci was honored for his published works and significant contribution towards fostering understanding of Cuba to a broader audience. Scarpaci's award is based on his 80 months of field research, primarily in Cuba, which focuses on urban and social geography, social policy, historic preservation, and international development. A board member of the Conference of Latin Americanist Geographers, Scarpaci has authored several works on Cuba, including Havana: Two Faces of the Antillean Metropolis (with Roberto Segre, Mario Coyula).

To interview Scarpaci contact: (540) 552 8068 (home office), (540) 231-7504 (Virginia Tech office), (540) 230 3143 (cell), or scarp@vt.edu.