Reflections on Cuba

By Quanece Williams

Cuba is a country that is stigmatized with being a communist country, in which the rights of citizens are suppressed. However, apart from that, it is a country that is often overlooked when learning about world history. Thus, the presentation of Cuban Educator Ariel Dacal Díaz was extremely informative. Diaz not only discussed the advantages and the shortcomings of the country as a whole, he also analyzed the bilateral relations between Cuba and the United States.

Cuban Educator Ariel Ducal Diaz speaks to the audience with help from his translator.

Díaz’s history of the country was vital and ranged from topics including the social system, the economic system, sports, political participation, democratization, and bilateral Cuba-U.S. relations. Cuba’s social system is particularly interesting because although the country is primarily poor, education and health care are free and universal. Furthermore, both are offered to every citizen from birth to death. Diaz declared this one of the country’s greatest attributes because according to him, “in many countries health care, housing, and education are commercializing but it should be a human right”.

The complex economic system was then analyzed and a timeline was provided to explain the current system that is implemented today. He shared that in 1959, Cuba had 80% of its market dominated by the U.S. and then in 1989, 85% of Cuba’s market was connected to the economy of the Soviet Union, which would eventually dissolve, leaving the country economically crippled. This significantly shaped their economic system, as illustrated in the policy that is currently implemented in regard to foreign investment, which establishes the limits (30%) of foreign capital investment.

An entertaining part of his presentation was when Diaz went into depth on the role of sports in their society. He stated that the country decided that sports are not a commodity, although the country is small and poor. He was also excited to share that the country placed 5th in the Olympics in 1992. The countries economy is intrinsically linked to the sports world because equipment was often not provided so athletes used their teammates as weights. Additionally, the poor economy is also the motivation for sports players to leave the country in search for a contract that will provide the most benefits, which further exacerbates the economic status of the country.

Political participation, one of the tenets of democracy, was another salient issue Diaz examined. He stated that the MLK Center seeks to educate the polity and outlined the requirements for participation as followed: (1) that persons want to participate (2) that people can participate (3) that people know how to participate. In addition, he shared that the Cuban culture is now dependent upon the government because of communism. Diaz also shared his notion of democracy and stated that it needs to be grassroots and comprehensible. Other tenets for democracy outlined by Diaz are the acknowledgment of another person’s rights and that democracy will not occur with just one person. Additionally, he shared that democracy must alter the perception of liberty and quoted “I am free if you are free”, highlighting that one individuals liberty is conditioned on another’s liberty (a valuable lesson for the U.S. to learn especially with the views on minorities).

The last issue important issue that was discussed was the U.S., as Cuba’s largest neighbor, exerting dominance in their country. He introduced the analogy of the levee that was intended to provide support in New Orleans with Katrina, and questioned how strong the country was to withstand the flood of the United States.

Overall, the presentation was useful because it provided me with information about the country that I was unfamiliar with. I was unaware that an embassy was opened in D.C., as well as Havana and still believed that the relationship between both countries was tenuous. However, after attending the presentation I realize as Diaz stated, “Cuba is not a paradise but Cuba is not hell”.


ECSU Professors Martin Mendoza-Botelho and Ricardo Perez (Sociology) pose with the Cuban guest Ariel Ducal Diaz (middle) and his translator.


Polisci student organizes event to discuss police brutality and basic rights

By Adjana Bouzi

For the past few years we have, nationally, seen many people killed at the hands of the police due to excessive use of force. On the recent shooting in Ferguson, the question of what should be done has been highly discussed. Certainly, there are different viewpoints on whether the amount of force used by police is excessive or required, but an understanding of each others viewpoint may be the beginning of finding a solution. I have always wanted to help illuminate the facts behind the issue and my senior seminar provided me an opportunity to work with a fellow classmate and set up this event. I believe that this panel has shed light on some of the unfortunate circumstances that has taken place over the years and educated people on what their rights are. The viewpoints of both police enforcement and ordinary people was presented by police officers and those who had an encounter with the police. I really hope that this event will be the beginning of eradicating the trend of police brutality.

ECSU Communication Professor Cesar Beltran brings students to Poland and Hungary to learn on the Holocaust

As part of a Global Field course, Communication Professor Cesar Beltran, who also collaborates regularly to the activities of the Department of Political Science, took several students to Poland and Hungary last May. “History, the Media and the Holocaust” served as the overriding theme for an intense two-week Global Field Course (GFC) to Poland and Hungary, May 15-30, 2014. Given the political and military crises unfolding in neighboring Ukraine at the time, the sub-theme “The Nazi Aftermath in Central Europe” also served as a focus for fact-filled meetings and discussions for the eight students participating in the GFC. Six of those students were from our own Eastern Connecticut State University (the trip organizer), one was from the University of Connecticut, and one from Yale University. Professor Beltran led the GFC, assisted by a Program Coordinator provided by the academic travel contractor CISabroad.

Global Field Course participants at Szabadsag Ter (Freedom Square) Fountain, in front of an unfinished and controversial Holocaust memorial located near the U.S. Embassy.

            In Poland the trip participants were able to tour scenes of the Warsaw Ghetto and Old Town, both of which were completely destroyed in inner city fighting during World War II, as well as the historic Polish Royal Capital of Krakow, which successfully avoided serious wartime damage. Krakow also served as a base for excursions to the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and ancient Jagiellonian University. In both Polish cities and in Hungary’s capital of Budapest the GFC travelers met with noted European academics, European student peers, U.S. Embassy officials, and recognized experts on the Holocaust and Judaic Studies.

            In a 12-page trip report one student summed up her GFC experience this way:

“Although I came on this trip to learn about the Holocaust, history, media and the Nazi aftermath, I learned much more. I was finally able to experience cultures other than my own, and I was able to use my information and knowledge bank collected over the years (the most recent from Eastern) to good use on the trip.” 

Click here for a photo montage of the trip.

Eastern student witnesses historical “No” to Independence in Scotland

By David Coffey

As many of you probably know, Scotland just had a referendum on September 18th. This referendum was to decide whether they would stay with the United Kingdom or become an independent country. The people of Scotland could either vote, “yes” in favor of being independent, or “no” to stay a part of the United Kingdom. What many of you may not have known though, was that I was actually in Scotland while the voting occurred. My experience in Scotland is one that I will not soon forget.

I arrived in Waverly station around 12 O’clock in Edinburgh and proceeded to explore the city. I was taken back by the sheer beauty of city and surrounding green fields draped in fog. What took me back even more were all the people expressing their feelings about the referendum.

It seems like on nearly every street corner there were people handing out “Yes” flyers. In addition to that, “yes” graffiti was spattered upon statues from one end of the city to the next. Scarcely a person I spoke to did not have a “yes” button on their shirt or jacket. Judging by Edinburgh alone, I was convinced that Scotland would soon become its own country-separate from the rest of great Britain.

When I actually spoke to people though, I heard many different perspectives on the matter. I asked a woman on the train about the vote, she said she was supporting a “No” vote. She explained that Scotland becoming independent would unload a mess of problems upon both Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. Surely, she was right that there would have bean a lot to sort out if Scotland had become independent. However, since the referendum went “no,” it’s impossible to know whether it would have been worth it or not.

Yet, it wasn’t only Scotland that was getting attention out in Edinburgh that day. Many people from Catalonia had come up from Spain to show their solidarity for the independence movement. For context, Catalonia, the region of Spain containing Barcelona, is also working for independence from the rest of Spain. In West Parliament Square, a square where many yes voters had congregated, I saw a collection of colored candles arranged as the Scottish and Catalonian flags.

After checking into a hostel, I decided to go out and experience the city’s night life. What started off as bar-hopping with a fellow American soon turned into drinking and conversing with a group of Pro-yes Scotsmen. I ended spending the rest of my night with these gentlemen, learning of their cause and what pushed them to break a centuries-old union.

The more I heard from these pro-yes Scots, the more I grew empathetic to their cause. They spoke of growing tired of things like feeling unrepresented in London. They also explained their opposition to foreign wars that Westminster had them get involved with. These concerns echoed my own issues with politics in the United States. Though I arrived with a mostly neutral mindset, by the end of the night, I was chanting “yes!” too.

Scottish Terrier says “Yes” to independence

The next morning, upon hearing about the “No” vote, I didn’t have optimistic thoughts about what I’d see in the streets. I thought I’d see people rioting, looting, and swearing out Westminster along with the rest of the United Kingdom. To my pleasant surprise though, it was just another regular day in Edinburgh.

The more I thought about it though, it made sense. Everyone the night before was also very civil and under control-I even had a nice conversation with some friendly police officers that were there. No one was cursing out the rest of the United Kingdom-or even the “No” campaign for that matter. Why though, was everyone so civil? I think I might know the reason…

This wasn’t something voted upon by out-of-touch politicians in London-it was a popular vote by the average people of Scotland. What I observed in Edinburgh was a strong camaraderie amongst the Scottish people –one which they would not throw away over a political disagreement. This is what the majority of the Scottish people wanted, and everyone seemed to respect that.

For better or worse, the people have spoken-and they have said they want to stay with the United Kingdom. This was a victory, a victory for democracy, I hope it ends up being a victory for Scotland too.

David Coffey, Senior polisci Eastern student with a Scottish “Bobby”

ECSU Foundation Scholarship for Political Science Students

By Nicole Krassas

Thanks to the generous donation of the Kearney Family a scholarship for Political Science Students is now available.  Thanks to growth in the stock market, there will be $1500 available for the 2014-2015 academic year.  For more information go to  In addition, there are numerous other scholarship funds made available through the Foundation, many of which do not specify discipline.  A complete list of all scholarships can be found here

ECSU Polisci Students and peers provide valuable testimony at the State Appropriations Committee to support state funded education

A group of nine SGA Senator students from ECSU traveled to Hartford in February to provide their testimony at the State Appropriation Committee at the Legislature of the State of Connecticut. The group of students of ECSU was the most numerous of all delegates of the CSU system present at the meeting. These student representatives were able to voice their concerns regarding the future of public funded higher education in the state. Of particular relevance were the testimonies of political science students Per Björnstad (also President of the student body at ECSU), Mathew Hicks and Erin Drouin, who narrated, through her own personal experiences how much publicly funded education is helping them to achieve their educational objectives.

Their testimonies can be found at the available video recordings of the hearings found at the following marks: 22:05, 1:22:04, 1:33:06, 2:01:48 and 2:43:00. At the end of the meeting State Representative Jay Case personally thanked students for their brave effort to defend their cause.

Visit of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to ECSU

Madeleine Albright

At the end of March, Eastern will receive former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright for a talk on the challenges the U.S. and world face in the XXI Century (click here for additional information). This is a challenging topic to be addressed by one of the most prominent high-level officials of the U.S. Government in the past decades. Her tenure in office was full of extraordinary events, and her actions influenced some of the important political outcomes of the last century, not only in terms of the overall diplomatic and objectives of the U.S. but also in terms of a larger international agenda, where the issue of international security remains a priority.

There are several biographic books about Secretary Albright, including her autobiography, that provide useful insights of this prominent figure. Including:


Madame Madam Secretary: A Memoir (2013) by Madeleine Albright.

Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948 by Madeleine Albright.

Madeleine Albright: Against All Odds (2000) by Michael Dobbs.

Seasons of Her Life: A Biography of Madeleine Korbel Albright  (1999) by Ann Blackman.

But there are many other sources devoted to her work (click here).

Gender in Public Policies – Pizza and Politics Night

An Evening on Politics – Gender in Public Policies

A comparison of approaches from Latin America and the U.S.

On Thursday October 24 Dr. Nora Nagels of the Université de Montréal and Professor Nicole Krassas of Eastern and students discussed different perspectives on social policies and gender. Part of the discussion addressed how public policies aimed at supporting vulnerable groups, such as Food Stamps in the U.S. and Cash Transfers in Latin America do not necessarily take into account a gender perspective in their design and implementation. This event was moderated by Professor Martin Mendoza-Botelho.


This event was co-Sponsored by the Department of Political Science, Geography and Philosophy, the Program of Latin American Studies and the Program on Gender Studies.