Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Former ambassador and foreign service officers discuss Cuba and CIA

A former ambassador told students Monday their major would not be a deciding factor in pursuing a career in foreign service with the State Department at a colloquium on Cuba, the Central Intelligence Agency and Cuba’s Relations with the United States.

“They don’t look at what you studied, they look at what you can do from now on,” former Ambassador Lino Gutierrez said. “You just have to look in the mirror and figure out what you really care about.”

Gutierrez, who represented the United States in Argentina and Nicaragua, met with students before the event, alongside Cuban analyst and author Brian Latell and Robert Blau, the State Department Advisor to Maxwell Air Force Base.

“I’ve always been interested in the CIA, and I’ve always heard things about it and heard stories about other people and their families,” Yostina Banuob, a New College student, said. “I just thought it would be really cool to work for them somehow.”

Students asked questions about getting involved with the State Department, taking the Foreign Service Officer Test and dealing with the hardest parts of the job.

Everything hinges on the Foreign Service exam, Gutierrez said.

“It’s a meritorious organization,” Gutierrez said. “The person who passes the Foreign Service exam is essentially the person who reads Time magazine from cover to cover.”

Latell shed light on some of the hostility that is faced by foreign service and intelligence officers while discussing his new book, “Castro’s Secrets: The CIA and Cuba’s Intelligence Machine.”

“[Cuba’s intelligence agency] is the best, or among the two or three best, referring to its ability to recruit and run double agents, its ability in counterintelligence, and its ability to plant moles and spies and penetration agents right in the heart of its enemy,” Latell said.

Blau served in the U.S. interest section in Havana, Cuba. He explained that an interest section is like an embassy but provides a second level of representation for the U.S. without an ambassador.

Blau talked about a verbal disagreement he had with a member of the Cuban government. In response to this disagreement, Blau said that Cuban officials broke into his house and poisoned his family dog.

This was not the only conflict facing foreign officers discussed Monday afternoon. Students asked the speakers about the challenges of following orders and maintaining personal values.

“What you find out is that, by and large, the foreign policy of the United States on any specific country or any specific issue you can think of doesn’t really change that much from Republicans to Democrats,” Blau said.

Gutierrez said he never felt like he needed to resign or compromise his morals throughout his foreign service career.

“You support democracy; you support human rights,” Gutierrez said. “The people I saw resign in my 29 years, some were seeking publicity. Others may have had good reasons, but I never felt that I was being asked to do something that was against my principles.”

Banuob said that she wants to work for the CIA or the State department someday.

“I’ve always wanted to study international relations, and I’ve always wanted to go into law and all that stuff,” Banuob said. “I always research so many different things that you could do with it.”

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