Thursday, April 30, 2015
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Special CIT Report - Cuba Policy Trip - April 2015
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California Chamber of Commerce Joins the World Affairs Council on Cuba Policy Trip
On December 17, 2014, Presidents Obama and Raúl Castro announced simultaneously the decision to re-establish diplomatic relations. Since then, U.S. and Cuban negotiators have met three times in a bid to hammer an agreement for establishing a U.S. embassy in Havana and easing travel and commercial restrictions. Presidents Obama and Raúl Castro met at the VII Summit of the Americas in Panama on April 10th and 11th, 2015. This follows what had been the end of relations on January 3, 1961, 54 years ago.
This mid-April policy trip was a week of immersion in Cuban governance, business, society, art and culture as “legally licensed educational travelers”. Our nation-wide 20-member delegation met with high-ranking government officials – including U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Chief of Mission at the U.S. Interests Section, who may well be named the US chargé d'affaires and eventually the U.S. ambassador, chatted with entrepreneurs in the emerging Cuban private sector, enjoyed the work of professional artists and musicians, heard from renowned historians and convened with diplomats and economists familiar with the intricacies of the island. This was truly an insider’s perspective to a host of topics, including social issues, economic realities, and prospects for the island’s future, the unique US-Cuba relationship and everyday life in Cuba.
Our delegation leader, Ambassador Shapiro, President of the World Affairs Council of Atlanta, was the U.S. Department of State coordinator for Cuba from 1999-2001, including during the unfolding of the Elian Gonzalez saga from Thanksgiving 2000 through the spring of 2001. Shapiro has led previous delegations to Cuba and served as US Ambassador to Venezuela from 2002-2004. In May 2014, Ambassador Shapiro joined with 43 other former officials in sending an open letter to President Obama urging more support for Cuban civil society.