Sarah Stephens and the Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA) helped organize and participated in New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s trade mission to Cuba in April 2015. This was the first trip by a U.S. governor to Cuba since the December 17, 2014 announcement that Cuba and the U.S. would normalize relations. The preparatory work we did in advance with Governor Cuomo’s office enabled members of the trade delegation representing six industry sectors to engage in serious discussions with their Cuban counterparts on the island.
The Governor’s trade mission produced exceptional results. For example, on April 22, Empire State Development and the Roswell Park Cancer Institute announced that the Institute had a signed agreement with Cuba’s Center for Molecular Immunology “to develop a unique lung cancer vaccine (“Cimavax”) with a clinical trial in the United States.” As a result of JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes’ participation in the delegation, the New York State-based carrier announced its decision to begin weekly charter flights from New York to Havana that started in July 2015. In addition, the University of Havana and the State University of New York prepared a framework for a memorandum of understanding to increase study abroad programs to Cuba.