From May 25 to 29, CDA visited Cuba with a twenty-person delegation representing the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM). This was the USCM’s second official delegation to Cuba. In 1978, CEO and Executive Director Tom Cochran visited the island with forty mayors during the thaw in US-Cuba relations under Jimmy Carter. Nearly forty years later, Cochran led a delegation which included the current leadership of the USCM: President, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake of Baltimore; Vice President, Mayor Mick Cornett of Oklahoma City; and Second Vice President, Mayor Mitchell Landrieu of New Orleans.
The mayors had high level official meetings, including with the Ministry of Foreign Relations’ Deputy Director of the North American Division Gustavo Machin, to get an update from the Cuban perspective of the current state of relations between the two countries. The mayors met with their mayoral counterparts, provincial governors, and National Assembly members to have an in-depth dialogue on service delivery mechanisms and the differences in intergovernmental relations in the two countries. The mayors discussed important Cuban advances in bio-genetic research with CIGB leadership and met with various institutions of higher learning including the University of Havana, the Institute of Superior Arts, and the Latin American School of Medicine.
The USCM leadership then shifted their focus to important people-to-people relations. They heard and learned from entrepreneurs about their experiences opening up small businesses and had opportunities to discuss the current social and economic climate in Cuba with artists, academics, diplomats, and journalists. As Tom Cochran declared during a press conference in Havana, “We are anxious to share ideas in the evolution of our relations with the Cuban people and government.”