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From June 1 to 5, the Center for Democracy in the Americas led a fact-finding trip to Havana for a bi-partisan delegation comprised of 10 senior U.S. Senate staffers. Members of this bipartisan delegation work for Senators from seven U.S. states, Majority and Minority members of the Senate’s leadership, and for members of powerful committees including Foreign Relations and Finance. CDA arranged for them to meet with senior officials of Cuba’s Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and Investment; leading researchers at Cuba’s Center of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology; a former representative of the Catholic Archdiocese; artists, economists, and journalists; and, several private entrepreneurs including operators of a salon, a clothing business, a car restoration and taxi business, and a bicycle repair shop. The group also visited an urban organic farm and met with U.S. and third-country diplomats serving on the island. It was a privilege for us to organize this trip so that an influential, bipartisan delegation of Senate staff members could see Cuba for themselves, and better understand the consequences of U.S. policy, especially as it affects the Cuban people.
From March 18-26, 2016, the Center for Democracy in the Americas led a people-to-people trip to Cuba for a group of donors, friends, and long-time supporters of CDA. It was one of the most historic weeks in recent Cuban history, featuring both the first US presidential visit to the island in more than eight decades, and a rockin’ concert by the Rolling Stones. Our visit balanced the sights and sounds of vibrant Havana, with following the Obama trail. We journeyed across the bay to Regla where we met with hip hop duo Obsesion and had a private concert by an Afro-Cuban-jazz fusion band; we met with many young, innovative entrepreneurs and heard about their vision for Cuba’s future; we visited the studios of both some of Cuba’s most prominent artists, as well as up-and-coming recent grads of the National Institute of Fine Arts. CDA hosted a private party with renowned singer/songwriter and CDA friend, Carlos Varela, that was attended by several recently-landed US congressmen and women. We overnighted in the beautiful countryside of Viñales and were spectators at the baseball game between Tampa Bay Rays and Cuban National Team, where we sang a wet-eyed rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.
And on our last night, as half a million people swarmed the Ciudad Deportiva to watch the once-banned Rolling Stones, we were reminded, in the accented Spanish of Mick Jagger himself, that, “Los tiempos están cambiando [The times are changing].”