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November 16 PDAA Luncheon Speakers Analyze Thaw in U.S.-Cuba Relations

PDAA Cuba panel

Gonzalo Gallegos, at lectern, with Michael Shifter, seated left, and moderator Mike Anderson, at the November 16, 2015 PDAA lunch program. (A. Kotok)

Updated 21 November 2015. The Monday, November 16 PDAA luncheon program focused on the foreign policy implications of the recent, historic thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations.

In a program called “The Changing U.S.-Cuba Relationship and Its Implications for U.S. Diplomacy in Latin America, ”  a prominent American expert on U.S. policy towards the hemisphere and a senior Department of State public diplomacy official who has served in Havana discussed the challenges and opportunities for U.S. policy and public diplomacy since President Obama announced on July 1, 2015 the historic decision to re-establish – after more than 54 years —  diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S. and re-open embassies.

Experts say that much caution, realism, and patience will be needed as the new relationship evolves and the U.S. moves toward crafting legislative action to lift the existing embargo.  In the interim, recent policy changes are expected to create the bases for a broad, new era for U.S. business, tourism, people-to-people exchanges, and strategic interests across the wider hemisphere.

The two speakers were Michael Shifter, the president of the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue since 2010 and an adjunct professor at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service since 1993, and Gonzalo R. Gallegos, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Diplomacy in the Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA).

As an independent forum and think-tank, the Inter-American Dialogue engages its network of global leaders to foster democratic governance, prosperity and social equity in Latin America and the Caribbean.  Shifter regularly testifies before Congress and writes and talks widely on U.S.-Latin American relations. He formerly directed the Latin American and Caribbean program at the National Endowment for Democracy and the Ford Foundation’s governance and human rights program in the Andean region and Southern Cone.

Gallegos, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, served most recently as the Charge’ d’Affaires at U.S. Embassy San Jose, Costa Rica. His other State positions have included Director of the Office of Central American Affairs; Spokesman and Public Affairs Advisor for WHA; Director of the Office of Press Relations; Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, Cuba and at the U.S. Embassy in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago; and Counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. Also, he has worked in the Bureau of European Affairs; has had postings in Nicaragua, Colombia, and Costa Rica; and was seconded to the Organization of American States as the Secretary for the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism.

This PDAA luncheon program was held from 12 noon to 2 p.m. on Monday, November 16 at DACOR-Bacon House, 1801 F Street NW, Washington, D.C.

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