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Cuba Exchanges Explored at April 22 PDAA Lunch Program

Rooftop table and Havana skyline

Havana rooftop, January 2013. (A. Kotok)

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A panel of experts and recent visitors discussed the role of private exchanges in maintaining contacts between the U.S. and Cuba, and whether private exchanges could help pave the way to an eventual normalization of relations between the two countries, at a special Public Diplomacy Alumni Association luncheon meeting on Tuesday, April 22, 2014, at the DACOR-Bacon House in Washington, D.C.

The panel included:

– Daniel Erikson, State Department Senior Advisor on Cuba, describing the overall state of the U.S.-Cuba relationship and how, if at all, private scientific, environmental, people-to-people and cultural exchanges figure into the relationship between the two countries.

– Dan Whittle, head of the Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF’s) Cuba program and a frequent visitor to the island, discussing his work and the extent relationships based on safeguarding and improving the environment transcend the otherwise often rocky official U.S.-Cuban relationship.

– Former Havana Public Affairs Officer David Evans telling about the apparent increase in the number and frequency of private exchanges between the U.S. and Cuba and the working environment of a U.S. official in Cuba.

Vaughn Turekian, Chief International Officer of American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and a recent exchange participant in Cuba, discussing the state of science diplomacy and scientific exchanges with Cuba.

– Johns Hopkins University historian Franklin Knight, former director of the Johns Hopkins/Cuba Exchange program and also a recent exchange participant, giving a longer-term perspective on the value of private cultural and people-to-people exchanges with Cuba.

Dan Erkison is Senior Advisor for Western Hemisphere Affairs at Department of State, a position held since June 2010. He’s the author of The Cuba Wars: Fidel Castro, The United States, and The Next Revolution (Bloomsbury Press, 2008), winner of the 2008 Political Science Book of the Year Award given by ForeWord Magazine. Erikson previously served as Senior Associate and Director of Caribbean Programs for Inter-American Dialogue and lecturer at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

Dan Whittle directs EDF’s efforts to advance conservation of marine and coastal ecosystems in Cuba, working with Cuban scientists, lawyers and resource managers. Whittle previously was Adjunct Law Professor of Environmental Law at Wake Forest University and Senior Policy Advisor for North Carolina Department of Environment, Health and Natural Resources. He is the author and co-author of several reports, including “Protecting Cuba’s Environment: Efforts to Design and Implement Effective Environmental Laws and Policies in Cuba” (Cuban Studies, Fall 2006).

Dave Evans is a long-time Foreign Service Officer who served in Havana as Public Affairs Officer from 1989 to 1992. Evans joined USIA in 1973 and served at USIS posts, binational centers, and embassies in Costa Rica, Honduras, Nigeria, Peru, Soviet Union, and Russia, as well as Cuba. He also served in details to the U.N., White House, and Department of Defense. Evans also served in the U.S. Navy from 1963 to 1967.

Vaughn Turekian is Chief International Officer of AAAS and also serves as editor of the association’s quarterly journal Science & Diplomacy. Turekian was special advisor to the Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs from 2003 to 2006, after serving as a science fellow at State Department and program director for the Committee on Global Change at National Academy of Sciences. He spoke to a lunch program PDAA on science diplomacy in November 2010.

Franklin Knight is Leonard and Helen R. Stulman Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and is now writing a general history of Cuba. His research interests focus on social, political and cultural aspects of Latin America and the Caribbean especially after the 18th century as well as on American slave systems in their comparative dimensions. He is the author, editor, and translator of numerous books, papers, and reports, most recently with Teresita Martinez Vergne, Contemporary Caribbean Cultures and Societies in a Global Context, (Chapel Hill, 2005). Knight served as president of the Latin American Studies Association from 1998 to 2000.

This special luncheon program – the last lunch program before the summer — was held on Tuesday, April 22 from 12:00 pm to 2:30 pm, at the DACOR-Bacon House, 1801 F Street, N.W., in Washington, D.C.

Five students and one camera

Five students and one camera in a photography class at University of the Arts in Havana, January 2013. (A. Kotok)

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