A behind the scenes look at U.S. Cuba policy
Join us for a very special discussion featuring two of the lead architects of America's opening with Cuba: Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, and former Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, in conversation with Puerto Rico's first female Ambassador, Mari Carmen Aponte.
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For more than fifty years, much of U.S. policy toward Latin America was shaped by the United States’ standoff with Cuba – including U.S. policies toward Puerto Rico. Yet in 2013, U.S. President Barack Obama authorized secret talks between the United States and Cuba, leading to historic agreements to restore diplomatic, trade and travel ties.
Ben Rhodes, former deputy national security advisor to President Obama, served as lead negotiator with the Castro regime, conducting secret talks hosted by the Canadians and the Vatican, and leading engagement with diaspora communities around the U.S. His counterpart on the ground in Havana was Ambassador Jeff DeLaurentis, who represented the United States as Charge d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy.
Join Rhodes and DeLaurentis for a conversation moderated by Ambassador Mari Carmen Aponte, the first Puerto Rican woman to hold the title of Ambassador, about U.S. – Cuban relations, what lessons Puerto Rico can learn from this dramatic change in policy, and where we go from here.
Please join us for a pre-event cocktail reception from 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm.
Former Ambassador and Senior Advisor, Albright Stonebridge Group
Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis is a distinguished Resident Fellow in Latin American Studies at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University, and a Visiting Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. During his 28-year career in the Foreign Service, Ambassador DeLaurentis served as the first Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Havana following the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, and as a principal negotiator for the many agreements concluded and dialogues begun between the two countries until January 2017. Prior to taking up his Cuba post in August 2014, he was Ambassador/Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. Previously, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, and as Minister Counselor for Political Affairs and Security Council Coordinator at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.
Author, co-chair of National Security Action, advisor to former President Barack Obama
Ben Rhodes is the author of the New York Times bestseller The World As It Is; a contributor for NBC News, MSNBC and Crooked Media; the co-chair of National Security Action; and an advisor to former President Barack Obama. From 2009-2017, Rhodes served as a Deputy National Security Advisor to President Obama. In that capacity, he participated in nearly all of President Obama’s key decisions, and oversaw the President’s national security communications, speechwriting, public diplomacy and global engagement programming. He also led the secret negotiations with the Cuban government which resulted in the effort to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba.
Former Ambassador of the United States to El Salvador
Mari Carmen Aponte served as Acting Assistant Secretary in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs from 2016-2017. The first Puerto Rican woman to hold the title of Ambassador, she served as Ambassador of the United States to El Salvador from 2012 until February 2016. Born in Puerto Rico, Aponte spent her early years on the island. After earning a BA in political science from Rosemont College and a JD from Temple University’s Beasley School of Law, she became the first Latina lawyer in Pennsylvania. Aponte moved to Washington, D.C. in 1979 when President Jimmy Carter appointed her as a White House Fellow. She continued practicing law in D.C and cofounded one of the first minority-owned law firms. In 1984, Aponte was elected the first woman president of the Hispanic National Bar Association. From 2001-2004, she was Executive Director of the Puerto Rican Federal Affairs Administration. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Senior Lawyers Project as well as the Management Board of the International Association of Women Judges and a member of the Board of Visitors of the College of William and Mary.
Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico
299 Avenida de Diego
Santurce, Puerto Rico 00909
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