Jeffrey DeLaurentis began his 27-year State Department career as a consular officer in the United States Interests Section in Havana 1991. Twenty-five years later — after two more diplomatic postings to Cuba, including one as head of the US Interests Section, and major Latin America-focused assignments in Washington — US president Barack Obama tapped him to become his country’s first ambassador to Cuba in more than five decades.
Reopening shuttered embassies in both countries was supposed to signal a diplomatic re-set in relations between Washington and Havana. It was short-lived. Thanks to the 2016 election of Donald Trump and the refusal of the Republican-controlled Senate to confirm DeLaurentis’ appointment, he was never able to serve as more than acting ambassador. He left his position and the State Department in July 2017.
Who better than DeLaurentis to try to make sense — from an American perspective — of the rollercoaster ride the US-Cuba relationship has been, and continues to be?
DeLaurentis will be one of the keynote speakers during “The Cuban Revolution at 60,” a major symposium featuring world-renowned Cuba scholars, policymakers and policy analysts. Registration for the conference — taking place at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, from October 31 – November 2 — is now open.
DeLaurentis, in fact, won’t be the only keynote speaker who has played a key role in contemporary US-Cuba relations. Josefina Vidal, now Cuba’s ambassador to Canada, served as Cuba’s chief negotiator with the Americans during the recent thaw, and will offer reflections on what happened then, and what isn’t happening now.
Dr. Alon Friedman, a ground-breaking neuroscientist at the Dalhousie University Brain Repair Centre who recently led a multidisciplinary study into the so-called “Havana Syndrome” for Global Affairs Canada, will also discuss his findings at the conference.
Forty academics will participate in a series of panels assess the successes and challenges of the Cuban economy, Cuba-US relations, Cuba’s international relations, climate change and ecological challenges facing the island, as well as social change, including issues of race, gender (in)equity, health and sexual diversity.
All sessions are open to the public, and free. For more information: http://www.cuba60.ca
Stephen Kimber is the award-winning author of one novel and nine books of nonfiction, including What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five (Fernwood, 2013). That book won the 2014 Evelyn Richardson Award for nonfiction from the East
Coast Literary Awards, was long-listed for a Libris Award as best nonfiction book published in Canada in 2013, and the Spanish edition won a Reader’s Choice Award from the Cuban Institute of the Book as one of the top ten best-selling books in Cuba in 2016. His new novel, a love story based partly in Cuba and partly in Canada, will be published by Vagrant Press in Fall 2020.