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Cuba Consultation 2008

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We hope that you have been keeping up with the news on Cuba (one great source is through signing up for weekly news reviews from CubaCentral.com ), as Cuba has been getting a lot of ink in the past couple of weeks. We last sent you an update on February 19 with the news about Fidel's resignation. Since then, as you certainly know, Cuba has a new President, the Bush Administration has reacted predictably, and Congress is making noise about re-visiting U.S.-Cuba policy-with an eye to revising it. House Letter, Senate Letter
Our prime reason for this message is to invite you to participate in Cuba Consultation 2008 on April 23, an almost-annual gathering in Washington, DC, of activists from across the country who work together and in their own communities to bring about an end to the embargo on Cuba. This year's consultation is an opportunity for people who care about Cuba and changing U.S. policy to discuss an issue which unites all sectors–travel. And we will highlight one sector which has had recent success in drawing national attention, the U.S.-Cuba Cultural Exchange network. You can see a tentative agenda for the day's meeting at the bottom of the invitation letter below.

We hope that you will consider participating in this event, or sending someone from your network–to energize your work, to give input to DC-based work, and to learn about options for travel and engagement that will move us toward where we want to go, an end to the embargo. It is an important time to look toward real change in 2009, and we should not let our preparations for that opportunity lag.

Give a call if you have questions about the consultation, and please join us in Washington on April 23. The formal invitation with more information follows; tell a friend and help us spread the word!

INVITATION:

ENCOURAGING ENGAGEMENT –
SUPPORTING A TRAVEL SURGE TO CUBA

Cuba Consultation 2008
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
8:30 am-5 pm
LOCATION: Church of the Reformation, 212 E Capitol Street, Washington, DC

Registration Deadline: April 16

Click here for a printable registration form

March 6, 2008

Dear Colleagues:

A representative group of the Cuba Steering Committee (an ad hoc working group of more than two dozen organizations and individuals active on Cuba policy issues) invites you to participate in this year's Cuba Consultation day.

Since 1995, there have been nearly a dozen "Cuba Consultations," events at which a broad spectrum of individuals and groups who support change in U.S. policy toward Cuba have gathered together to share points of view and get a sense of the challenges and opportunities that confront us in the Congress, with the administration, and in public opinion.

The consultation is an opportunity for people who care about Cuba and changing U.S. policy to come together to discuss an issue which unites all sectors–travel. From academics to farmers, Cuban Americans to religious organizations, and from travel service providers to performing artists and even your average citizen, everyone is suffering under U.S. restrictions.

In recent years, the Cuba Consultation focused attention on the situation in the U.S. Congress, and the possibilities of legislative action. This year, due to the presidential campaigns and the intransigence of the Bush Administration, it is unlikely that Congress will take any bold actions toward engaging with Cuba. For this reason, the organizers want to focus this year's Cuba Consultation on encouraging travel to Cuba. This will include discussions on the impact of Bush Administration restrictions on travel to Cuba on various sectors in the United States, the significance and importance that this travel has to these sectors and to their counterparts in Cuba, and the need to support and increase licensed forms of travel to ensure that all avenues for travel are being utilized to their full potential by U.S. citizens.

A new administration will come to Washington in 2009. We want that new President and his/her advisors to be presented with an environment which encourages and facilitates a complete overhaul of U.S. policy toward Cuba. Significantly increasing levels of travel to Cuba where possible is one way to demonstrate how important a change in policy is to U.S. citizens. Putting pressure on OFAC by increasing license applications, optimizing use of existing licenses and general licenses, and generating broad interest in travel will help us communicate just how much U.S. citizens want to engage with Cuba.

We also will focus on the theme of cultural and artistic exchange with Cuba. Last fall, the U.S.-Cuba Cultural Exchange network–made up of American artists, arts presenters, agents and cultural policy specialists–sent an open letter signed by over 1,500 people to the Bush Administration calling for artistic and intellectual interchange between the United States and Cuba, and for steps to be taken towards normalization of relations. This year's Cuba Consultation will include discussion of cultural exchange and will provide information on how you may better work with those in your community who have engaged in cultural exchange work with Cuba. A panel will take place that will include the participation of policy experts, practitioners, as well as people of celebrity who are involved in this important work.

We think this is an exciting and strategic moment to prepare for a new administration in 2009–a time when we can push for an end to travel restrictions (and hopefully even the full embargo).

We anticipate that there may be a reception at the Cuban Interests Section for consultation participants the evening of the 23rd after the close of our consultation, as has happened in previous years. This has not yet been confirmed, but we want you to be aware of this possibility when you make your travel plans.

We encourage you to take advantage of being in Washington to make appointments with your members of Congress for the following day, Thursday, April 24. We can help you with phone numbers, staff names, etc., if you ask. We will also provide a "How to" session, with coffee and bagels, the morning of the 24th for those staying to make Hill visits. FYI: there may be another reception the evening of April 24 with the cultural exchange community. We'll pass on more information when we have it.

A tentative agenda–to help encourage you to participate–follows our signatures. And, below that, a short registration form for you to print out, complete, and fax or mail to us (fax 202.543.7647; snail mail Cuba Consultation 2008, LAWG, 424 C Street NE, Washington, DC 20002).

PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED; click here for a printable registration form

The Cuba Consultation 2008 registration fee is a modest $30 per person, to help us cover lunch, materials, venue, etc. There is a space on the registration form for your credit card information, or you may write a check to LAWG to attach to your snail mail registration, or to give us upon arrival at the consultation.

If you have any further questions, contact Claire Rodriguez/LAWG, 202.546.7010, lawg@lawg.org; or Lilia Lopez/WOLA, 202.797.2171, llopez@wola.org.

Sincerely,

Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA)–Sarah Stephens and Collin Laverty
Center for International Policy (CIP)–Jennifer Schuett
Fund for Reconciliation and Development (FRD)–John McAuliff
Latin America Working Group (LAWG)–Mavis Anderson and Claire Rodriguez
U.S.-Cuba Cultural Exchange–Louis Head
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)–Elsa Falkenburger and Lilia Lopez

Click here for a printable registration form

TENTATIVE AGENDA

8:30 a.m. Registration

Panel 1: U.S./Cuba Overview

    * U.S. Congress
    * Presidential campaigns
    * Florida races
    * In Cuba
    * Potential changes by Executive Order in new administration

Panel 2: Artistic and Cultural Exchange

    * Overview of work in cultural community
    * Legal and technical issues; licensing
    * Artistic Agent
    * Arts Presenter/Celebrity
    * Congressional staffer from Arts Caucus
    * How you can participate

Lunch speakers invited from the Obama, Clinton, and McCain campaigns

Panel 3: Travel–Who's doing it and how can you?

    * Overview of current travel situation
    * Legal component
    * Unlicensed travel/travel challenges
    * Congressional travel
    * Publicizing travel, a "How to travel" session

Pulling the treads together

Networking

Click here for a printable registration form