Diplomatic Challenges and Opportunities for U.S. Cuban Relations

Event Date: October 15, 2020 Event Time: 7:00 p.m. via Zoom Presenter: Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis

On July 20, 2015, a little more than five years ago, the United States and Cuba reestablished diplomatic relations after more than 55 years of acrimony. It was a victory for diplomacy, sanity and American interests and values, hailed throughout the region and the world. It did not last long. Today, government to government communication is minimal, with a cascade of new sanctions and harsh rhetoric from Washington. Career diplomat Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis was dispatched to Cuba in 2014 to build a new embassy and relationship and rode the diplomatic roller coaster until mid-2017 when a new American administration dramatically changed course. What happened and why? DeLaurentis has a lot to say about the challenges of forging a new beginning with Cuba in the best interest of the United States, about what worked and what did not, and about those who question the merits of sustaining such a relationship. He will explore why we need to rebuild the relationship through diplomacy, dialogue and principled disagreement.

Ambassador (ret.) Jeffrey DeLaurentis is a Distinguished Resident Fellow in Latin American Studies, Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, and Senior Adviser, Albright Stonebridge Group.

During his 28-year career in the U.S. Foreign Service, Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis worked almost exclusively on Western Hemisphere issues and as a multilateral diplomat at the United Nations. He served as the first Charge 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 launched between the two countries until January 2017. Prior to taking up his Cuba post in August 2014, he was the Ambassador 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.

DeLaurentis, a graduate of the Georgetown University Walsh School of Foreign Service and Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, is a recipient of multiple State Department awards. He began his State Department career in 1991 as a consular officer in Havana and returned to Cuba as Political-Economic Section Chief in 1999-2002. In Washington, DeLaurentis served as the Chief of Staff to the Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, and Director of Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council. His last assignment in the Foreign Service was at the Harvard Kennedy School as a Senior Diplomatic Fellow. He recently completed a fellowship at Columbia University and is a non-resident Visiting Fellow at Harvard’s David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Cuba Studies Program.