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Dole Institute to host discussion on U.S. recognition of Cuba

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

LAWRENCE — The Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas will host Frank Calzon, executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba, and Marifeli Perez-Stable, professor at Florida International University, in a moderated discussion on the issue of formal U.S. political recognition of the island country of Cuba. “Recognizing Cuba” will take place at 7:30 p.m. March 24 at the Dole Institute. 

This event is free and open to the public.

“In light of the president’s plans to re-establish formal diplomatic relations with Cuba, we’re pleased to be able to provide a forum for civil discourse on this important issue," said Bill Lacy, director of the Dole Institute.

President Obama announced in December 2014 that he would move toward restoring relations with Cuba beginning with easing travel and trade restrictions. U.S. lawmakers are preparing a series of bills to ease U.S. restrictions on trade with Cuba, with plans to introduce them in the Senate in the coming months. A Feb. 12 directive by the State Department clarified the kinds of products and services that American importers can now bring into the U.S. from Cuba.

The 1992 Cuba Democracy Act and 1996 Helms-Burton Act state that the embargo against Cuba may not be lifted until Cuba holds free and fair elections and transitions to a democratic government that excludes the Castro family (Raúl Castro is scheduled to leave office in 2018). It also calls for improvements in human rights, including ensuring a free press and releasing political prisoners. Some adjustments have been made to the trade embargo over the years. For instance, U.S. medical supplies and agricultural products can be exported to the island under certain conditions.

“The forum on Cuba is part of our effort to educate the community about one of the countries of the Americas and its relations with the United States,” said James Malouff III, president of Pan American Association of Kansas City. “PANAM-KC holds no position on the question of recognizing Cuba but rather seeks to help educate the public and let them reach their own conclusions. We are pleased to partner with the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics on this forum.”

Calzon earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Rutgers University. He earned a master’s degree in comparative politics from Georgetown University. Calzon has spoken on Cuba before congressional committees, at universities and foreign policy groups, to world leaders and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. He served for 10 years as the Washington representative for Freedom House, an American human rights organization with an international focus. The Center for a Free Cuba, of which he is executive director, conducts outreach programs to lobby members of Congress, the diplomatic corps, as well as media and decision-makers around the world on issues related to modern Cuba.                          

Perez-Stable is an author, journalist, and professor at Florida International University, where she teaches sociology. Among other news outlets, her work has been featured in The New Republic, Excelsior (Mexico), and El Pais (Spain). Perez-Stable has been interviewed on NPR, PBS (Miami), CNN, NBC, RTE (Ireland) and others. She is the author of "The Cuban Revolution: Origins, Course, and Legacy" and "The United States and Cuba: Intimate Enemies." Additionally, Perez-Stable chaired the task force on Memory, Truth and Justice, which issued the report Cuban National Reconciliation. She served as vice president for democratic governance at the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, D.C., from 2004-2009. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Dole Institute of Politics is dedicated to promoting public service, civic engagement and politics. It is located on KU’s west campus and includes the Robert J. Dole Archive & Special Collections. The Institute offers free public programming with world-renowned guest speakers on a variety of topics that intersect politics, as well as research and educational opportunities for all ages.

“Is It Time to Recognize Cuba?” is co-sponsored by the Pan American Association of Kansas City (PANAM-KC). The mission of the PANAM-KC is to educate the community about the countries of the Americas. PANAM-KC is a nonprofit, non-political organization and has no official position as to whether the U. S. should lift the commercial embargo on Cuba and re-establish relations.

The program is also co-sponsored by KU Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies and KU Model U.N.

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