Elections 2020: Implications For US-Cuba Relations


Wednesday, May 20, 2020, 1:00pm to 2:30pm



This event is virtual. To register for this event, please click here

Speakers: Dr. Margaret E. Crahan, Columbia University; Prof. Philip Brenner, American University; Prof. William Leogrande, American University

Moderator: Prof. Arturo Lopez-Levy, Holy Names University

The Columbia University Cuba Program of the Institute of Latin American Studies (ILAS) and Nuestra América Initiative invite you to a webinar on the impact of the 2020 elections on US-Cuba relations. During the 2016 presidential campaign, the Republican candidate Donald Trump adopted multiple positions about relations with Cuba including suggesting that he supported President Obama’s rapprochement with the island, although he could have gotten a better deal. After arriving in the White House, the real estate mogul launched an effort to rollback the normalization process initiated by his predecessor, Barack Obama. During President Trump’s first term, US-Cuba relations saw important setbacks as militant anti-engagement sectors capitalized on the alleged sonic attacks on US diplomats in Havana. In addition to restricting the use of general licenses for travelling to Cuba, for the first time since 1996, the Trump administration opened US courts to claims presented under chapter III of the 1996 Helms-Burton (LIBERTAD) Act. Some observers claim that Trump has toughened policies towards Cuba beyond any reasonable measure. But Republican politicians, particularly in South Florida, are claiming that the current president could move even more energetically towards a confrontation with Cuba. On the other hand, some progress in bilateral ties has not been reversed. There are embassies in Washington and Havana, while some areas of cooperation between the coastguards and national security agencies of the two countries continue. The panel will focus on what to expect if Trump is re-elected or not. What Cuba related issues will weigh heavily with voters particularly in Florida. Is Trump’s approach to Cuba the result of a general policy towards the hemisphere or a domestic political calculation? Alternatively, the panelists will analyze to what degree a Democratic president will be able to restart the US-Cuba normalization process given other priorities in the light of the global pandemic.

Professor Margaret E. Crahan is a Senior Research Scholar and Director of the Cuba Program at the Institute for Latin American Studies at Columbia University. From 2007-09 she was the Kozmetsky Distinguished Professor and Director of the Kozmetsky Center of Excellence in Global Finance at St. Edward’s University, from 1982-1994 she was the Henry R. Luce Professor of Religion, Power and Political Process at Occidental College and from 1994-2008 the Dorothy Epstein Professor of the City University of New York. Dr. Crahan has published over one hundred articles and books including Cuba-US Relations: Normalization and Its Challenges and Donald J. Trump y las relaciones Cuba-Estados Unidos en la encrucijada (with Soraya Castro). Doctorate received from Columbia University.

Professor Philip Brenner is a Professor in American University’s School of International Service and an Affiliate Professor of History. He has published widely on U.S./Cuba relations, U.S./Latin American relations, contemporary U.S. foreign policy, and the Cuban missile crisis. His most recent book is Cuba Libre: A 500-Year Quest for Independence, co-authored with Peter Eisner [Rowman and Littlefield]. Doctorate from Johns Hopkins University.

Professor William LeoGrande is a Professor of Government and a specialist in Latin American politics and U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America as well as Associate Vice Provost for Academic Affairs at American University. Professor LeoGrande has been a frequent adviser to government and private sector agencies. He has written five books, including Our Own Backyard: The United States in Central America, 1977 – 1992. Most recently, he is coauthor of Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana. Previously, he served on the staffs of the Democratic Policy Committee of the United States Senate, and the Democratic Caucus Task Force on Central America of the United States House of Representatives. Professor LeoGrande has been a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow, and a Pew Faculty Fellow in International Affairs. Doctorate received from Syracuse University.

Professor Arturo Lopez-Levy, Assistant Professor of Politics and International Relations at Holy Names University, Oakland, California. He is the author of Raul Castro and the New Cuba: A Close-Up View of Change. He has been a fellow at the Inter-American Dialogue, the Aspen Institute and in 2005 he received the Leonard Marks Foreign Policy award of the American Academy of Diplomacy. He received his doctorate from the University of Denver.