Sarah Stephens is the executive director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas. A long-time human rights advocate, Sarah began her work in the 1980s at El Rescate, a center for Central American refugees in Los Angeles, and then worked for the Hollywood Women’s Political Committee on human rights issues from 1990-91. She later founded and directed Artists for a Hate Free America, an entertainment industry-backed organization geared toward encouraging youth involvement in human rights and civil rights issues.
Sarah moved to Washington to work on Cuba policy at the Washington Office on Latin America, and, in December 2001, joined the staff at the Center for International Policy, where she founded the Freedom to Travel to Cuba campaign. In 2006, she left CIP and launched the Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA).
As CDA director, Sarah works with U.S. policymakers, journalists and others, to change the debate on U.S. foreign policy toward the hemisphere. She has led dozens of delegations of U.S. policymakers, academics, experts, and philanthropists to Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras and Venezuela on fact-finding and research missions. She has advocated for changes in our policy toward Cuba before Congress, at forums in the U.S. and in Latin America, in editorial columns, and other publications. Opinion pieces authored by Sarah have been published by The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Indianapolis Star, The Christian Science Monitor, The Washington Times, The Huffington Post, Alternet.org, and The Havana Note. Her work has been supported by The Atlantic Philanthropies, Arca Foundation, the Christopher Reynolds Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the General Service Foundation, the Open Society Institute, and the Stewart Mott Charitable Trust among others.
In 2009, Sarah testified twice before Congress. On April 29, 2009 she testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reforms Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs regarding “National Security Implications of U.S. Policy toward Cuba”. Sarah also testified before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere regarding “The Crisis in Honduras” on July 10, 2009. The text of her statements can be viewed and downloaded here.
In February 2010, Sarah was a panelist at the George Washington University’s Elliot School of International Affairs conference titled “The Obama Administration and Latin America: The First Year.” Her remarks are available for viewing and download here. She delivered the keynote address at the Ohio Latin Americanist Conference 2010 at Ohio University in Athens. The text of her address is available here. Sarah also offered remarks on a panel entitled “Cuba and its reintegration in the Inter-American System” at the American Society of International Law. Her remarks can be found here. And at a conference convened by the City University of New York “Cuba Futures, Past, and Present” conference, Sarah was a panelist on ‘Inequalities in Contemporary Cuba,’ and spoke about potential roles for U.S. policy as Cuba engages in economic reforms.
Dawn Gable serves as Assistant Director at the Center for Democracy in the Americas. Dawn, who is bilingual and has a Graduate Certificate in Spanish-English translation, began visiting Latin America in 2000, when she served as a teaching assistant at the Universidad de Zulia in Venezuela. For the better part of the decade, she was involved in research and advocacy activities regarding both Cuba and Venezuela. She began her work on U.S. policy toward the region in 2009; first, as a Cuba policy fellow in the office of Rep. Sam Farr and later at the Center for Economic Policy and Research. Currently, she is studying Legislative Affairs at the Graduate School of Political Management and holds a Graduate Certificate in Latin America and Hemispheric Studies from the Elliott School of International Affairs, both at George Washington University. For the past five years, Dawn has volunteered as a contributor to and translator for Havana Times. An expert in avian studies, she received double Baccalaureate degrees in Biology and Environmental Studies as an undergraduate.
Lisa Ndecky Llanos
Lisa Ndecky Llanos leads CDA’s project on women in Cuba. She grew up in Los Angeles, California with Chilean and American parents, and is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese. She graduated from Stanford University in 2009 with a B.A. in International Relations. During her undergraduate career, she was involved in several labor campaigns, including the campaign for a Living Wage applicable to all Stanford workers. She completed study abroad programs in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Santiago, Chile and performed research in Caracas and Barquisimeto, Venezuela. In her junior year, she taught a student-led course on Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution, and her senior paper was an analysis of claims of clientelism in President Chávez’s social programs.
Lisa began working at CDA in 2010. She has led three trips, including two congressional delegations, to the island and regularly contributes to CDA publications including the Cuba Central News Blast.
Vivian Ramos is the Administrative Assistant at the Center for Democracy in the Americas. A native Washingtonian, she became passionate about Latin American after her first trip to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras in 2005. Subsequently, she decided as an undergraduate at James Madison University to major in International Affairs, with a concentration in Latin America, and a Spanish language minor. There, she focused on such topics as the post-transitional period after the Salvadoran civil war and the history of the Guatemalan civil conflict. Vivian is continuing her studies as a Master’s candidate at George Mason University, focusing on Global Conflict and Security, specifically the effects of conflict in Central America. During the summer of 2012, Vivian studied in Buenos Aires, where she learned about historic and current human rights issues in Argentine society. She is fluent in Spanish.
Lela Singh is a new program and research assistant at the Center for Democracy in the Americas. Lela grew up in D.C. speaking Spanish around her parents’ restaurants, and graduated in 2010 from the University of Washington in Seattle with a B.A. in Latin American Studies. While at the University of Washington, she studied Portuguese abroad in Rio de Janeiro. She also conducted research on the implications of the suit filed by the Pacific Rim mining company against El Salvador under the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) for not approving a mining license. Lela helped coordinate the 2010 and 2011 Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Awards ceremonies at the Institute for Policy Studies, and has assisted with coordinating and writing for the IPS Project for Promoting Resource Rights in the Global Economy. She was in the department of Cabañas in El Salvador in March of 2012 as an observer to the mid-term elections. Lela is fluent in Spanish and proficient in Portuguese.
Emma Stodder is CDA’s first Stephen M. Rivers Memorial Intern and a sophomore at Brandeis University, where she is pursuing a double major in History and Latin American Studies and a minor in Politics and Hispanic Studies. She is the editor of the Latin America section of the Brandeis International Journal, for which she also works as a copy-editor. Emma spent a summer in Argentina during high school and has also traveled to Peru and Costa Rica. She plans to study abroad in Latin America during her junior year and is especially interested in social movements and the impact of the Cold War on Latin America. Emma interned at CDA for two months in the summer of 2012 and is delighted to be back in Washington with CDA.
David E. Dreyer
David E. Dreyer is a senior principal at TSD, Inc. His work has taken him across the U.S. and abroad on assignments that included working at the Sydney and Athens Summer Olympic Games, conducting communications audits for public and private sector organizations, advising the Ecumenical Patriarch of Eastern Orthodoxy, and providing strategic counsel to CDA’s public education campaign to change U.S. policy toward Cuba and the region.
David served previously as Deputy White House Communications Director for President Bill Clinton and as Senior Advisor to U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin. For fourteen years, David was a trusted advisor to Democratic Members of the U.S. Congress.
Linda Garrett is senior policy analyst on El Salvador. Ms. Garrett is a writer, journalist, community organizer and human rights investigator. Her extensive experience with El Salvador started in 1981 when she co-founded two projects in Los Angeles to assist Central American refugees; twenty-eight years later, El Rescate and the Clínica Msr. Romero continue to provide social, legal and health care services in the Pico-Union District of Los Angeles. After serving El Rescate as director and fundraiser, she moved to El Salvador and documented human rights, social, political and military developments from 1985-1995.
Following the 1992 Peace Agreement, Ms. Garrett collaborated on El Rescate’s Index to Accountability Project; she was also a consultant to the United Nations-sponsored Truth and Ad-Hoc Commissions, and an investigator for the 1994 United Nations Commission to investigate illegal armed groups. During this time, she compiled two books on human rights which were published anonymously, and she was also a contributor to the Salvadoran magazine Tendencias.
After 1995, Ms. Garrett worked as a journalist in Vietnam, directed a community organizing project with undocumented immigrants in the state of Georgia, and participated in a reconciliation project in the Balkans. She returned to El Salvador as an election observer in 2009.
Dr. Dan Hellinger is a CDA contributor and the author of our monthly update on Venezuela, Caracas Connect. Dr. Hellinger is a professor of political science at Webster University and has been following Venezuelan events closely since his first visit there in 1978. He has published several books and a wide range of articles on the country, and has served a president of the Venezuelan Studies Section of the Latin American Studies Association.
Collin Laverty is a Cuba consultant at the Center for Democracy in the Americas. He speaks Portuguese and Spanish and has lived, studied and conducted research throughout Latin America. Collin graduated with honors from the College of Charleston, where he majored in Political Science. He coordinated CDA’s Cuba program from 2008-2010, helping to organize and accompanying fact-finding and research delegations of policymakers, academics and experts to Latin America. He has performed extensive research on developments in the region over the years, contributing to CDA publications and offering opinion pieces in the Havana Times, Huffington Post, Progresso Weekly and Venezuela Analysis.
After leaving CDA, Collin studied at the University of California, San Diego. In May 2012, he completed a Master’s degree at the Institute for International Relations and Pacific Studies, where he was a FLAS fellow and managing director of the International Policy Solutions Journal. After graduating, Collin founded Cuba Educational Travel, through which he now organizes and leads people-to-people delegations to Cuba.
Owen Wuerker is an intern assisting the research team at CDA. He grew up in Portland, Oregon and Washington DC, and graduated Lewis & Clark College in 2011 with a B.A. in History.
He has traveled extensively in the region, visiting Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.
When he’s not doing research for CDA, Owen is pursuing a career in music.
Walter Tyrna is an intern at CDA and a junior at American University, where he is studying US Foreign Policy and pursuing a Spanish minor. Walter worked for Voices on the Border, a non-profit working with communities in El Salvador, before spending a semester studying at Casa de Las Americas in Havana, Cuba. Beyond Cuba, Walter has also traveled to Quito, Ecuador, as part of a community service trip. He is proficient in Spanish.