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).
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.
Under Ms. Stephens’ direction, CDA has published a series of studies on 21st century Cuba, including “Cuba’s New Resolve: Economic Reform and its implications for U.S. Policy“; a detailed report on Cuba’s plans to drill for energy in the Gulf of Mexico and how the embargo has left the United States vulnerable to the environmental impacts of a potential spill; and “Women’s Work: Gender Equality in Cuba and the Role of Women in Building Cuba’s Future.”
Following the publication of the “Women’s Work” report, Ms. Stephens delivered the keynote address at CDA’s conference titled “Cubans in the New Economy: Their Reflections and the U.S. Response,” co-sponsored by National Foreign Trade Council and the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, and participated in a panel hosted by Equality Forum in Philadelphia, which focused on LGBT equality in Cuba.
Regarded as an expert in U.S.-Latin American policy, Ms. Stephens delivered remarks and provided analysis in panels and conferences around the country, including the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs conference titled “The Obama Administration and Latin America: The First Year”; a panel entitled “Cuba and its reintegration in the Inter-American System” at the American Society of International Law; and at a conference by the Center for International Policy (CIP) on “Questions of Racial Identity, Racism and anti-Racist Policies in Cuba Today,” where participants discussed the implications of race in the Cuban nation, Afro-Cuban initiatives striving for racial equality, and the effect on these issues on U.S.-Cuban relations.
Ms. Stephens has 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.” Her testimony can be viewed here. She also testified before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere regarding “The Crisis in Honduras.”
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 Office and Program Coordinator at the Center for Democracy in the Americas. A native Washingtonian, she became passionate about Latin America 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 recently graduated with a Master’s degree from 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.
Simone Duval is the Administrative Assistant/Scheduler at the Center for Democracy in the Americas. Simone received a B.A. in Latin American Studies and Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2014. She is fluent in Spanish and proficient in Portuguese.
Before earning her degree, Simone was engaged in a variety of activities in the region and on campus. In 20ll, she served as the Principal Investigator for a summer research project on satisfaction rates among micro insurance customers in Peru. She also worked at the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy in Quito, Ecuador as an intern in 2012, where she managed cultural and educational outreach programs for Spanish speakers. Simone also spent a gap year in Ambato, Ecuador. During her time on campus, she became involved in the Latino community by hosting and working with area youth on Radio Latijam, the community Spanish language radio program. Simone’s focus for her senior term paper was the 2011 economic guidelines implemented in Cuba. Following her graduation, she received a Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) grant from the U.S. Department of Education to intensively study Portuguese in Rio de Janeiro.
Lela Singh is a Program Associate and the Publications Coordinator 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 country’s mid-term elections. Lela is fluent in Spanish and proficient in Portuguese.
Cullen Moran is the Stephen M. Rivers Memorial Intern at the Center for Democracy in the Americas. Cullen is an undergraduate student at American University, where he is studying International Relations with a focus on Global Political Economy. His research on economic sanctions was recently named “Best Undergraduate Research Paper” by the American University Library. Before starting his university studies, Cullen spent a year traveling and working in Central America. During his time as a student, he has traveled to Cuba three times on student-organized cultural exchange trips, two of which he led. These trips focused on the role of race and identity in Cuban society. Cullen is fluent in Spanish and speaks some rusty French.
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.
Nicole Mata is a recent graduate from George Mason University, where she studied Global Affairs with a concentration in Global Governance. Her research on Cuba during the Cold War led to her interest in Cuban culture and history, and the dynamics of Cuba-U.S. relations. During her undergraduate years, she studied abroad in Spain, interned in Buenos Aires, and took part of a two week cultural exchange in Cuba, improving her Spanish skills along the way. She is working now as an intern at CDA.
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.