Sarah Stephens is the executive director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA). Since moving to Washington in 2000, Sarah’s work has focused mainly on securing the kinds of decisive changes in U.S.-Cuba policy implemented by President Obama in 2015. She is now devoted to making those new policies work – for U.S. travelers and U.S. businesses, for civil society partners on both sides of the Florida Strait, and for the Cubans who stand to gain the most from a respectful relationship with the United States – and to normalize relations going forward.
Since opening CDA’s doors in 2006, Sarah has worked with U.S. policymakers, journalists and others, to change the debate on U.S. foreign policy toward Cuba and the hemisphere more broadly. 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 helped plan and participated in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s highly-successful trade mission to Cuba in April 2015, and has led trips for seven Fortune 50 corporations and other firms interested in doing business with Cuba. At forums in the U.S. and in Latin America, in editorial columns, and other publications, Sarah has advocated for changes in our policy toward Cuba and Latin America.
Under Ms. Stephens’ direction, CDA 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. She introduced a CDA panel on the status of women in Cuba in the era of economic reform at the Latin America Studies Association Congress in Chicago, and she gave the keynote address in Havana at a celebration hosted by Témas Magazine, a social science journal that collaborated with CDA on its “Gender in Transition” edition published in December 2014.
Ms. Stephens has delivered remarks and provided analysis in panels and conferences across the country and in Cuba, before the World Affairs Council of Washington (DC) on the thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations; the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh (PA) on normalizing U.S.-Cuba relations; at 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 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.”
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. She left CIP in 2006 and launched the Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA).
Andrew Fishbein is Policy and Advocacy Director at the Center for Democracy in the Americas. He works with key stakeholders in the U.S. government and outside constituencies to push for a decisive change in U.S. policy toward Cuba. Andrew previously served as Senior Congressional Affairs Officer at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, where he managed congressional outreach and policy programming, and focused on U.S.-EU relations and energy policy. Andrew holds a MSc in Energy Policy & Climate from Johns Hopkins University and a BSc in Political Science from Carnegie Mellon University. He lives in Washington, DC.
Sara Baker is serving as a Stephen M. Rivers Memorial fellow for 2015-2016. Sara received her Master’s in International Affairs from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Her thesis, “Alternative Futures for the Civil Military Relationship in a Post-Castro Cuba,” was awarded the “Best Work of 2014” in her program. It was also published on the Director of National Intelligence’s Virtual Americas Network, and widely circulated in the White House and the Department of Defense. Sara completed her undergraduate work at Washington University with a focus on visual culture and gender relations in the Mexican drug trade. Sara majored in Spanish and speaks beginning Portuguese. Sara is thrilled to have an opportunity to further Stephen M. Rivers’ mission and continue to work for better relations between the U.S. and Cuba.
Emilia Gore, a Washington native proud of her Cuban and Mexican heritage, is serving as a Stephen M. Rivers Memorial fellow for 2015-2016. Emilia graduated from the University of Virginia in May, after completing a unique distinguished majors program in Political and Social Thought. Prior to graduating, Emilia spent seven weeks in Cuba studying small-scale agricultural practices and helping to implement a permaculture garden project at a University in Sancti Spiritus. She also served as a Technology Consultant at the University of Virginia Digital Media Lab. Emilia, with bilingual proficiency in Spanish, previously served as a Spanish Interpreter in the Dominican Republic for La Fundación Para La Paz. With a strong commitment to U.S.-Cuba exchange, Emilia hopes to use her fellowship to support the process of normalization and honor Stephen M. Rivers’ legacy.
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.