WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
9 Jul 2015 | News

Business, Faith, and Human Rights Groups Urge Congress to Support U.S. Embassy in Cuba

Press Release
July 9, 2015
Washington, D.C.—Today, a broad and diverse set of organizations including the United States Chamber of Commerce, Church World Service, the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), and over 28 other human rights organizations, business, trade associations, and faith groups issued a joint statement urging Congress to support the establishment of a U.S. embassy in Cuba.

The statement comes just as the Senate Appropriations Committee is discussing a bill, which would include funding for a U.S. embassy to operate in Cuba.

“Public opinion strongly endorses updating U.S. policy towards Cuba for the 21st century.  Congress should recognize the breadth of support for a new relationship between Washington and Havana,” said Marc Hanson, WOLA Senior Associate for Cuba. “Opening a U.S. embassy in Cuba is clearly in our national interest. Ensuring funds are available for it to be fully operational is vital.”
In the statement, the groups note that exchanging embassies with Cuba would assist U.S. diplomacy efforts, as well as expand legal U.S. travel, and trade with Cuba’s emerging private sector. “The establishment of embassies is not an endorsement of a foreign government. It is simply a platform from which to engage host country government officials, members of civil society and business groups,” the statement reads.
Jodi Bond, vice president of the Americas for the International Division at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, described the establishment of an embassy in Havana as an indication of progress. “For too long, our relationship has been defined by its differences and burdened by its past, while lacking a clear path forward,” said Bond. “The establishment of embassies is another step towards a new chapter in relations between the U.S. and Cuba.  The Chamber welcomes this important development and will continue to advocate for increased opportunities to engage with Cuban citizens,” she said.
The declaration also comes at a time of growing support for reform nationwide, in which polls show nearly two-thirds of Americans support of establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba. “Every day more business, agricultural and faith organizations are coming out in support of normalizing relations and opening up trade and travel opportunities with the island. On Capitol Hill things are changing too: I’m hearing from more and more Republican and Democratic offices that are reversing their opposition to normalizing U.S.-Cuba relations,” said Hanson.
To view the statement, as well as the full list of its sponsors, click here.