Washington, D.C.—On September 19, His Holiness Pope Francis will embark on a trip that will take him to Cuba and the United States, his first visit to both countries. During the historic trip, in which he will become the first pontiff to address a joint session of Congress, Pope Francis is expected to touch on some of the most pressing issues in the hemisphere. The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a leading research and advocacy organization that has been advancing human rights in the Americas for the past 40 years, will be closely following the visit.
During the pope’s visit to Cuba, some of the rapid changes underway on the island that WOLA has identified will be in the spotlight. So will U.S.-Cuba relations, especially in light of the vital role that the Vatican has played in facilitating the unfolding process of reconciliation between both countries. During his stopover on the island he may also address the ongoing peace negotiations in Havana between rebels and the Colombian government, which could end the hemisphere’s longest-running armed conflict.
One of the key issues that Pope Francis is expected to address in the United States is migration. On September 24, he is slated to meet with a group of migrants, including migrant children who have fled from violence in Central America.
WOLA will have key experts available for commentary and analysis during the visit. These include:
- Executive Director Joy Olson, a leading specialist on U.S. policy towards Latin America. Her most recent work has focused on the need for the Americas to work together to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility
- Senior Associate for Cuba Marc Hanson, who is closely monitoring reforms in Cuba and changing U.S.-Cuba relations
- Senior Associate for Mexico and Migrant Rights Maureen Meyer, a prominent expert on migration, border security, and the rights of migrants in transit
- Senior Associate for Citizen Security Adriana Beltrán, whose work focuses on violence and the root causes of migration from Central America
- Senior Associate for the Andes Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, a leading expert on the Colombian peace process and its potential impact on marginalized communities in the country
- Alex Wilde, WOLA board member and American University Research Scholar in residence focusing on the history of religious responses to violence in Latin America