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Event Summary

AEI hosted Cuban political activist Antonio Rodiles to discuss his ground-level understanding of current conditions in Cuba and the impact of US policy on the island.

In a discussion with AEI’s Roger F. Noriega, Mr. Rodiles stressed the regime’s expansive power and how, contrary to perception, there was very little intent to reform. The discussants noted the Castro regime’s dynastic characteristics, exemplified by the government taking steps to bring in a new generation to ensure the regime maintains power in the future. Given this, Mr. Rodiles argued that it was crucial that the opening provided by President Obama’s engagement truly create space for the Cuban people, as opposed to simply allowing the regime to consolidate control through expanding government-controlled nongovernmental organizations and businesses.

The audience Q&A session covered a range of issues, including the importance of the US and its allies engaging more deeply with the opposition and the impact of developments in other Latin American countries, such as Brazil and Venezuela.

As Mr. Rodiles noted, Cuba remains under a totalitarian regime. This discussion highlighted the importance of supporters of democracy staying connected with Cuba to ensure that engagement truly benefits the Cuban people and not just their rulers.
–Sahana Kumar

Event Description

Many Cubans and Americans alike welcomed the promise that the Obama administration’s outreach to the Castro regime would create political space for the Cuban people. Tragically, two months after President Obama’s visit there, the Cuban regime continues to arbitrarily imprison dissidents, violently suppress peaceful protests, and systematically deprive Cubans of their most basic rights.

AEI welcomes Antonio Rodiles, one of Cuba’s most prominent pro-democracy voices and a leading figure within the country’s opposition movement, to offer an on-the-ground perspective of current conditions on the island and to share his thoughts on whether to expect any liberalization out of Havana and how US policy could best help the Cuban people.

Join the conversation on social media with #RodilesatAEI.


2:15 PM

2:30 PM

Antonio Rodiles, Cuban political activist
Roger F. Noriega, AEI (moderator)

3:00 PM

4:00 PM

Speaker Biographies

Roger F. Noriega is a visiting fellow at AEI and the founder and managing director of Visión Américas LLC, which advises US and foreign clients on international business issues. He served as the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs (Canada, Latin America, and the Caribbean) from July 2003 to October 2005 and as the US ambassador to the Organization of American States from August 2001 to July 2003. Mr. Noriega is currently vice chairman of the board of directors of the Congressional Award Foundation and a member of the advisory boards of the Canadian American Border Trade Partnership and the Americano, an online forum for Latino voters.

Antonio Rodiles has been harassed, beaten, and arbitrarily detained on numerous occasions for peacefully advocating for human rights in Cuba. He is the founder of the independent forum Estado de SATS (State of SATS), a founding member of the Todos Marchamos (We All March) citizen protest initiative, and a coordinator of Demanda Ciudadana por otra Cuba (The Citizen Demand for a Different Cuba). He is one of the national coordinators of the Cuban Forum for Rights and Freedoms, an umbrella organization uniting several opposition organizations.

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