From March 2nd to 6th, 2016, Seattle had its first visit by a Cuban diplomat since the WTO Ministerial meeting in 1999.
Miguel Fraga, the first secretary of the newly re-established Cuban embassy in Washington, D.C., spoke at nine different events during his four-day visit. The focus of many of his presentations was US-Cuba relations taking in the last 55 years of conflict, the beginnings of normalization in the last 15 months, and what more needs to be done to achieve truly normal relations between our two countries - emphasizing the need to end the US blockade of Cuba, the travel ban on US citizens, and to return Guantanamo Bay to Cuba.
An important aim of the visit was to establish horizontal, people-to-people and organization-to-organization links. Secretary Fraga visited four colleges: Seattle University, University of Washington, Seattle Central College and Pinchot University. At every college event, students wanted to know how their college can interchange with colleges in Cuba. Secretary Fraga also met with business people, lawyers involved with international law, and an African American Baptist congregation, all of whom were interested in building connections with Cuba.
Miguel met with elected officials from King County council, the Washington State legislature, and with Seattle Congressman Jim McDermott. Also noteworthy throughout the visit was the presence of Cuban Americans - anxious to make contact with Miguel and to explore how they can forge improved relationships with their mother country.
Highlights of the visit included the 200 staff and students who came to hear Miguel speak at Seattle Central College, the 100 people who came to the day conference at Seattle University on a sunny Saturday, and the 120 who attended an emotional celebration at El Centro de la Raza as part of the opening of the photographic exhibit documenting the return of the Cuban 5 to Cuba.