The Evolution of U.S. Policy Toward Cuba

The Evolution of U.S. Policy Toward Cuba

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On Wednesday, August 17, the IRC will welcome Hilary Renner, Senior Stratcomms Advisor for Cuba at the U.S. Department of State.

About this event

Since the toppling of a U.S.-backed regime in 1959, the United States' relationship with Cuba has been tense and complex. Leadership transitions in both countries and alternating steps toward and away from normalization have kept the trajectory of U.S.-Cuba relations unclear, even as the reins in Havana passed from the Castro Family for the first time in six decades. On Wednesday, August 17, the IRC will welcome Hilary Renner, Senior Strategic Communications Advisor for Cuba at the U.S. State Department, to help us explore the nature of the relationship and challenges between Cuba and the U.S. and where U.S. policy toward Cuba goes from here. This discussion serves as a companion program to the art exhibit, The History Behind the Sheets, on view at the Kansas City Museum, an IRC organizational member, through September 25.

About the Speaker

Hilary is the Senior Advisor for Strategic Communications on Cuba. She has a unique dual role of leading public communications on Cuba at the Department of State while managing the locally employed staff and public diplomacy activities in Havana remotely. Prior to this position, Hilary completed a one-year tour as the Embassy Spokesperson in Kabul, Afghanistan in August 2021. From July 2018 to July 2020, she was the Deputy Director of the Office of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs in the Bureau of African Affairs (AF/PDPA). Hilary completed a master’s degree in National Security Strategy at the National War College of the National Defense University in June of 2018. She was the Public Affairs Officer in Toronto, Canada from August 2014 to August 2017. Hilary worked previously in AF/PDPA first as a Press Officer, then as Bureau Spokesperson, and finally as the Policy Coordination Officer from 2010-2014. Hilary also served in Mexico City as a Consular and Economic Officer and as a Cultural Affairs Officer in both Warsaw and Bogota.

Hilary joined the Foreign Service in 2002 and worked in public affairs, technical communications, and water resources management studying water use in desert land environments prior to diplomatic service. She has a B.A. from Carleton College and a M.S. from the Warner College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University. She also attended university in England at the Center for Medieval Studies, Keble College in Oxford and worked in Nigeria, Chile, and Germany. Hilary was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Djenne, Mali where she met her husband Scott, who is also a diplomat. Originally from Idaho, Hilary competed in track, cross-country, and downhill skiing while in high-school and college. Hilary is part Native American and has ancestors from the Choctaw, Cherokee, Delaware, and Powhattan tribes.

About the Moderator

Fabiola Ortiz has been organizing legal travel to Cuba since 2001. Her passion for culture and art inspired her to start Project Hemisphere in 2005. This organization is committed to promoting cultural and educational exchanges between Cuba and the United States.

Fabiola’s extensive work with Cuban humanitarian organizations, cultural entities, intellectuals, and artists are fundamental to creating unique programs. Her expertise and personal connections provide rare access to the many different layers of Cuba.

Fabiola studied Public Relations at the Vina del Mar University in Chile.

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