REPORTERS AND EDITORS: The CWS President and CEO led a delegation to Cuba in November and is available for interview in New York.
Updated December 17, 2014 at 3 p.m. EST.
New York – Church World Service is celebrating a momentous diplomatic agreement between the United States and Cuba and what it means for humanitarian and faith relations for citizens of both countries.
“This agreement represents a significant step forward in human rights,” CWS President and CEO, the Rev. John L. McCullough said. “We welcome this exciting new phase in relations between the people of Cuba and the U.S.”
During a press conference at the White House, President Obama laid out what the agreement includes – and what it does not. Included are high level, wide-ranging talks between senior officials, a re-establishing of diplomatic relations, adjusting regulations to more effectively empower the Cuban people, facilitating travel expansion to Cuba and authorizing expanded sale and exports of certain goods and services from the U.S. to Cuba are components of the agreement. In addition, President Obama has tasked Secretary of State John Kerry with reviewing the state sponsor of terrorism designation that Cuba currently has under U.S. policy. However, ending the embargo completely will require Congressional action.
“We commend the President’s decision to ask Secretary Kerry to review the state sponsor of terrorism designation. The next step is to have it formally revoked,” McCullough said.
CWS and many of its member communions have long sought normalization of relations with Cuba, engaging leaders on both sides, including the Cuban presidential administration. McCullough recently led a delegation of U.S. faith-based advocates to Cuba in an effort to pursue the release of Gross, who has been detained there for five years. The call was issued by the Cuban Council of Churches, the Rev. John McCullough of Church World Service, Rabbi Sunny Schnitzer of the Jewish Renewal Movement and the Rev. Gradye Parsons of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
CWS first provided support to Cuba in the form of food assistance in 1961, before the Bay of Pigs invasion. Since, CWS has provided support for the Cuban Council of Churches and assistance following disasters such as hurricanes. CWS also has a long-standing operation in Miami that provides immediate relief and long-term social services to Cubans who have come to the U.S. seeking a new life.
McCullough recently led a delegation of U.S. faith-based advocates to Cuba in an effort to pursue the release of Alan Gross, who has been detained there for five years. The call was issued by the Cuban Council of Churches, the Rev. John McCullough of Church World Service, Rabbi Sunny Schnitzer of the Jewish Renewal Movement and the Rev. Gradye Parsons of the Presbyterian Church (USA).
McCullough also met with Antonio Guerrero, one of the “Cuban 5,” who the U.S. has detained on espionage charges. Guerrero has been held at the Federal Correctional Institution in Marianna, Fla.
Gross and the remaining three “Cuban 5” detainees have all been released, a move that signaled today’s announcement.
“I’ve spoken with our colleagues and friends in Cuba and they are ecstatic,” McCullough said. “We are keeping a close watch as the coming days and weeks unfold with the hopes today’s historic action will improve lives.”
See also the Joint Statement on a New Era in U.S.-Cuban Relations
Angela Rupchock-Schafer: +1.574.261.6252, firstname.lastname@example.org