- Arturo Lopez-Levy, a Cuba expert who gives his view on U.S. democracy programs in Cuba (See 10-minute video). He said he agrees with Sen. John Kerry's recent request to review democracy programs, particularly while American contractor Alan Gross remains imprisoned on the island. He said he doesn't believe the U.S. government should finance civil society groups in Cuba without their "informed consent." Some Cuban groups perhaps would not accept aid if they knew it came from the U.S. government. Some of these groups have condemned the Helms-Burton law, which authorizes such assistance. U.S. democracy programs paint the Cuban government as the "devil" and civil society as the "angel." "Everything is against the government." A key problem with that approach, Lopez-Levy said, is that opposition groups accept aid with conditions set by the U.S. government, which leads to a political opposition that is subordinate to a foreign power, the United States.
- Robert Kent, director of Friends of Cuban Libraries. (See 3-minute video). Cuban authorities detained and arrested Kent in 1999 after he traveled to the island to deliver letters, gifts and money to the families of political prisoners. His organization sends books to Cuba. Kent declined to say how many books are sent each year, but said his group concentrates on sending books that are banned or difficult to obtain in Cuba. Kent said the Obama administration's loosening of travel restrictions has boosted his organization because it's now easier to find visitors who are traveling to Cuba and who are willing to carry books to the island on his group's behalf. He said volunteers - and not the U.S. government - provide the financing for Friends of Cuban Libraries. One trend he's noticed in recent years is that Cubans are more willing to speak out against the socialist government.
- A presentation by Ben Rodriguez-Cubeñas, shown at right, co-founder of the Cuban Artists Fund, which does not accept U.S. government financing (See 4-minute video). He was a presenter on a Cuba Futures panel called "U.S. NGOs in Cuba: Reality, Challenges and Promise." He said non-profit organizations working in Cuba face many obstacles. "There are many, many challenges. Certainly one of the challenges is the constantly changing regulations. Every administration comes in and sets their own sets of - Clinton was people-to-people, Bush was restrictive, Obama's opening up. This takes a lot of time, energy and resources for non-profits that are working with Cuba just to sift through all these regulations and constantly figure out what is it that we can do legally and what we can't do."
- Video of the Q&A that followed the panel discussion (See 24-minute clip). Among those asking questions: John McAuliff, at left, founder of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development; and Omar Everleny, a researcher at the Center for Studies of the Cuban Economy in Havana.
More videos to come from the conference and from Havana.