Top Cuban Diplomat Visits Ohio on First Excursion Outside of D.C. in More Than a Decade

On November 16, 2011, Kegler Brown Hill + Ritter hosted a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Jorge Bolaños, the top Cuban diplomat in the U.S., was the keynote speaker at a reception in his honor held by the firm. This visit represents the first time Cuban representation has officially traveled outside of Washington D.C. in more than 10 years.

This very unique opportunity arose from the work that Brian Morris, Milton Sanchez-Parodi and Kegler Brown attorney Luis Alcalde did in 2010 to escort representatives of the Ohio Department of Agriculture to Cuba with Ohio Governor Ted Strickland’s blessing. When it appeared that the State Department would allow Ambassador Bolaños to travel outside of Washington D.C., the ambassador called Luis personally to indicate his desire to have Ohio host his first trip. With Kegler Brown attorney Steve Tugend’s help, The Ohio State University extended an invitation from President Gee, which in turn secured the permission of the State Department.

You can watch a brief interview* between President Gee and Ambassador Bolaños here.

What drew the ambassador to Ohio was the area’s desire to focus on the business development opportunities and general understanding of the necessity to open Cuba as a market for Ohio agriculture and medical products.

Currently, under U.S. laws the following are allowed with Cuba:

  • Sale of agricultural products
  • Sale of medical devices and pharmaceuticals

Many elements of the overall situation are converging and the timing is ripe. The Cuban economy is undergoing the most profound transformation since the Revolution. The government has made plans to lay off up to a third of the governmental work force and plans to privatize a number of jobs. Cuba also just allowed the sale of private homes and some cars. This economic transformation is very interesting to study and presents a plethora of opportunities.

At the conclusion of his visitation to various areas of Ohio, Ambassador Bolaños told Luis Alcalde, “This was the best trip and visit I have undertaken in many years.” Those accompanying the Ambassador also echoed Bolaños’ statements. All were thoroughly impressed with President Gee, everyone else with whom they met and The Ohio State University.