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November 14, 2000

Reconvenes delegation one year after historic humanitarian mission to Cuba

SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan today celebrated the one-year anniversary of Illinois' historic humanitarian mission to Cuba by welcoming to the capital Mr. Fernando Remirez de Estenoz, principal of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C., and his wife Patricia.

Mr. Remirez is the highest-ranking Cuban official posted in the United States. Over the last year, Ryan has worked with Mr. Remirez to strengthen the existing cultural, scientific, agricultural and humanitarian ties between Cuba and the State of Illinois.

"It is certainly an honor to have Mr. Remirez and his wife Patricia with us here again in the Land of Lincoln," Ryan said. "Much has happened since the last time Mr. Remirez and I spoke face to face that is positive for our two countries. The U.S. government has moved a step closer to lifting the trade embargo against Cuba, and the goodwill established last year continues to produce real benefits for the people of our two lands," the governor added.

Ryan, the first sitting U.S. governor to visit the island in over 40 years, led an official delegation of more than 45 people, including legislators and others representing Illinois agriculture, education, medicine, cultural affairs and the media on the five-day trip, returning to Illinois on October 27, 1999. While in Cuba, Ryan delivered approximately $1 million worth of donated, food, medicine, clothing and school supplies to the people of Cuba.

The Governor and First Lady Lura Lynn Ryan will host a dinner tonight at the Executive Mansion honoring Mr. Remirez. All members of the official Cuban delegation have been invited. On Wednesday, Mr. Remirez is scheduled to address the Illinois General Assembly.

Ryan said he is looking forward to reconvening the delegation that traveled to Cuba and discussing the new partnerships and exchanges that have resulted from the humanitarian mission.

"Our humanitarian mission built a bridge of goodwill between the people of Cuba and the people of Illinois," Ryan added. "And already, that bridge is being used to bring people and resources together."

As a direct result of Governor Ryan's visit to Cuba, several exchanges have been planned and/or implemented.

  • Children's Memorial Hospital: Children's Memorial extended an invitation to treat Raudel Medina Alfonso, the Cuban boy Governor Ryan brought to the United States for treatment. Children's Memorial also invited 2 Cuban doctors to Chicago to learn about the boy's medical procedure.

  • Illinois Association of Ophthalmology: The Illinois Association of Ophthalmology has committed to conduct a clinic in Cuba and provide basic eye care including surgery.

  • Shriner's Hospital/Silver Service Children's Foundation: The Silver Service foundation is comprised of doctors and surgeons that are affiliated with Shriner's Hospital for Children. Shriner's has committed to establish an orthopedic clinic in Cuba.

  • Kids Around the World: Kids Around the World is a non-profit organization that builds playgrounds around the world. Kids Around the World intends to build four new playgrounds in Cuba.

  • Pediatric Liver Transplant Project: The Cuban Health Ministry is developing a relationship with Children's Memorial Hospital's Liver Transplant Program. The goal of the project is to assist Cuba in developing the technology and resources needed to perform pediatric liver transplants in Cuba.

  • Literary Exchange: The Cuban Institute of Books and the National Counsel of Visual arts intends to bring a delegation of writers and poets to Illinois to conduct conferences to writers, editors, professors, and university students on Cuban literature.

  • Agriculture: The Illinois Department of Agriculture led a trip to Cuba earlier this year to gather information on the agricultural needs of the island.

  • Agriculture: Decatur-based Archer Daniels Midland Corporation participated in an Agri-business Exhibition in Havana in January of this year.

  • Agriculture: Members of Cuba's Ministry of Agriculture and the Cuban American Chamber of Commerce visited Decatur and ADM to discuss potential/future trade opportunities.

Ryan, who supports lifting the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, said that establishing strong humanitarian and cultural ties has not only immediate and obvious benefits, but also positions Illinois favorably should the trade embargo be lifted.


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