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Stateside Podcast: Cuban Ambassador Lianys Torres Rivera on normalizing US-Cuba relations

A cuban flag, with white and blue stripes and a red section with a white star on the left side, painted on a sheet of metal.
Juan Luis Ozaez/Unsplash
A Cuban flag painted on a sheet of metal

Diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba are fraught. That should not come as a huge surprise. Starting in 1959, the U.S. started an indefinite blockade of Cuba, which devastated the nation’s economy. Fast forward to the Obama administration, and things started looking up – trade restrictions loosened, and U.S. citizens could travel more freely to the island-nation.

Then, once President Donald Trump took office, relations reverted back to what they were before. Now Cuban Ambassador Lianys Torres Rivera is just one of the many people trying to re-establish diplomatic relations. She was a part of the team from Cuba that attempted to do the same under President Obama.

Rivera said she is not sure what to expect from the Biden administration around trade restrictions, although she said the Cuban people are suffering because they have to endure the sanctions.

“[W]e don’t have enough income to get the medicines that are needed, the food that is needed in Cuba,” Rivera said. “I suppose that it is in the national interests of the U.S. people as well because you have a business sector that wants to do business in Cuba freely.”

She said that if the restrictions were eased, many businesses could more easily exchange with Cuba.

One form of business relationship Rivera is interested in seeing is a relationship between the agricultural businesses in Michigan and Cuba.

“What is imported to Cuba [from Michigan] – soybeans, dry beans, apples, dairy products, poultry,” Rivera said.

She said if markets between Cuba and the U.S. opened up, Michigan farmers and the Cuban people would mutually benefit from each other’s business.


  • Lianys Torres Rivera, Ambassador to the U.S. from Cuba.

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Rachel Ishikawa joined Michigan Public in 2020 as a podcast producer. She produced Kids These Days, a limited-run series that launched in the summer of 2020.
Dan Netter joined the Stateside team as an intern in May 2022 and is a senior at Michigan State University studying Journalism and Social Relations & Policy.
Mercedes Mejia is a producer and director of Stateside.