BALTIMORE (WJZ) — He traveled to Cuba 16 years ago as the mayor of Baltimore. Now Kurt Schmoke is going back.
Mary Bubala reports the new president of the University of Baltimore says the mission remains the same: to create solid relationships with his Cuban counterparts.
It was baseball diplomacy that brought then-Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke to Cuba in 1999 with the Orioles. Schmoke sat one seat away from Fidel Castro. Since then, Schmoke has been to Cuba a half-dozen times, getting to know the leaders inside the government.
He told Meghan McCorkell moments after his installation as the new president of the University of Baltimore that President Barack Obama’s move to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism was long overdue.
“They are moving in the right direction. I think he’s moving carefully because there are some issues that divide our countries but when you’ve tried something one way for 60 years and it hasn’t brought about change, I think it’s worth it going in a different direction,” Schmoke said.
Schmoke says the American public likely doesn’t realize that Cuba and the US have been working together on issues like drug trafficking for decades.
“They’ve also worked on the Ebola issue in Africa so there are a number of areas where we are actually working hand in hand,” Schmoke said.
Now that President Obama has cleared the way for normalized relations, Schmoke will lead a delegation from the University of Baltimore this summer. They will visit three universities in Havana to develop closer relations with faculty and staff.
Schmoke says the tipping point was when Cuba freed Alan Gross and the US released the Cuban Five.
“It just showed that both countries are willing to open up and have a good dialogue and that some of the problems of the past were not going to affect going forward in the future,” he said.
Schmoke says the next big thing is for the US to open an embassy in Havana, saying it’s an important and symbolic step.
The Orioles have signaled they’d like to play in Cuba again, maybe next year.