Julia Sweig is a practitioner, entrepreneur and scholar—three unique skills honed in 30 years of experience in policy think tanks, business and academia. All three came in particularly handy over the past decade: as one of the foremost U.S. authorities on Cuba, Julia leveraged her relationships to position herself at the crossroads of foreign policy and business during the historic opening of relations, formerly unimaginable in our generation. Julia’s ability to synthesize and communicate complex foreign policy issues for laypeople, achieving accessibility without sacrificing substance, has made her a popular primetime guest on CBS, CBSN, NBC, MSNBC, ABC, CNN, PBS, BBC, NPR, and even Comedy Central’s Colbert Report.

Foreign Policy Leadership

For more than fifteen years, including as the Nelson and David Rockefeller Chair and Director for Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, Julia directed the research and managed the leadership, membership and staffing for inter-disciplinary task forces on policy challenges in Latin America and Brazil, including on drug policy, security strategy, and prospects for the region’s economic growth and enhanced global standing. A prolific writer and communicator, she has published widely, served for three years as a columnist for Brazil’s largest daily, and maintains an active public speaking agenda. As a thought leader and educator, she has worked closely with policymakers in the U.S. Executive Branch and in Congress, and with diplomats, foundations, and the media, non-profits and the private sector in shaping public policy and dialogue on key issues. 

Business Initiatives

After several years of independent consulting, including for telecommunications and entertainment companies, in 2014 Julia co-founded D17 Strategies, an accelerator helping C-suite executives navigate successful commercial transactions in emerging markets (particularly Cuba). Her clients included companies in hospitality, telecommunications, commercial real estate, and technology among others. In 2015 and 2016, she designed and helped implement Starwood’s winning strategy to become the first American direct investment in Cuba in nearly sixty years. Clients of her non-profit advisory practice include leading cultural and scientific research institutions, universities, and philanthropic foundations. While official US-Cuba relations have cooled, Julia continues to advise clients in several sectors on their investment strategies.

Academic Achievements

Dr. Sweig is an award-winning, inter-disciplinary author whose books have become the standard reference in Latin American history and politics in universities across the United States and are read the world over. She has served as the Sol M. Linowitz Visiting Professor in International Relations at Hamilton College and for ten years managed curriculum development and scholar recruitment for the Aspen Institute’s Congressional seminar on Latin America.  She holds a doctorate and master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins University and an undergraduate degree from the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she was honored with the alumni award for outstanding professional achievement in 2011 and delivered the commencement address in 2015. Currently a non-resident research fellow at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas-Austin, and supported by a substantial Ford Foundation grant, she is completing a biography about Lady Bird Johnson, one of the leading American women of the 20th century, to be published by Random House in 2019. 

Julia is fluent in Spanish and lives with her husband and children in the Washington, DC area.