Recently, reports have surfaced indicating that the Obama administration plans to revive efforts to ease the ban on travel to the communist dictatorship of Cuba. This is in keeping with the conventional leftist wisdom on Cuba, which holds that engagement is key to softening the attitude of the country’s despot, Fidel Castro. In fact, this fetish for engagement with Castro began before he was even in office:
“Me and my staff were all Fidelistas.” (Robert Reynolds, the CIA’s “Caribbean Desk’s specialist on the Cuban Revolution” from 1957-1960.)
“Everyone in the CIA and everyone at State was pro-Castro, except [Republican] Ambassador Earl Smith.” (CIA operative in Santiago Cuba, Robert Weicha.)
Their advice was taken. Thus, January 7, 1959, marks a milestone in U.S. diplomatic history. Never before had the State Department extended diplomatic recognition to a Latin American government as quickly as they bestowed this benediction on the Castro regime that day.
The same courtesy was not extended to Fulgencio Batista seven years earlier. Batista had, in fact, been punished by a U.S. arms embargo and had heavy diplomatic pressure placed on him for a year to resign. Batista was subsequently denied exile in the U.S. and was forbidden to set foot in the country.
During Castro’s first 16 months in power, the U.S. State Department made over ten backchannel diplomatic attempts to ascertain the cause of Castro’s tantrums and further “engage” him. Argentine President Arturo Frondizi was the conduit for many of these trials and recounts their utter futility in his memoirs.
Let’s take a more precise look at the historic failure of engaging with Cuba:
In July 1960, Castro’s KGB-trained security forces stormed into 5,911 U.S.-owned businesses in Cuba and appropriated them at Soviet gunpoint – $2 billion were heisted from outraged U.S. businessmen and stockholders. Of course, not all Americans surrendered their legal and hard-earned property peacefully. Among those who resisted was Bobby Fuller, whose family farm would contribute to a Soviet-style Kolkhoze, and Howard Anderson, whose profitable Jeep dealership was coveted by Castro’s henchmen. Both U.S. citizens were murdered by Castro and Che’s firing squads.
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