History: January 7, 1959:
The U.S. Recognizes Fidel Castro’s Government of Cuba
On January 7, 1959, the United States officially recognized the new government of Cuba that was headed by Fidel Castro who, together with his revolutionaries, had overthrown the corrupt dictator Fulgencio Batista.
Batista had originally seized power in a coup after having lost a presidential election in 1952, so the U.S., expecting a return to democracy, actually welcomed Castro and his revolution. Alas, it was not to be as Castro declared himself a communist in 1961, and it quickly became evident that he was just another dictator. Worse yet for the U.S., this placed a communist ally of the USSR 90 miles from Florida, right on America’s doorstep so to speak.
In response, the U.S. sponsored and supported an ill-advised invasion of Cuba by counter-revolutionaries in the debacle known as “The Bay of Pigs.” This invasion failed horribly with the U.S. losing face by failing to provide the promised air support. Ever since, the U.S. and Cuba have had a frosty relationship especially after the U.S. imposed an embargo on civilian travel to and from Cuba and on trade with the island, which hurt both countries economically.
In 1962, a Soviet plan to base nuclear armed missiles in Cuba almost resulted in World War III but instead was resolved by the U.S. pulling its nukes out of Turkey in exchange for the Soviets keeping their nuclear weapons out of Cuba.
When the Cold War ended with the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, many thought that relations with Cuba would finally be normalized. No way, Jose! Even as power passed from Fidel to Raul Castro in 2006, the U.S. held firm despite already enjoying improved relations with former enemies China, Vietnam and Russia.
Headline: December 17, 2014:
President Obama Announces End to Cuban Embargo
In a surprise move that most people (except perhaps the most hard-core haters of Castro) see as long overdue, President Obama announced that a deal had been brokered by the Vatican between the U.S. and Cuba to begin the process of normalizing relations. It is not known exactly when relations will officially be normalized, but the U.S. President has basically said that the wheels are in motion.
Thus might end over 50 years of a hate-hate relationship between 2 close neighbors, half a century in which the U.S.’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) made several attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro, while rumors that Castro had something to do with the assassination of John F. Kennedy still persist.
Question for students (and subscribers): Who will be the main target of U.S. animosity now? Perhaps North Korea, perhaps ISIS? What do you think? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Kornbluh, Peter and William M. LeoGrande. Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana. The University of North Carolina Press, 2014.