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January 7, 1959 marked a milestone in U.S. diplomatic history. Never before had the State Department extended diplomatic recognition to a Latin American government as quickly as it bestowed it on Fidel Castro’s that day.
At the time, Castro himself had yet to enter Havana.
Nothing so frantically fast had been bestowed upon “U.S.-backed” Fulgencio Batista (obligatory prefix, used in every MSM and “scholarly” mention of him) seven years earlier. Batista had in fact been punished by a U.S. arms embargo and heavy diplomatic pressure to resign for a year. Batista was subsequently denied exile in the U.S. and not even allowed to set foot in the country that “backed” him.
On a visit to Cuba in 2001 for a “scholarly summit” with Fidel and Raul Castro, Robert Reynolds — who served as the CIA’s Caribbean desk’s specialist on the Cuban revolution in 1960 — clarified the U.S. diplomatic stance of the time: “Me and my staff were all Fidelistas,” he boasted to his beaming hosts.
Reynolds’ colleague Robert Weicha, who served as CIA chief in Santiago, Cuba, in the late 1950s, concurred: Everyone in the CIA and everyone at State were pro-Castro, except ambassador Earl T. Smith.
In the fall of ’57, Weicha and U.S. Consul Park Wollam smuggled into Cuba the state-of-the-art transmitters that became Castro and Che’s Radio Rebelde. From these mics, the Castroites broadcast their “guerrilla victories” island-wide, along with their plans to uplift Cuba into a Caribbean Shangri-La inspired by the principles of Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, Thomas Jefferson and St Francis of Assisi. These proclamations were then reaching most of the English-speaking world through the good work of the New York Times and CBS (Herbert Matthews and Don Hewitt, respectively).
“War against the United States is my true destiny!” Fidel Castro had confided in a letter to a friend in June 1958. “When this war’s over I’ll start that much bigger war.” Alas, this message was not broadcast over the U.S.-issue “Radio Rebelde,” and apparently slipped past our crackerjack CIA.
Within days of recognizing Castro’s regime, the U.S. State Department sacked its Republican ambassador to Cuba, Earl.T. Smith– that insufferable pest mentioned by Weicha. Smith’s unforgivable gaffe was repeatedly warning that supporting the Castro rebels (as we’ve seen, both morally and materially) while pulling the rug out from under Batista was not the shrewdest method of advancing U.S. interests, to say nothing of the interests of the Cuban people.
Months earlier, an alarmed Smith contacted Jim Noel, CIA station chief in Havana, with reports from his Cuban contacts about communist string-pullers existing within Castro’s movement, and about Che Guevara’s well-known communist ties and sympathies. (When arrested in Mexico City in 1956, Guevara was carrying in his pocket the business card of the local KGB agent, who also served as Raul Castro’s KGB handler since 1953.) But Noel could hardly mask his annoyance at the naysaying Republican alarmist:
“Don’t worry, Ambassador,” snapped the typically liberal CIA officer. “We’ve infiltrated Castro’s group in the Sierra. The Castros and Che Guevara have no affiliations with any Communists whatsoever.”
Smith’s replacement — Phil Bonsal, a liberal career diplomat — fully backed and quickly adopted the official “carrot and even bigger carrot” policy towards Castro. The policy soon showered the new Cuban regime with $200 million in subsidies from U.S. taxpayers.
Castro was quick to respond:
“The U.S. is a vulture preying on humanity!” he raved just a week after Smith’s sacking. “Let the Marines invade! Then we’ll pile up 200,000 dead gringos!”
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