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.
In July 1961, JFK’s special counsel Richard Goodwin met with Che Guevara in Uruguay and reported back to Kennedy:
Che says that Cuba wants an understanding with the U.S., the Cubans have no intention of making an alliance with the Soviets. So we should make it clear to Castro that we want to help Cuba.
The result? Soviet nuclear missiles, locked and loaded in Cuba a year later –pointed at Goodwin and Kennedy’s very homes.
In 1975, President Gerald Ford (under Kissinger’s influence) allowed foreign branches and subsidiaries of U.S. companies to trade freely with Cuba and persuaded the Organization of American States to lift its sanctions.
Castro’s response was to start his African invasion and try to assassinate Ford. On March 19, the Los Angeles Times ran the headline “Cuban Link to Death Plot Probed.” Both Republican candidates of the day, President Ford and Ronald Reagan, were to be taken out during the Republican National Convention. The Emiliano Zapata Unit, a Bay Area radical group linked to the Weather Underground, would make the hits.
Jimmy Carter, in a goodwill gesture, lifted U.S. travel sanctions against Cuba and was poised to open full diplomatic relations with Castro. This was met with thousands of Cuban troops spreading Soviet terror (and poison gas) in Africa as well as more internal repression. Hundreds of psychopaths, killers and perverts were shoved onto the Mariel Boatlift and sent to Miami.
Ronald Reagan sent Alexander Haig to meet personally in Mexico City with Cuba’s “Vice President” Carlos Raphael Rodriguez to feel him out. Then he sent diplomatic wiz Gen. Vernon Walters to Havana for a meeting with the Maximum Leader himself. This was followed by Cubans practically taking over Grenada, El Salvador and Nicaragua. (But unlike the aforementioned Democrats, Reagan responded to Castro’s response–and with pretty dramatic results.)
And how could we forget President Clinton’s attempt at playing nice during the 90s? Yet during his tenure, three U.S. citizens and one resident flew humanitarian flights over the Florida Straits (brothers to the rescue) and were murdered in cold blood by Castro MIGS. In addition, Castro agent Ana Belen Montes slithered her way to head of the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Cuba division, resulting in the deepest and most damaging penetration of the U.S. Defense Department by an enemy agent in modern history.
Now it looks like we’re back to square one.
One might suggest that our longstanding trade embargo against would have taught Cuba a lesson. But according to figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. transacted $710 million worth of business with Cuba in 2008, and has transacted more than $2 billion worth of business with Cuba in the last decade. Currently, the U.S. is Cuba’s biggest food supplier and 5th biggest import partner. Furthermore, the U.S. has been Cuba’s biggest donor of humanitarian aid, including medicine and medical supplies for decades. All this together with the almost $2 billion a year in remittances sent from the U.S. ranks our nation right between Red China (who did $1.5 billion in business with Castro last year) and Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela as a Castro business partner. Not likely to force the Cuban dictator to see it our way any time soon, but such is the example of history.