As the United States and Cuba prepare to open embassies in Havana and Washington on Monday, the The Washington Post reports:
The two governments have made clear that opening their embassies is only the first step on a long road to “normalization” and that they have many remaining differences on issues including the ongoing U.S. economic embargo, human rights and outstanding legal claims against each other.
One trait the two governments have in common is the practice of extraordinary official secrecy around records related to the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963 and the many U.S.-based assassination attempts against Cuban president Fidel Castro.
The U.S. government has at least 3,600 secret records related to JFK’s assassination that are scheduled to be made public in October 2017.
The Cuban government has dozens of records related to the assassination of JFK that have never been made public, according to Fabian Escalante, retired Cuban intelligence official, who cited them in his book, JFK: The Cuba FIle. Cuba also has scores of records related to the many U.S. assassination conspiracies against Castro that have never been made public.
This history of lethal violence is one of the most difficult chapters in the troubled relationship of the two counties. One proven way to overcome such a traumatic history and foster reconciliation would be to establish a “truth commission” dedicated to telling the full story of the U.S.-Cuba conflict without recriminations.
In South Africa, El Salvador and Chile, truth commissions helped societies understand their violent histories and move on to political normality. These commissions, comprised of independent observers from all points of view, took testimony, collected records and issued reports that established accountability without retribution and assigned responsibility without rancor.
A U.S.-Cuba truth commission could do the same. With their geographical proximity and many cultural affinities, the two countries now have a bright common future–if they can lay the painful past to rest. As long as virtual state of war existed between the two countries, Washington and Havana could claim that the release of their assassination records would threaten their national security. Now the U.S.-Cuba Cold War is coming to an end, so should this reign of secrecy.