“Todos somos Americanos.” We are all Americans.
With those words, President Obama made an epic and overdue announcement today: the United States and Cuba will normalize relations that were broken off in January 1961 as President John F. Kennedy took office. “These 50 years have showed that isolation has not worked,” the president said.
Not only will the United States open an embassy in Havana, it will release three Cubans imprisoned for decades on trumped-up spying charges. The Cubans will release U.S. government contractor Alan Gross, held for five years on trumped-up charges, and a previously unknown U.S. intelligence agent imprisoned for many years in Cuba.
This diplomatic breakthrough would have happened much sooner had it not been for the assassination of President Kennedy.
Fifty one years ago, Fidel Castro indicated his openness to rapprochement with the U.S. in a May 1963 interview with ABC News. JFK responded positively, if stealthily. He was intrigued by the “sweet approach” to U.S.-Cuba relations. He was moving quietly toward negotiations in the fall of 1963 when he was assassinated. When Castro heard the news from Dallas, he said “everything has changed.”
Everything changed — and then nothing changed for a half century.