At the heart of the tortured relationship between the United States and Cuba over the past half century is–or was–the assassination of President Kennedy. Now that the two countries have agreed to a more normal relationship, symbolized by President Obama’s upcoming visit, maybe, just maybe, a more detached, realistic and informed view of November 22, 1963 is possible.
Of course, many other issues troubled U.S.-Cuba relations from the start: Castro’s appropriation of U.S. investments, the CIA-sponsored invasion at the Bay of Pigs, Castro’s installation of Soviet missiles, the CIA plots to assassinate Castro, Castro’s repression of his opponents, and so on.
But by the spring of 1963, with Castro feeling secure in power and JFK looking to move beyond the polarities of the Cold War, the two leaders began to explore the possibility of normal relations.
In May 1963, Castro told ABC News he was open to the possibility. Watch him here.
In November 1963, JFK told aides to explore what the Cubans had in mind. Listen to him give the order here.
After November 22
Two weeks later, JFK was dead and so was the possibility of detente. It took a half century for Barack Obama and Raul Castro to get back to where JFK and Fidel were at in November 1963.
From the American point of view, the president was apparently killed by an avowed Marxist and public supporter of the pro-Castro Fair Play for Cuba Committee who had attempted to travel to Cuba just six weeks before the assassination.
From the Cuban point of view, the efforts of the CIA-funded DRE to link Oswald to Castro within hours of the assassination (and the murder of Oswald in police custody) pointed to a sophisticated and vicious effort to demonize Cuba.
Both the U.S. and Cuban government retain records related to JFK’s assassination that have never been made public. Now is the time for both Washington and Havana to open on this historical turning point.