On January 1, 1959, Fidel Castro’s second-in-command Che Guevara and his troops defeated Cuba’s dictator Fulgencia Batista’s forces, forcing the despot into exile in the Dominican Republic. The revolutionaries overthrew a brutal dictator and prepared themselves and the populace for a new form of governance. That’s what successful revolutions are all about; see: Revolution, American, 1776. If nothing else–even though there is always something else–the revolt was sold to the citizenry as a fight for self-determination.
Ed Sullivan brought a crew to Cuba( http://www.edsullivan.com/fidel-castro-interview-on-the-ed-sullivan-show/) and landed an interview with the triumphant Castro and a band of his brothers. I was a 13-year-old eighth grader at the time and sat riveted to the TV that Sunday evening. One image struck me then and haunts me to this day.
Castro showed Sullivan’s audience the picture of a whipped body tied to a tree, claiming this was the work of Batista. I remember vividly thinking how good this man Castro must be and how right his cause must have been. I was certainly too young to remember this, but I am pretty sure that most of Sullivan’s audience felt the same.
Four Months Later
In April, just four months after the Sullivan Show aired, the American Society of Newspaper Editors invited Castro to come to the U.S. This was not a diplomatic visit, and, notably, he met briefly with only one politician, Vice President Nixon–President Eisenhower in fact played golf that day. Nixon concluded from their short discussion that Castro was naïve about the continuing role of communism in the world and the deleterious effects it would have on the island nation.
Castro showed early signs of leaning toward communism, and thereby the Soviet Union, which legitimately put American leaders on edge. A&E Networks reports that
Relations between the United States and Castro deteriorated rapidly following the April visit. In less than a year, President Eisenhower ordered the CIA to begin arming and training a group of Cuban exiles to attack Cuba (the disastrous attack, known as the Bay of Pigs invasion, was eventually carried out during the Kennedy administration). The heated Cold War animosity between America and Cuba …
continues well into the 21st century. There remain difficult issues between the countries and Cuban exiles, mainly in Florida, are quite vociferous about them. The continued existence of political prisoners in Cuban jails, for example, tops most anti-Castro Cubans’ list. There is another, singular bone of contention, however.
Convicted New Jersey State Trooper-killer, Joanne Chesimard is believed to be living freely in Cuba since at least 1984. The first woman to be placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, there is a $1 million bounty out for her apprehension. For too many years America refused to enter into any dialog, much less negotiation, about any issue with Cuba–Castro in particular. But the Obama administration has begun.
Visit the NJ State Police site to read more about the Chesimard issue:
We endured the embarrassment of the Bay of Pigs Invasion. We survived the Cuban Missile Crisis. Today, let’s keep talking about trade, tourism, return of exiles, and political prisoners. Let’s resolve the Joanne Chesimard issue. Cuba’s resistance to returning her to the American judicial system stands as the biggest barrier to normalized relations between us.
Come on, Cuba. We can do this.