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Back Channel to Cuba

The Hidden History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana

By William M. LeoGrande & Peter Kornbluh
24-minute read
Audio available
Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana by William M. LeoGrande & Peter Kornbluh

With unprecedented access to declassified documents, Back Channel to Cuba (2014) reveals the long and bumpy road of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. Find out how 50 years of unsuccessful foreign policy have kept Cuba and the United States at odds despite the efforts of secret, back-channel negotiations that have been taking place since the Eisenhower administration.

  • History buffs interested in one of the longest US conflicts
  • Politicos wanting a behind-the-scenes look at foreign policy
  • Aspiring diplomats in search of the dos and don’ts of diplomacy

William M. LeoGrande is an author and professor at the School of Public Affairs at American University. His other books include Our Own Backyard: The United States in Central America, 1977-1992.

Peter Kornbluh is the director of the National Security Archive’s Cuba Documentation Project. His other books include The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability.

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Back Channel to Cuba

The Hidden History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana

By William M. LeoGrande & Peter Kornbluh
  • Read in 24 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 15 key ideas
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Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana by William M. LeoGrande & Peter Kornbluh
Synopsis

With unprecedented access to declassified documents, Back Channel to Cuba (2014) reveals the long and bumpy road of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. Find out how 50 years of unsuccessful foreign policy have kept Cuba and the United States at odds despite the efforts of secret, back-channel negotiations that have been taking place since the Eisenhower administration.

Key idea 1 of 15

Modern US-Cuban relations began with a revolution in 1959.

To understand the troubled relationship between Cuba and the United States, we have to go back about 50 years.

On January 1, 1959, a revolution, led by Fidel Castro and Che Guevera, sent the previous ruler, Fulgencio Batista, into exile. This event immediately put the United States on edge.

The US government had helped Batista take power in 1933, and even though the United States knew that he’d become a violent and corrupt ruler, he’d remained supportive of US financial interests in Cuba.

So, while Cubans cheered and welcomed Castro’s new government, the United States wasn’t sure what to make of this brash and unpredictable leader who had just overthrown their ally.

But, by all accounts, both Castro and the United States wanted to start off on good terms. In April of 1959, Castro embarked on a “goodwill tour” of the United States, where he greeted the press and met with US government officials.

The United States was ready to offer Cuba financial assistance, but, during his trip, Castro refused to ask anyone for money. He was intent on creating an independent Cuba, a nation that would govern itself and not be controlled by US interests.

Things began going sour when US President Dwight D. Eisenhower publicly snubbed Castro by going on a golfing trip during his visit. Castro was insulted that Eisenhower didn’t consider the new Cuban leader worthy of his time.

Relations became more strained upon Castro’s return to Cuba.

On May 17th, 1959, Castro began a socialist platform and nationalized all Cuban estates over 1,000 acres, upsetting US investors who owned many of Cuba’s large plantations. Soon afterward, Castro decided to consolidate the top levels of his government by kicking out the politically moderate members in favor of radical and communist-minded leaders.

By November of 1959, the United States had seen enough, and the CIA began initiating secret programs, looking for ways to overthrow Castro’s government.

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