After a half-century in mothballs, the Cuban embassy in Washington and the U.S. embassy in Havana reopened on Monday July 20.
But while the restoration of relations is popular with the American people, the usual suspects among the GOP White House hopefuls expressed outrage. Ted Cruz (R-TX), whose father fought alongside Castro, protested that to “have an embassy in Havana before one in Jerusalem” was “a slap in the face” of Israel.
Marco Rubio (R-FL), who used to champion his ersatz “Cuban exile” story until forced to acknowledge that his parents fled the previous dictator Fulgencio Batista, wrongly described Cuba as “a country controlled by a despotic regime that provides a safe haven and base of forward operations to Russia and China in our own hemisphere.” And Jeb Bush, who leads Rubio among Cuban voters in Miami, complained, “This embassy will only serve to further legitimize repressive regime.”
Unfortunately for all of the irredentists and revisionists of recent Cuban-American history, the man who began Washington’s diplomatic isolation and embargo of Havana made clear he would have ended both long ago. One year after the Cuban Missile Crisis and just four days before his assassination in Dallas, President John F. Kennedy told the Inter-American Press Association meeting in Miami on November 18, 1963, that the Soviet threat—not the Castro regime per se—was the cause of the U.S. economic and diplomatic quarantine of Cuba:
It is important to restate what now divides Cuba from my country and from the other countries of this hemisphere. It is the fact that a small band of conspirators has stripped the Cuban people of their freedom and handed over the independence and sovereignty of the Cuban nation to forces beyond the hemisphere.
They have made Cuba a victim of foreign imperialism, an instrument of the policy of others, a weapon in an effort dictated by external powers to subvert the other American Republics. This, and this alone, divides us. As long as this is true, nothing is possible. Without it, everything is possible. Once this barrier is removed, we will be ready and anxious to work with the Cuban people in pursuit of those progressive goals which a few short years ago stirred their hopes and the sympathy of many people throughout the hemisphere. [Emphasis mine.]
Fifty-two years late, that U.S. policy long outlived the threat that brought it into existence. America’s regional and global allies, including the Organization of American States (OAS), the EU and Canada, long ago noticed the disappearance of the USSR. It’s time the Republicans pandering to the old generation in Little Havana did so, too. After all, it was the Soviet missiles, Soviet troops and Soviet proxies in our hemisphere and Cuban forces in theirs that was the source of the stand-off between Havana and Washington.
As JFK might have said, that, and that alone, divided us.
Updated 7/22 to correct formatting issues and update links.