The United States and Castro: Breaking the Deadlock

A tank of the Cuban Armed Forces is seen in position near the area where some 1,500 anti-Castro allies came ashore at Playa Giron beach during the Bay of Pigs invasion on the south coast of Cuba, April 1961. Prensa Latina / Reuters

Thirteen years after Fidel Castro's rise to power, Washington and Havana remain locked in mutually uncompromising positions. The continuing climate of recriminations and reprisals in U.S.-Cuban relations now stands in sharp contrast with the dramatic and sudden thaw in U.S.-Chinese relations that began in April 1971. In fact, both Washington and Havana seemed to have seized upon the Chinese development to reaffirm their postures of mutual intransigence.

On April 16, 1971, President Nixon stated that Havana's policies precluded the type of initiatives then under way toward China. The President pointedly noted that Castro was "still exporting revolution" and that "until Cuba changes their [sic] policy toward us we are not going to change our policy toward Cuba." Three days later, Castro responded by vehemently reaffirming Cuba's "solidarity" with the Latin American revolutionary movement, adding that Cuba could in fact afford to "scorn relations . . . with the imperialist government of an empire on the decline and defeated on every front." It would thus seem that the relevance of the Chinese precedent has been dismissed by both sides and that neither desires a break in the current deadlock short of a unilateral capitulation by the other party.

From the U.S. vantage point, of course, Cuba is not mainland China with its vast population, developing nuclear capability, and potential for influencing developments in Southeast Asia if not in the Vietnam War itself. Equally important, communist China has emerged as a major threat to the Soviet Union, which remains the chief strategic adversary of the United States. Most of the American political community has thus supported President Nixon's gambit toward China as furthering the vital interests of the United States.

The same kind of potential trade-offs do not appear to exist with regard to Cuba. Cuba's revolutionary thrust into the Hemisphere has already been largely contained. Castro's economic reversals in recent years have made the Cuban example less appealing for Latin America, while serving as a drain on Soviet resources. The Soviet ideological, military

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