Foreign Affairs Plus: The Cuba Story

This Plus collection includes an exclusive excerpt from the book, Cuba: What Everyone Needs to Know, by Julia E. Sweig, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. It also includes a PDF reprint of her article from the current issue of Foreign Affairs, "Cuba After Communism," cowritten with Michael J. Bustamante.

In addition, we selected four articles from the Foreign Affairs archive that show the arc of Cuba's development over the past fifty years. These articles are accompanied by commentary from Michael J. Bustamante, a Ph.D. candidate in Latin American history at Yale University.


Sweig Cuba Cover

Download an excerpt from Cuba: What Everyone Needs to Know, by Julia Sweig

Reprinted from Cuba: What Everyone Needs to Know by Julia E. Sweig with permission from Oxford University Press USA. Copyright © 2013 by Julia E. Sweig.

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Download the related essay, "Cuba After Communism," by Julia Sweig and Michael Bustamante.
(July/August 2013)

Cuba has entered a new era of economic reform that defies easy comparison to post-communist transitions elsewhere. Washington should take the initiative and establish a new diplomatic and economic modus vivendi with Havana.


Included in this Plus collection are four article reprints on Cuba from the Foreign Affairs archive. Each article is accompanied by commentary from Michael Bustamante, a Foreign Affairs author and Ph.D. candidate in Latin American history.

Download "The Cuban Crisis," by Adolf A. Berle.
(October 1960)

A month prior to the publication of this essay, Fidel Castro embraced Nikita Khrushchev at a Harlem hotel while in New York to speak at the United Nations. U.S.-Cuban relations had reached a point of no return. Some of the issues Adolf Berle raises—just when did the Cuban Revolution "go communist"?—remain sources of scholarly debate to this day. Yet in retrospect, Berle was too quick to dismiss many Cubans' deep-seated nationalist grievances against their northern neighbor. From "January 1, 1959 to midsummer of 1960," he contends, "the government of the United States behaved with scrupulous consideration and tolerance" toward the new Cuban authorities. However, we now know that in November 1959, prior to most major nationalizations of U.S.-owned properties and businesses, President Eisenhower had already directed his administration to begin developing a "coherent opposition" to Castro. As chair of the incoming Kennedy administration's Task Force on Latin America, Berle was among those who watched those plans culminate tragically at the Bay of Pigs. -- Michael Bustamante

Download "Cuba in the 1980s," by Jorge Domínguez.
(Fall 1986)

Some Cubans look back on the 1980s with a degree of nostalgia. Soviet subsidies were plentiful; the repressive cultural climate of the 1970s had receded. Jorge Domínguez's 1986 essay compels us to revisit such simplistic accounts. Precisely at the moment when the Soviet Union was embarking on perestroika, the Cuban government recentralized political authority and eliminated some of the material incentives previously introduced into the still-inefficient state-dominated economy. Yet whereas in the mid-1980s Fidel Castro revived old ideological battles in pursuit of  socialist orthodoxy, in a few years the crushing impact of the fall of the Soviet Union would force his hand. -- M.B.

Download "From Exiles to Immigrants," by David Rieff.
(July/August 1995)

David Rieff offers a perceptive meditation on the shifting relationship of Cuban-Americans to the U.S. foreign policy establishment in the mid-1990s. Rieff may have been premature in declaring "the end" of the exile community and its strong influence in Washington. Under George W. Bush, Cuba policy once again moved in lockstep with the proposals of traditional pro-sanctions advocates. Likewise, the 1960s Cuban exile cohort that Rieff describes was always defined as much by internecine political divides as by the unifying narratives of loss and nostalgia analyzed here. Yet Rieff was clearly onto something. Today, the Cuban American National Foundation is a shell of its former self. Cuban arrivals to the United States, while continuing to take advantage of the Cuban Adjustment Act, are more likely to call themselves, simply, "emigrants." While the Cuban community's elected officials and older generations still cling to the symbolism of the embargo, some thirty thousand new arrivals each year are transforming Miami's social, cultural, and political fabric in ways we are only now beginning to appreciate. -- M.B.

Download "Fidel's Final Victory," by Julia Sweig
(January/February 2007)

In the summer of 2006, at the time the world's longest ruling head of state, Fidel Castro stepped down provisionally from power. Parts of Miami erupted to celebrate. Yet in Havana, calm reigned. When Raul Castro formally became Cuba's president in early 2008, the streets of Miami remained silent. In this January/February 2007 essay, Julia Sweig offers a blow-by-blow account of this carefully orchestrated transition and a blistering critique of U.S. policy toward the island since the end of the Cold War. -- M.B.

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