It has been 55 years since Fidel Castro and his bands of nationalist fighters and supporters took over the government of Cuba. The United States immediately took issue with that regime change, and ever since has had serious problems with the tiny nation just south of the Florida Keys.
I was about 10 when Castro overthrew Fulgencio Batista, Cuba’s corrupt president who was friendly to U.S. business and corporate interests. Havana was like the Las Vegas of the Caribbean. I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about, except for hearing the media and adults say Castro was a communist.
And, now, I still can’t grasp what all the hang-ups are about. It is time for the U.S. to get over it and normalize relations with Cuba. There has been some progress since President Barack Obama took office, but we need to move more quickly.
Historically, it seems like many of the two nations’ differences have been spurred by our own antagonism and Cold War-based fears of a communist virus spreading through the world. And then there is the fact that Castro threw out the American corporations that were running the sugar plantations, and hiked taxes on U.S. imports.
President Dwight Eisenhower responded by restricting Cuban sugar imports and banning nearly all our exports to Cuba, which then turned to the Soviet Union as a trade partner and political ally.
In 1961, we organized an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow Castro. The Bay of Pigs debacle fanned the flames of Cuban nationalism and mistrust even further. Add to that the complete economic embargo and travel ban instituted by President John F. Kennedy and the stage was set for the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.
It seems surprising now that we didn’t just send in troops to get rid of Castro. But that was what scared Castro when he invited the Soviets to place missiles on the island. Older folks certainly remember those tense days of the missile crisis when Kennedy got the Soviets to back off.