The Day the USA Broke Relations with Cuba

By Daniel Garcia Marco (dpa)

US Breaks relations with CubaHAVANA TIMES — Early on January 3, 1961 a telegram signed by the Foreign Minister of Cuba began a frantic day of meetings and consultations which led to the US decision to break off relations with the island.

On Monday, more than 54 years later, the respective embassies in the capitals of both countries reopen and diplomatic relations formally resume after a negotiation process that has been gradually easing the level of confrontation.

“It was a very emotional day. We went on a bus and were driven to the ferry (to Florida),” recalled Wayne Smith, a US diplomat to Havana who had to leave hastily when the sun fell that January 3rd.

The departure of Smith and many others was the culmination of an intense day of cross telegrams and decisions that marked the tense history between the two neighbors.

At 1:20 a.m., Cuban foreign minister Carlos Olivares sent a telegram to Daniel M. Braddock, interim charge d’affaires at the US Embassy in Havana, warning that staff in the mission “should be limited to 11 persons,” according to the text, declassified by the US government. The deadline for departure was 48 hours.

Braddock sent the content of the telegram to Washington as well as the words spoken the previous day by Fidel Castro, leader of the Cuban Revolution that triumphed in 1959. Castro said that if all remaining US officials decide to leave Cuba, “everything would be perfectly fine by us.”

“Anyways, 90 percent are spies,” said Castro, according to Braddock, who, faced with an inability to perform consular duties with so few employees, proposed to break off relations with the communist government of the island.

At 9:00 in the morning, president Dwight Eisenhower, who was a few days before handing over the reins of the country to president elect John Fitzgerald Kennedy, held a meeting with his cabinet at the White House.

After being assured that the break would not signify losing the Guantanamo naval base, his main concern, Eisenhower directed Secretary of State Christian Herter to break relations “as quickly as possible.”

“Everything was headed to some sort of confrontation,” Smith recalled the tense weeks leading up to the rupture.

On January 4, Cuba argued at the United Nations that the United States was preparing some kind of military intervention against the sovereignty of the island. Although Washington denied it, the plan was underway, according to declassified documents. Just three months later, in April 1961, the failed Bay of Pigs invasion took place with Kennedy in the White House.

Following legal consultations and communications with the incoming Kennedy executive, at 20:30, Herter sent a telegram to the head of the Cuban mission in Washington. “The US government formally notified the government of Cuba termination of relations,” wrote the secretary of state, who also asked for Cuban officials to leave Washington within 48 hours.

At the same time, the White House issued a statement from President Eisenhower, who branded the letter received earlier in the day by the Cuban government as “the latest in a long series of harassments, baseless accusations and contempt” against the United States.

The president stressed that the decision would not affect the “friendship and concern” for the Cuban people, “who are suffering under the yoke of a dictator.”

By that time, Smith and other diplomats were exiting Havana, leaving behind the building next to the Malecon seawall that will once again, 54 years later, be called an embassy as of Monday.

47 thoughts on “The Day the USA Broke Relations with Cuba

  • Wherever it is, he is obviously frustrated that the locals don’t listen to him.

  • I’m not sure academia is where he’s purched at.

  • There you go again Mr. Goodrich, wrong as usual. The GDP of Cuba is $5,600. The average Cuban worker receives $248 a year.
    Yet, you in your ignorance say:
    “Cuba’s state capitalist system (read Socialismo) takes all production of goods and services and SHARES them equitably amongst the entire population.”
    Time for you to visit Cuba and get some idea of what you are discussing.

  • Sadly, that’s Castros’ Cuban reality these days.

  • A building collapsed in Havana a few days back and five people died. No investigation, no demand, no lawyers, no press. Its as it didn’t happen.

  • Of course. THEY DON’T HAVE CARS.

  • That is balloney, and you would not like to live like that, but you think that is good for a tiny island of mestizos. However how do you explain that while two million cubans have emigrated to USA, no one has gone from here to your Worker’s Paradise?

  • C’mon Nidal.. the Great Recession in Cuba started on January 1, 1959 and has not ended yet. They could not feel the last one because they are already much lower than that.

  • But you effort trying to convince us with your rhetoric is histrionic to say the least. “”Raul was duly elected” Give me a break!

  • The most pro american people South of Rio Grande is the cuban people. Even the children of many leaders of the Regime live in USA.

  • Didn’t they take it from the Soviet Union for thirty years?

  • What soul? Castro killed the soul of the Cuban people.

  • Best comment ever in your life!

  • Moses Patterson is exactly right , what he described is what you going to end up getting from United States

  • Every ‘go slow’ day that Cuba delays the inevitable is just one more day of athletes and doctors defecting, and toilet paper and condom shortages. On the other hand, improving relations with Cuba (or not) has no effect on life in America. So the tone of your comment is twice wrong. I am far from oblivious and the worst strategy for the Castros to take at this critical point is baby steps.

  • You’re oblivious. But your attitude does serve as a shining example of why Raul and the Cuban government should continue to baby-step their way through this rapprochement process.

  • Are you attempting to imply that Cuba will influence the US? About 18 month’s ago Obama lifted the embargo against Myanmar. Not exactly a tidal wave of Burmese social mores flooding American life so far. Admit it, for better or worse, the US will overrun Cuban society. Other than ‘duck and cover’ under my classroom desk, I don’t know what a Cold War relic is. Obviously you don’t either.

  • PS- I disagree most of the time, as with some you also do, but glad you post and absorb your writings. We both like Chomsky so that’s a postive!!

  • It’s all semantics John but Cuba ain’t working and it’s broke big time. Hey, we in the US have to figure out a new way to run the country but at least you and I can share how. Cuban’s are pissed and the question is how long they can keep pissing out the window.

  • There you go again Mr. Goodrich with your mental confusion between your Never Never Land personal academic view of socialism/communism and the reality suffered by hundreds of millions of people – including Cuba which you don’t know – under the reality of such dictatorships.

  • Not true Dan. Cubans had the right to live in the properties they occupied, but they did not own them. My wife didn’t own our home until she registered it receiving official ownership documentation following Raul Castro Ruz’s decision.
    By taking his decision, Raul who has lots of street smarts, removed responsibility for the condition of much of the property from the state to the shoulders of the people.
    In Cuba the people don’t own cars to live in. The latest statistics for Cuba are that for every 1,000 people there are 25 cars – this includes taxis.
    What happens is that because of the strength of “la familia” three or four generations live in a two bedroom house. As very recently demonstrated in Havana Times, much of the property (official figures 39%) is in disrepair.
    It is correct that many in the US lost their homes having taken out mortgages and being unable to make the payments.

  • You don’t know, because you know nothing of the reality of Cuba. Go visit!

  • Yes Moses, Mr. Goodrich’s egotistical views are based upon the conceit that his academic type of thinking overcomes his total lack of actual experience and real knowledge of Cuba. He is in short a fakir.

  • In short Mr. Goodrich you find the truth unpalatable and from your lofty academic perch in the US, determine that your own knowledge of Cuba gleaned from the publications of “socialist” writers is greater than that of those who know Cuba as a consequence of living there and being in personal communication with very substantial numbers of the population.
    That Mr. Goodrich smacks of a high degree of personal smug satisfaction. When you have spent even a few months in Cuba, then you will have better qualification for your views, which apart from being tendentious in the extreme are repetitively boring. State capitalism is better known in the wide world as socialism. To write as you have that no country has ever practiced true socialism reflects a conceit that only Mr. John Goodrich has the level of intellect necessary to define “socialism”. That Mr. Goodrich reflects a mental combination of cloud cuckoo land and Alice in Wonderland.

  • ….”just imagine what our influence will be when we pay attention to Cuba”. I shudder to think of the possibilities. But the “Borg” had it right…resistance is futile. Your president knew that…that’s why there is now a Cuban embassy in Washington. The American people won’t be able to resist Cuba either before to long…resistance is futile. Moses, how does it feel to be a relic of the cold war anyway?

  • Raul was duly elected? Regardless of your feelings on US Cuba relationships no one believes that ….well I guess you do.

    So now Cuba has opened up to the US. When will Cuba up to its own people?

  • Who were the other candidates who ran against Raul? There were none. Out of 11 million Cubans, there was only one who was qualified and desired to be President. Do you really believe that?

  • There is no doubt that the Communism of your nocturnal fantasies is utopia. But real world communism devolves into totalitarian dictatorships. You may deny that ‘real’ communism has never existed. In that case, all we have to base our opinions on are the ‘unreal’ communist regimes we have seen come and go to date.

  • While it is true that a State Capitalist form of government would tend to buffer the population it serves from the most negative aspects of economic downturns, it is also true that economic upturns would also remain beyond the reach of most citizens in the same system. This is Cuba today. No one is very poor because most people are just poor. Castro has created a Cuba where most everyone is poor regardless of effort or input. No thanks, I’d rather take my chances in a system that rewards effort.

  • “We both agree that Marxism, communism is really bad”
    Can you tell me what you think is so bad about communism ?
    IOW, can you tell me why you think Cuba is communist when it is state capitalist ?
    Which aspects of the society are communist ?

  • Wrong again to no one’s surprise.
    Cuban’s would never suffer as badly in a depression/recession as the people in capitalist countries because Cuba’s state capitalist system takes all production of goods and services and SHARES them fairly and equitably amongst the entire population.
    Under free-enterprise capitalism especially in the USA where social services fall way below those of the social democracies of Europe, the poor in that economy suffer inordinately while the rich suffer not at all.
    As others have had to point out to the counter-revolutionaries, in Cuba no one starves or loses their home or goes without the necessities of live EVEN in a recession.
    In Cuba, a state capitalist rising tide lifts all boats.
    In capitalism a free enterprise rising tide now lifts just the top 1% or so .
    This is a difference that must be ignored by the opponents of Cuba in order to maintain their fantasies of the superiority of free enterprise capitalism.

  • ” understandably suffered gastric problems.”
    He had a bad case of diverticulosis and underwent a riskier surgery than he need have so he could get back to work quicker .
    He suffered through a bad post-operative period and had to resign because he couldn’t do the work needed.
    Raul was duly elected by the people chosen under Poder Popular to do that.
    Your writing and historical perspectives are inaccurate, nonobjective and your English is childishly trite.

  • Not true. When a Cuban decided to leave for the US, they could not pass on their “home” to a relative the way OWNERS can. When a high ranking Castro official, musician or international athlete misspoke to foreign media, the Castros moved them from Miramar to Central Havana. You can call it ‘ownership’ if you want but it wasn’t anything like ownership anywhere else in the world. Likewise, there are Cubans who live in “homes” if you can call them that that sleep in their kitchen during rainstorms because of a fear that the building will collapse during the night. Lots of Cubans live with as many as 3 other generations of family for lack of adequate housing. Keep that Castro claptrap to yourself. I know the reality that exists in Cuba.

  • The Cuban government usually has controlling share of all foreign enterprises on Cuban soil because they learned that during Batista and capitalist Cuba , foreign companies looted the country as is the way with exploitive capitalist imperialism.
    So Cuba will take US tourist dollars on their terms.
    The Cuban leaders and the Cuban people know the dangers of free-enterprise capitalism which is why they adopted the second worst economic system which is the state capitalism practiced by Cuba.
    At least under state capitalism no one starves, goes without education, healthcare or a roof over their head .
    The Cubans ALL know this which is why they have been able to hold on to their revolution in the face of existential imperial hostilities.
    Hasta la victoria siempre as they say

  • Really? If you are of the mind that a crumbling infrastructure, a corrupt government and a disenchanted populace represents a successful resistance to US influence, then I see your point. But looked at another way, if when the US ignored Cuba, not a day passed that a story about what is going on in the US is front page news in Granma. When American movies, American music, and American fashion dominated the Cuban streets, just imagine what our influence will be when we pay attention to Cuba. YOU may not like the US or our politics but Cuba loves us. Remember the Star Trek Next Generation TV series? What was it that the Borg said? Resistance is futile.

  • The Cuban government will never have to bend over and take it like you tell them to take it…you’ve learned nothing. Moses, your continued arrogance will always continue to entertain me. Thanks for the chuckle.

  • Cubans do own their homes. They just couldn’t sell them at that time. Americans lost homes and couldn’t afford rent. I’ve personally met dozens of familes who lived in their cars w/ their children in the winter. Didn’t happen in Cuba.

  • Thanks. ..I think. I’m not sure what “gobsmacked” means. I believe that getting involved with the US is always good and bad. Castro supporters want the good (our money) without the bad (tourists from Texas). That ain’t possible.

  • IC, this site concerns Cuba but like you I think we have to look at things on a worldwide basis and we both know that many of the economic systems need fixing. The US, a few years back, specifically the Federal Reserve has pumped trillions of dollars into the economy resulting in false statistics and an eventual
    major future problem That said, we both agree that marxism, communism is really bad. There are glimmers of hope in Cuba but looking at the collective philosophy and their agricultural disaster, we can see how a country with so much potential to feed itself has failed. My hope is that the younger generation will spark the change needed for Cuba to advance. Mariano Murrillo has that thousand mile stare that puts the damper on this but one who I happen to like is Bruno Rodriguez. He doesn’t appear to be a robot and has some good qualities that could result in his elevation. Otherwise, we have the Elio’s who sadden me and probably the majority who hold power in Cuba. Social media will make the difference and the embargo halted as well.

  • Moses, I’m a visualist and your post leveled me. i’m gobsmacked!!!!

  • Do you know why the “Great Recession” had less of an impact in Cuba? Because Cubans had nothing to lose. If you don’t own stocks, no drop in your 401K. If you don’t own equity in your home, no loss of market value. If you don’t own a car, rising gas prices are less of a big deal. If you never take your kids to Disneyworld, the rising cost of admission goes unnoticed. The TRUTH is that Cuba did feel the effects of the slowdown in the world economy. Imported food prices rose. Tourism slowed and remittances were received less frequently. Castro made Cubans poor but even poor people suffered losses during those years.

  • Sorry dude. You can’t have it both ways. If you want the big D (dinero) from the U.S.A, you have to bend over and take it like we tell you to take it. Otherwise, shut up and stop complaining.

  • You are so clueless. The dirt poor (the general Cuban public) were not effected by the “global recession” because they had nothing to lose. They already had nothing, and were it part of the global economy. At its very worst, those in the western democracies ,Ike Greece today, live better than the average Cuban.

  • What does that even mean?

  • I sincerely hope that Cuba and it’s people prosper with these new tourists from the U.S.A. However please do not let Cuba turn into an extension of the American holday market. Do not sell your soul!

  • While The Great Recession—which officially lasted from December 2007 to June 2009 swept across western economies , especially in the United States , I wondered how much of an effect did it have on the economy in Cuba ?
    How many lost their homes?
    How many cases of fraud took place? How many cases of robo-signing ?
    How many died from cancer because they lost their health insurance ?
    How many had their dreams and life destroyed because of greedy bankers?
    And worst of all how many bankers went to jail for committing fraud ?
    I can answer all of the questions .
    NO ONE .
    President Obama departments of justice stated ” banks are too big to prosecute ”
    It was a kick in the stomach when I heard this statement and others coming from the Department of Justice At that moment it became the department of just us , the rich and powerful .
    Whatabout Congress , why did they kept their heads low ?
    I can answer this question , they are owned by big money .
    Watch: Ron Paul latest prediction on the upcomming Economic Collapse , the Great Recession is nothing more than a rehearsal for upcoming events .
    I will say that the Cudan economy did not suffer a scratch .

  • “who are suffering under the yoke of a dictator.”
    Over fifty four years later nothing has changed. Fidel Castro Ruz has defended “our” right to be Marxist/Leninist compelling the whole population to comply with his belief.
    a ruler with total power over a country, typically one who has obtained power by force.
    Oxford English Dictionary
    Big Brother Fidel then handed over his dictatorial powers to little brother Raul, when he understandably suffered gastric problems.

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