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Mon Dec 18, 2017, 04:59 PM

Cuba: Documents Chart History of Secret Communications

Raúl Castro meets with President Obama on the sidelines of the 7th Summit of the Americas in
Panama City, Panama in April, 2015. Estudio Revolucion/Xinhua/ZUMA

Published: Dec 15, 2017
Briefing Book #614
Edited by Peter Kornbluh

National Security Archive Publishes Major Collection of Records on History of U.S.-Cuba Dialogue

Documents Provide Historical Foundation for Obama-Castro Breakthrough

Washington D.C., December 15, 2017 - With the approach of the 3rd anniversary of “17-D”—the iconic date of December 17, 2014, when President Barack Obama and President Raul Castro made public a historic breakthrough in U.S.-Cuba relations—the National Security Archive today announced the publication of a major collection of declassified records on the history of talks between the two nations.

The collection, Cuba and the U.S.: The Declassified History of Negotiations to Normalize Relations, 1959-2016, provides the historical foundation for the 18 months of back-channel diplomacy between Obama and Castro’s special emissaries, and the December 2014 agreement to resume full diplomatic ties.

Made up of over 1,700 declassified reports, memoranda of conversations, options papers, cables, intelligence assessments and secret communications between Washington and Havana, the new collection charts the initial breakdown of relations during the Eisenhower era, and subsequent bilateral attempts to re-build channels of communications, including secret talks to improve or normalize relations during subsequent administrations. Through the documentation, the collection tells the comprehensive stories of top secret efforts by Presidents Kennedy, Ford, Carter and Clinton to negotiate solutions to the conflict with Cuba, as well as Fidel Castro’s personal initiatives to reach out to multiple U.S. presidents with gestures of peaceful co-existence.

The collection includes a number of pivotal and revealing records, among them:

  • Vice President Richard Nixon’s comprehensive report to President Eisenhower on his first, and only, meeting with Fidel Castro in April 1959, in which he concludes that “the one fact we can be sure of is that [Castro] has those indefinable qualities which make him a leader of men,” and predicted that “whatever we may think of him he is going to be a great factor in the development of Cuba and very possibly in Latin American affairs generally.”


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