Former U.S. Diplomat Celebrates Normalization of U.S.-Cuba Relations

Posted July 8, 2015

MP3 Interview with Wayne Smith, former U.S. State Department diplomat, conducted by Scott Harris


Last December, President Obama announced his administration's historic decision to restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba's communist government. The breakthrough, negotiated with the help of Pope Francis over 18 months, ended the Cold War in the Caribbean 23 years after the fall of the Soviet Union. For decades, Washington's hardline policy toward Cuba had been rejected by the entire Latin America continent and the world. In October 2014, the United Nations General Assembly voted for the 23rd year in a row to condemn America's economic embargo against Cuba, with only Israel voting with the U.S.

Domestic U.S. politics was one major factor that kept an obsolete policy in place so long after Washington had normalized relations with other once hostile nations, including Vietnam and China. While throughout the Cold War years a strong majority of Cuban-Americans living in the key electoral swing state of Florida had opposed restoring relations with Cuba, polls now find majority support the Obama administration's new Cuba policy.

On July 1, U.S. and Cuban officials announced an agreement to open their nation's respective embassies in Washington and Havana on July 20, ending 54 years of diplomatic isolation. Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Wayne Smith, a 25-year veteran of the U.S. State Department, who served as executive secretary of President Kennedy's Latin American Task Force and chief of mission at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana from 1978 to 1982. Now a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, Smith shares his views on the recent restoration of diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana, and the prospects for lifting the 55-year U.S. economic embargo against Cuba.

For more information, visit Wayne Smith at Center for International Policy.

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