After 55 Years, Obama Acknowledges U.S. Cuba Policy Was a Failure

Posted Dec. 24, 2014

MP3 Interview with Peter Kornbluh, senior analyst with the National Security Archive and co-author, “Back Channel to Cuba”, conducted by Scott Harris


In a dramatic announcement made from the White House on Dec. 17, President Obama announced his administration’s decision to restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba’s communist government. The shift in U.S. policy will include the exchange of ambassadors and the opening of a U.S. embassy in Havana for the first time more than 50 years. In his announcement, President Obama said, "Today, America chooses to cut loose the shackles of the past, so as to reach for a better future, for the Cuban people, for the American people, for our entire hemisphere, and for the world."

The historic breakthrough, negotiated with the help of Pope Francis over the past 18 months, involved the simultaneous release of prisoners. Cuba freed Alan Gross, an American government contractor arrested in 2009 and sentenced to 15 years in prison for trying to deliver satellite telephone equipment capable of cloaking connections to the Internet. Havana also released an unidentified U.S. spy who has been imprisoned in Cuba for 20 years and pledged to release 53 Cubans Washington asserts are political prisoners. Washington reciprocated by freeing three of the remaining Cuban intelligence agents, known as the Cuban Five, who were convicted in 2001 of spying on U.S. based anti-Castro exile leaders.

Most, but not all of the nation’s Republican politicians openly opposed the administration’s opening to Cuba. While Cuban-American U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida denounced the normalization of relations with Havana, libertarian GOP Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky publicly supported the move. President Obama can ease restrictions on banking, investment and travel in Cuba, but only Congress can end the 54-year-old embargo against the island nation. Between The Line’s Scott Harris spoke with Peter Kornbluh, director of the Cuba Documentation Project at the National Security Archive and co-author along with William Leo Grande of the book, "Back Channels to Cuba." Here, Kornbluh discusses the significance of the change in U.S.-Cuba relations and the challenges ahead for both Washington and Havana.

For more information on the National Security Archive at

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