President John F. Kennedy's press secretary, Pierre Salinger, relates that the president, a cigar addict, appointed him to buy as many Petit H. Upmanns Cuban cigars as possible in Washington stores, and that only when he personally reported the acquisition of 1,200 cigars, satisfied, he drew out a piece of paper and signed Executive Order 3447, which imposed the economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba made official on February 3rd, 1962.
That measure would be complemented by a secret program of terrorist actions that included assassination plans against Fidel Castro and other Cuban leaders, subversive, espionage, media operations, and diplomatic isolation that should finally conclude in a direct U.S. invasion. At the end of that year, under the resolution of the CIA and the Pentagon as part of Operation Mongoose, with which the White House guest wanted to get rid of the thorn of the defeat of the Pigs Bay invasion.
They were the largest and most complete covert operations that the United States organized against another territory in time of peace, to a large extent initiated with the blockade signed by President Kennedy and that reflected the desperation and frustration of the North American political class, which couldn’t deal with an independent Cuba, which before the triumph of the Revolution was on the way to becoming the largest gambling den in the world in the late 1950s, run by the U.S. mafia with the complete complicity of the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista.
The Implications of the Genocidal Blockade
Subsequently, on May 31st, 1964, the U.S. government gave another twist of the nut with the total banning on the export of medicines and food, a disastrous legacy with which the White House has shown that it has no limits in its genocidal policy against Cuba.
At that time, a media campaign made the Western press allied with the United States to repeat that these measures were legal actions to defend the interests of the northern nation in the face of the "communist Castro" threat.
Actually, Kennedy's approval of initiating such an imperial action was part of a more complex network of CIA economic war actions best known as Operation Mongoose, which ultimate goal was seeking revenge for the defeat at Playa Girón and which, in its final stage in October 1962, attempted to incite a general counterrevolutionary uprising, the invasion of U.S. troops would take place.
John F. Kennedy in Havana
It’s worth telling and knowing how much of Cuba the U.S. president knew. In December 1957, the future president could not resist the influence of the excesses of Havana's nightlife and he was a distinguished guest of the mobster Santos Traficantes, king of organized crime in Cuba, who arranged for the young Democratic senator from Massachusetts, the most luxurious suite of Comodoro Hotel to enjoy parties, along with beautiful prostitutes facilitated by the mafia boss, according to the book Night in Havana, by the North American TJ English.
However, neither those debaucheries, nor the frivolities of the Island that he knew, clouded the understanding of the future president who years later -in the middle of the campaign for presidency in 1960- said:
"Perhaps the most disastrous of our mistakes was the decision to empower and support one of the bloodiest and most repressive dictatorships in the long history of Latin American repression. Fulgencio Batista murdered 20,000 Cubans in seven years, a proportion of the population of Cuba greater than that of the North Americans who died in the two great world wars.”
After winning the elections it was to be expected that, according to those points of view, the youngest president in the history of the United States would apply a policy of understanding towards Havana, but the story was very different, moving forward with the aggressiveness of the previous administration.
In this regard, Fidel expressed in the book Conversations with Ignacio Ramonet: "And I believe that Kennedy was a man of great enthusiasm, very intelligent, with personal charisma, who tried to do positive things. Perhaps, after Roosevelt, he was one of the most outstanding in the United States. He made mistakes: he gave green light to the Pigs Bay invasion in 1961, but that operation was not prepared by him, but by the previous government of Eisenhower and Nixon. He wasn’t able to stop it in time (...) If Kennedy had survived, it’s possible that relations between Cuba and the United States would have improved.”
Maybe the Story Could Have Been Different if it Weren't for Dallas
After the failure of the plans to overthrow the Revolution in 1962, contemplated in Operation Mongoose and the conclusion of the October Crisis of that year, the president tried to change the wrong policy of aggression and blockade against the neighboring country.
On the day of the Dallas assassination on November 22nd, 1963, precisely, the Cuban leader was meeting with the French journalist, Jean Daniel, a friend of Kennedy who had brought him a message from him to start a dialogue that was frustrated after that event.
This new policy was inadmissible for those who were the main suspects in the attack: the extreme right-wing of the United States, the CIA, the mafia and the anti-Cuban counterrevolution, who considered the president little less than a traitor for not supporting the direct invasion of the mercenary brigade in Playa Girón and above all because of the secure exchanges that he would make with Cuba, among other reasons.
Obama, 51 Years Later
Since December 17th, 2014, counterrevolutionary figures planted in the legislative power have dedicated themselves to boycotting President Barack Obama's new policy on Cuba, proposing initiatives of all kinds and increasing their campaigns for anti-Cuban agreements and lobbying.
Meanwhile, in the current and very different context, President Joe Biden finds himself in another dilemma as he is incompetent to continue in the footsteps of Obama administration, of which he was vice president, in normalizing relations with the island to end the longest and repudiated harassment in history and against which he also spoke out in his campaign.
Sixty years have passed since that trip of President John F. Kennedy's press secretary, Pierre Salinger, through stores, bars, and dinners in the U.S. capital to fulfill his Boss's order, although Kennedy didn’t have enough life to enjoy of his Petit H. Upmanns, which today are auctioned for thousands of dollars, and neither to put an end to the blockade that he made official, and which is rejected by the majority of countries of the world every year in the UN General Assembly.
Translated by Amilkal Labañino / CubaSí Translation Staff