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Best of Enemies: US- Cuba relations, 1900-2015 -Teacher Resource Page

With former Cuban Ambassador, Vicki Huddleston

2:00- Announcement of normalization of US-Cuba trade relations… 3:00- The story of Elian Gonzalez, and previous attempts at normalization…  6:20- Castro’s propaganda campaign to get Elian back… 9:25- Student questions…  13:00- Conflicts with Cuba/Cuban missile crisis… 17:20- The Bay of Pigs…  19:15-  Classroom discussion about the decision not to invade Cuba… 21:40- The ambassador’s thoughts on lifting the embargo, discussion of the technicalities of the embargo…  24:15- Classroom discussion of the embargo… 27:15- Presidential powers and the political problems with lifting the Embargo…  31:10 What it’s like living in Cuba as ambassador… 34:25 The story of the political prisoner Alan Gross… 36:00- The possibility of a Cuban migration Crisis… 36:55- Cuban Adjustment Act, wet foot/dry foot policy… 40:25- Classroom discussion of wet foot/dry foot policy, and Cuban Visa Program… 49:30- Beginning of the Q&A… 51:10-Environmental issues with Cuba’s economic reform… 53:50- Small business and free enterprise in a changing Cuba… 55:25- Cuba and US politics…

Elian Gonzalez

Gonzalez was a young Cuban boy who was found on the coast of Florida after his mother and the rest of migrants aboard his raft drowned on the journey across the Gulf of Mexico.  His story became international news when Cuba requested his return and US officials attempted to get him political asylum.  The battles that followed between Elian’s family in the US and his father in Cuba unfolded in the courts and in the press, and cooled US-Cuban diplomatic relationships in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.  Elian was eventually returned to his father in Cuba.

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Key Vocab and Figures:
Elian Gonzalez: Cuban boy who whose raft washed up on the shores of Florida and became the center of an international legal struggle between the US and Cuba.
Fidel Castro: The leader of the Communist Party in Cuba from 1959-2008 who was in power when Elian Gonzalez washed ashore.
Asylum: the protection granted by a nation to someone who has left their native country as a political refugee.

Discussion Questions

How is it that single news stories can unravel years, or even decades of diplomatic progress?

Do you think we are still feeling the effects of the Elian Gonzalez controversy in US-Cuba relations today?

In situations like this, how much should the opinions of the child be taken into account?

Additional Resources

Timeline (PBS)

How The Battle Over Elián González Helped Change U.S. Cuba Policy (NPR)

Elian Gonzalez: 15 Years after his Rescue, a Quiet Life. (CBS News)

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The Cuban Missile Crisis

The Cuban Missile Crisis was a pivotal moment in the Cold War. Fifty years ago the United States and the Soviet Union stood closer to Armageddon than at any other moment in history. In October 1962 President John F. Kennedy was informed of a U-2 spy-plane’s discovery of Soviet nuclear-tipped missiles in Cuba. The President resolved immediately that this could not stand. Over an intense 13 days, he and his Soviet counterpart Nikita Khrushchev confronted each other “eyeball to eyeball,” each with the power of mutual destruction. A war would have meant the deaths of 100 million Americans and more than 100 million Russians.”

-From “About the Crisis” by the Harvard Kennedy School for Science and International Affairs.

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Key Vocab and Figures:
John F. Kennedy: President of the United States during the Cuban missile crisis.
Nikita Khrushcev: The leader of the USSR’s communist party during the crisis.
Mutually Assured Destruction: A doctrine of international policy and military strategy which calls for immediate and severe nuclear retaliation for any nuclear attack. Supporters claim the doctrine deters aggression prevents nuclear attacks.

Discussion Questions

Who do you think is most responsible for the Cuban Missile Crisis?

What role (if any) do you think the Cuban missile crisis had in the proliferation of nuclear weapons across the world?

Are large countries like the United States and Russia justified in trying to prevent nuclear proliferation, despite having their own large arsenals?

Additional Resources

The Real Cuban Missile Crisis (The Atlantic)

Cuban Missile Crisis: The Anatomy of a Controversy (The National Security Archive)

Key Documents (Belford Center for Science and International Affairs)

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The Bay of Pigs Invasion

“In March 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower directed the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to develop a plan for the invasion of Cuba and overthrow of the Castro regime. The CIA organized an operation in which it trained and funded a force of exiled counter-revolutionary Cubans serving as the armed wing of the Democratic Revolutionary Front, known as Brigade 2506.”

-From “The Bay of Pigs Invasion and its Aftermath,” by the US Department of State.

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Key Vocab and Figures:
Covert Operation: an operation that is so planned and executed as to conceal the identity of or permit plausible denial by the sponsor.
Democratic Revolutionary Front (Frente Revolucionario Democratico): anti-Castro revolutionary group that was funded by the CIA. Their military wing, Brigade 2506, fought against the Castro Regime in the failed Bay of Pigs attack.

Discussion Questions

Should the CIA use covert operations to compromise unfriendly regimes, despite the risk of backlash or failure?

If such an operation were to topple a dictatorship, what should the United State’s role be in building and supporting the replacement government?

Additional Resources

The Bay of Pigs Invasion (The Central Intelligence Agency)

Chronology (The National Security Archive)

‘Official History’ of the Bay of Pigs (The National Security Archive)

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Cuban Immigration

“Cuba has occupied a unique place in U.S. immigration law and policy as a result of fraught political relations and geographic proximity between the two countries. Cubans have been one of the ten largest immigrant-origin groups in the United States since 1970 and are currently the seventh largest. As of 2013, more than 1.1 million Cuban immigrants resided in the United States, accounting for 2.8 percent of the total U.S. immigrant population.”

-From “Cuban Immigrants in the United States,” by the Migration Policy Institute.

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Key Vocab and Figures:
Immigrant: a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country.
Emigrant: a person who leaves their own country in order to settle permanently in another.
Wet-foot, Dry-foot: the name given to a consequence of the 1995 revision of the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 that essentially says that anyone who fled Cuba and entered the United States would be allowed to pursue residency a year later.

Discussion Questions

Does the United States have a moral obligation to take in immigrants, exiles, and/or asylum seekers from oppressive regimes?

How do you think the migration of a million Cubans to America has affected US-Cuban relationships?

Additional Resources

Cuban Exiles in America (PBS)

Cubans Rush to U.S. Shores before easy entry ends (USA Today)

Why the ‘Wet Foot, Dry Foot,’ Debate could soon be coming to a Head (Washington Post)

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