What might have been…but for an assasin’s bullets, is suggested in a ‘Back Story’ in the Daily Briefing newsletter from the New York Times:
President Obama is the first sitting U.S. president to visit Cuba in nearly 90 years.
The milestone gives us a chance to delve into the diplomatic archives.
It turns out that the Kennedy administration explored the possibility of normalizing relations.
In an Oval Office recording on Nov. 5, 1963, the president can be heard discussing a plan to send his U.N. delegate, William Attwood, to Havana for a secret meeting with Fidel Castro. That was two-and-a-half years after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion.
In September, Castro’s ambassador to the U.N. had told Attwood that the Cuban leader was interested in opening back-channel communications.
Kennedy encouraged Attwood to explore talks — delicately. He suggested Attwood be pulled off the government payroll so that the White House could deny in the event of a leak that official talks had taken place.
Attwood then called an aide to Castro and asked the Cubans to provide an agenda for the talks.
“The ball is now in Castro’s court,” said a top-secret memo summarizing the exchange. Around the same time, on Nov. 18, 1963, Kennedy gave a speech in Miami that signaled the potential for normalization.
Four days later, the president was dead — along with hopes for a new beginning for ties with Cuba.
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