The Persistent Advocate: <em>The New York Times’</em> Editorials and the Normalization of U.S. Ties with Cuba

The Persistent Advocate: The New York Times’ Editorials and the Normalization of U.S. Ties with Cuba

December 16, 2015, 7:00 am
By Marie Sanz

A paper by Marie Sanz, Joan Shorenstein Fellow (fall 2015) and senior correspondent for Agence France Presse, examines The New York Times’ editorials on U.S.-Cuba relations over the past five decades, and the role of the press in the restoration of relations between the two countries.

Since 1961, The New York Times editorial board consistently opposed the break in U.S.-Cuba relations, and used major historical events such as the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Mariel boatlift, and the Elian Gonzalez standoff to argue for the restoration of relations. In this paper, Sanz tells the story of the Times’ editorial leadership and the positions it took during each presidential administration. She examines the Times’ publishing of editorials that preceded the restoration of relations during the Obama administration, which raised questions about whether the Times had been tipped off to the development. Sanz also covers Fidel Castro’s relationship with the media, how U.S. public opinion toward Cuba changed over time, and the secret talks between the U.S. and Cuba that led to the announcement that relations would be normalized on December 17, 2014.

Listen to Sanz discuss her paper on our Media & Politics Podcast:


The history of The New York Times editorials’ consistent opposition – over more than half a century – to the U.S. break in diplomatic relations with Cuba, and the ensuing economic embargo of the island, is a story of editorial leadership. Editorial writing is one of the few features that define the identity of a newspaper or any other media platform, and editorials are also the primary vehicles through which media establishments attempt to inform and influence public policy. The first New York Times editorial opposing the U.S. break in diplomatic ties with Cuba appeared on January 5, 1961 (two days after the rupture) and pointed out “all the problems that come with a lack of diplomatic relationship,” and concluded – perhaps too sanguinely – that “all Americans and Cubans with the interest of our two countries at heart must hope that this unhappy breach will soon be healed.” [1]

While it is generally true that elected officials pay close attention to the views of leading newspapers on the big issues of the day, The New York Times was unable, during five decades, to convince American policymakers to restore relations with Cuba. That the historic 2014 restoration of diplomatic ties between the two old adversaries came at the tail end of an exceptional campaign of New York Times editorials – six in six weeks, plus one more just two days before the announcement, once again pleading for such a move – is a fitting final chapter in the longest-running conflict of the Cold War.[2] Consideration of the impact of that latest series of editorials cannot be separated from the steadfast positions taken by The New York Times editorial board over the full 54 years, and this paper can only outline the likely influence that the Times achieved as a persistent advocate for the restoration of diplomatic ties.

Staying the Course

For 56 years Cuba has played David to the United States’ Goliath in an interminable tale of superpower myopia. During this entire period, Times editorials focused not only on Washington’s poor policy choices, but also equally on Cuba’s self-inflicted wounds and delusions, exacerbated as they were by the choices of its behemoth neighbor to the north.

The Times’ earliest editorials were prescient in their challenges to Havana: Castro “is carrying out a social revolution in Cuba and it has always been his contention that it is a Cuban, not a Communist revolution. Its success or failure in practical terms will depend on whether it fulfills the normal aims of a social revolution – redistribution of wealth, diversification of the sugar economy, industrialization, raising the general standards of living, building new schools, hospitals, roads and the like. A Cuba that was a distant appendage of the Sino-Soviet bloc or that was in a state of conflict with the United States for any length of time would fail to achieve these revolutionary aims.” [3]

Over a period of five decades the Times sought to convince ten different U.S. administrations – and two Cuban administrations, both Castros – that the lack of diplomatic ties was detrimental to both countries’ national interests. From the Bay of Pigs fiasco, to the near nuclear holocaust of the Cuban Missile Crisis, to the Mariel boatlift, to the Elian Gonzalez standoff – to name but a few of the major moments of crisis – the Times editorial board has consistently argued both passionately and dispassionately for the restoration of diplomatic relations that would allow the two nemeses to talk through the very real challenges that neighbors can face in the management of bilateral relations.

Over a period of five decades the Times sought to convince ten different U.S. administrations – and two Cuban administrations, both Castros – that the lack of diplomatic ties was detrimental to both countries’ national interests.

Enter Ernesto Londoño in 2014, a youthful 33-year-old Colombian-born journalist. Londoño’s series of editorials in late-2014 capped and recapped the Times’ decades-long campaign to end the U.S.-Cuba impasse, and helped to inform public opinion in both the United States and Latin America on the very eve of the Washington/Havana announcements of the bold changes that would open the way for the normalization of relations.

Londoño’s series appeared during the presidency of the youthful 53-year-old Barack Obama – himself supported at the White House by an even younger deputy national security advisor for strategic communications, Ben Rhodes, age 37, and senior director for Western Hemisphere Affairs, the Honduran-born Ricardo Zuñiga, age 44, who had served at the U.S. Interest Section in Havana.

Simultaneously, the two million strong Cuban-American community was undergoing a demographic shift. The percentage of Cuban-Americans born in Cuba decreased to 57 percent by 2013 from 68 percent in 2000, and 56 percent of the entire Cuban-American population of 2013 had arrived in the U.S. after 1990. These changing demographics resulted in changed politics and views of U.S.-Cuba relations.[4]

The youthfulness of the major actors in this drama – notably those north of the Strait of Florida – should be understood as a significant factor in this dramatic policy change. Cuba had previously been set aside as an issue to be decided at a future time. The “youthful” generation of U.S. policymakers, alongside this more forward looking Cuban-American contingent came to embrace the wisdom of the Times’ “elders” who had argued since the early days of the revolution that the embargo and absence of diplomatic ties weakened America’s ability to encourage democracy in Cuba.

The triumph of the Times editorial position, vindicated as it was by the Obama administration’s decision to pursue secret talks that led to the eventual normalization of ties with Cuba, represents a rare instance where a leading U.S. media outlet has – through the sheer insistence upon the correctness of its original editorial posture – over time helped successive generations of journalists, political elites and the American public see that an alternative policy approach was not only preferable but feasible.

The historic announcement of the restoration of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba was met in the U.S. and much of Latin America and the world, not to mention Cuba, less by shock and more by a sense of “well, it’s about time!” Some outrage about the announcement from the political right was to be expected, particularly from the Republican presidential candidates, and among the Cuban-American community, but it was neither sustained nor organized, and did not generate significant action. It was further testimony to the thoroughly changed environment to which the Times editorializing had contributed.

The Final Act

It had all the trappings of the Cold War: Months of secret talks in various capitals of the world, swapping spies, liberation of political prisoners, mysterious Vatican help, and finally a first – a long personal phone conversation between the presidents of the United States and Cuba to declare an end to more than 50 years of hostility.

At noon on December 17, 2014, American President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro surprised the world when they simultaneously announced the historic normalization of ties between Havana and Washington.

Standing at a podium, a small American flag on his lapel, President Obama vowed on national television to break “the shackles of the past’’ and restore “full diplomatic relations,” remove Cuba from the State Department list of countries sponsoring terrorism, loosen restrictions on trade and travel and authorize telecommunications companies to bring Internet to the island.[5]

“In the most significant change in our policy in more than fifty years, we will end an outdated approach that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries.  Through these changes, we intend to create more opportunities for the American and Cuban people, and begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas. Neither the American or Cuban people are well served by a rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born,” said the president.[6]

Raul Castro, wearing his general’s uniform studded with stars and medals, read his short message from a wood-paneled office adorned with black and white portraits of heroes of the Cuban Revolution. He praised his big brother, “the compañero Fidel,” and the “heroic Cuban people,” applauded the return of the three “Cuban heroes” – secret agents who had served almost 15 years in American prisons, and mentioned the resumption of diplomatic relations only in passing.[7]

Castro signaled that full reconciliation and normalization would come only after the U.S. lifted its economic embargo of the island. “We have agreed to reestablish diplomatic relations, but this does not mean the principal issue has been resolved. The blockade which causes much human and economic damage to our country should end,” President Castro concluded.[8]

Was It a Scoop?

A few weeks before the dramatic announcement of the breakthrough normalization, The New York Times had found itself in the forefront of American media commentary after publishing six editorials in six consecutive weeks in October and November, and one more in December advocating for the end of the embargo and a normalization of relations.

“For the first time in more than 50 years, shifting politics in the United States and changing policies in Cuba make it politically feasible to reestablish formal diplomatic relations and dismantle the senseless embargo,” noted the first editorial in the series on October 14, 2014 entitled simply, “Obama Should End the Embargo on Cuba.” [9]

The timing of the Times’ cascade of editorials raised questions and a few eyebrows regarding the possible influence of the American media in shaping U.S. policies toward Cuba, or conversely about the power of the U.S. government to use influential American media to promote support for a controversial foreign policy decision.

The editorial claimed it was time for an American president to end the embargo imposed on Cuba since 1961, which it argued “for decades was an utter failure,” and to move towards normalization, thereby better positioning Washington “to press the Cubans on democratic reforms” and “create opportunities to empower ordinary Cubans, gradually eroding the government’s ability to control their lives.” [10]

Soon thereafter came the dramatic announcement that the White House and the Cuban government had decided to do precisely what the Times had just advocated.

The timing of the Times’ cascade of editorials raised questions and a few eyebrows regarding the possible influence of the American media in shaping U.S. policies toward Cuba, or conversely about the power of the U.S. government to use influential American media to promote support for a controversial foreign policy decision.

“That’s a hell of a lot of well-timed Cuba editorializing. Perhaps a bit too well-timed? Did The New York Times editorial board get a little heads-up from the Obama administration on all this stuff?” grumbled the Washington Post media blogger Erik Wemple in a December 18 post.[11]

“None,” responds Ernesto Londoño, the author of the editorials – in English and Spanish – and the youngest and newest member of the editorial board of The New York Times. “We knew they were grappling with the questions raised by the upcoming Summit of the Americas, but we had no visibility on or insight into the secret negotiations. Some administration officials agreed to speak to us about Cuba policy, at our request, but they did not shed light on what was happening behind the scenes,” says Londoño.[12]

The 2014 editorial series clearly did not tip the White House toward finally accepting normalization – after all, it had just concluded 18 months of secret talks to nail down the terms of the agreement. But the Times’ heavy barrage of timely editorializing contributed to the public discourse that followed.

More importantly, the paper’s long-term editorial campaign can be credited for its consistency and its role in helping to shape elite opinion and the larger environment of public discourse in which normalization eventually became possible.

In the Beginning: “I Got My Job through The New York Times.”

Even before Cuba existed as a nation, American media has tried to influence the policies of Washington towards the island. The Spanish-American War of 1898, which led to Cuba’s independence, is often referred to as the first war provoked by the popular press. The sensationalist headlines and reporting style of that era, known as “yellow journalism” – born out of the competition between publishers Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst – helped rally American public opinion to favor war with Spain. The United States’ victory transformed the U.S. into an imperial power through the acquisition of the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico, which were relinquished by Spain. Cuba, while gaining independence, fell under the influence of Washington.

While still a guerilla entrenched in the Sierra Maestra Mountains, Fidel Castro contacted foreign media to spread his message.

Similarly, since the start of the second Cuban revolution, the American media sought both to inform the American public about developments with this poorly understood neighbor, and at the same time, to influence official U.S. policies. Nowhere was this truer than on the pages of The New York Times.

While still a guerilla entrenched in the Sierra Maestra Mountains, Fidel Castro contacted foreign media to spread his message. The corrupt regime of Fulgencio Batista had proclaimed with certainty that Fidel Castro was dead and was ridiculed when in 1957 The New York Times printed the first of a three-part series of interviews with Castro by reporter Herbert Matthews. Fidel Castro, the 26-year-old guerilla, was already aware of the power of the United States, and he soon learned of the power of The New York Times.

Castro became a media celebrity and was sought out by other prestigious international publications. Their coverage helped create an attractive mythology about this previously obscure figure as he led a small band of rebels to seize power.

In a January 2, 1959 editorial, The New York Times bid good riddance to Batista and praised Castro, calling him an “extraordinary young man,” as President Dwight D. Eisenhower formally recognized Castro’s rebels as the legitimate government of Cuba.[13]

In April 1959, Castro accepted an invitation from the American Society of Newspaper Editors to visit the U.S., inspiring a life-long fascination with the American press. The fascination was mutual. If Ava Gardner, Frank Sinatra and the most famous celebrities of the 1950s flocked to the Cuba of Batista and the American mafia for fun-filled vice, the stars of American journalism in the post-revolution era, including Barbara Walters and Walter Cronkite, all rushed to Havana with equal enthusiasm for a political tango with Fidel Castro.

The early New York Times interviews of Castro led the National Review, a conservative magazine, to publish a cartoon of the revolutionary leader with the caption “I got my job through the New York Times,” the contemporary tagline of the Times’ classified ads section.

The Flag Comes Down

Castro’s honeymoon with the U.S. was brief. In October 1960, U.S. president Dwight Eisenhower – having already determined to seek the overthrow of the new revolutionary government in Havana – imposed an embargo on all exports of goods to Cuba.[14]  On January 3, 1961 – the second anniversary of the revolution – the United States severed diplomatic ties with Cuba.

The New York Times opined, in its editorial of January 5, 1961, that Eisenhower had no choice but to break ties with Havana, but it warned of “all the problems that come with a lack of diplomatic relationship.” As the Times enumerated: “These include the safety and status of Americans in Cuba, the right of Cubans who are trying to get to the United States, business, financial and travel arrangements, the lack of knowledge and information through loss of contact, the increased tensions.”[15]

The list of problems was an understated catalogue of what would follow for the next half century.

The New York Times editorial board opposed the break in relations and concluded that, “All Americans and all Cubans with the interest of our two countries at heart must hope that this unhappy breach will soon be healed.”[16]

It would, however, become the longest break in diplomatic ties with any country in U.S. history.

The Cold War Years and Beyond

Within months of the break in relations, the U.S. sponsored a secret invasion of Cuba in a futile attempt to overthrow the Castro government. Earlier, in another of its January 1961 editorials, the Times had practically ridiculed Cuba for its fear of a military attack by the U.S. “It is incredible to us that the Cubans can believe we are about to invade their island,” the Times wrote, adding that “It is difficult for Americans to understand that others can honestly believe things about us that we know to be false.” [17]

Ironically, it was The New York Times that uncovered the plot and ran a front-page story 10 days before the attack detailing the training and amassing of anti-Castro forces at bases in Florida in preparation for an invasion. The story drew the ire of President Kennedy following the Bay of Pigs fiasco.

A year later, the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962 brought the world close to the brink of catastrophic nuclear war. Most historians agree that the risk of nuclear war was even greater than the leaders of the countries involved – John F. Kennedy, Nikita Khrushchev and Fidel Castro – believed at the time.

A whole generation of Americans who lived through those 13 days of traumatic standoff – dealing with nuclear shelters and drills – were permanently affected in terms of their views and vilification of Cuba and Fidel Castro. For example, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrote in her memoirs that, “I once told an audience of Cuban-Americans that Fidel Castro had put the United States at risk in allowing those missiles to be deployed. ‘He should pay for it until he dies,’ I said. Even I was surprised by the rawness of that comment.” [18]

U.S. efforts to overthrow Castro (which did not end with the Bay of Pigs fiasco) combined with a possible nuclear apocalypse caused by Cuba’s growing alliance with the Soviet Union forged the template of U.S.-Cuban relations for the remainder of the Cold War and beyond.

Nevertheless, according to most historians, throughout this period there were regular secret attempts to normalize diplomatic relations. Shortly before the assassination of President Kennedy (1961-1963), Washington sent messages to Castro to explore a path toward normalization. When Lyndon Johnson succeeded Kennedy (1963-1969), he too sought to restore ties but insisted on conditions unacceptable to Havana, including an end to its close ties with the Soviets and its revolutionary activities in Latin America, as well as talk of compensation for nationalized U.S. companies. During the administration of Richard Nixon (1969-1974), the U.S. Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, spent many months attempting to open a secret channel for negotiations that ultimately failed due to Nixon’s deep antipathy toward Castro. Expectations that Gerald Ford’s administration (1974-1977) could successfully pursue normalization went unfulfilled.

During the Carter administration (1977-1981) the U.S. and Cuba achieved limited progress toward normalization. By mutual agreement in 1977, the U.S. opened an “Interest Section” in Havana, and Cuba opened one in Washington, which operated as de facto embassies. Further progress was undermined by Washington’s vehement opposition to Cuba’s support of governments and liberation movements in Africa (especially Angola). The Mariel boatlift of 1980, which saw an estimated 125,000 Cubans migrate to the U.S. in just six months, prevented any further progress.

During Ronald Reagan’s tenure in the White House (1981-1989), hostilities were heightened and Washington’s preoccupation with Cuba was focused on its role in support of revolutions in Central America. However, toward the end of Reagan’s two terms and into the presidency of George H.W. Bush (1989-1993), the U.S.S.R. began its transition through perestroika and glasnost, which eventually brought an end to the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. This historic conclusion to the Cold War suggested to many that the moment had arrived when ties between the U.S. and Cuba would be restored.

With the chaotic end of the U.S.S.R., Cuba experienced a “special period” of economic hardship, through which the country persevered, and no normalization of relations with the U.S. appeared on the horizon. During the election campaign that brought Bill Clinton to the White House, Clinton opportunistically supported legislation to impose tougher sanctions on Cuba that only served to complicate his own efforts toward normalization once in power (1993-2001). His opposition to congressional efforts to impose additional restrictions was compromised when Cuba shot down two planes of Cuban-American anti-Castro operatives that breached Cuban airspace in 1996. A few weeks later Clinton signed into law a further tightening and continuation of the embargo against Cuba.[19]

The final notable drama during the Clinton years was the Elian Gonzalez saga. Gonzalez was a six-year-old boy whose mother had drowned while fleeing Cuba with him on a leaky raft. Elian’s Miami-based relatives lost their custody battle to keep him in the U.S. and the Clinton administration returned him to his father in Cuba against the wishes of the majority of the outraged Cuban-American community.

During the two terms of President George W. Bush (2001-2009), hostilities rose again, and given the strategic role of Florida in Bush’s controversial first election victory, his administration rarely diverged from the hardline policy prescriptions of the Cuban-American community and their representatives in Washington.

The Drumbeat of the Times

Throughout these five decades of the U.S.-Cuban “divorce,” The New York Times patiently and periodically, but consistently, called on U.S. administrations to reconsider U.S. policies toward Cuba, to normalize relations and to end the embargo.

After its January 1961 editorial critical of the break in relations, the Times was largely silent for a decade, especially in the aftermath of the missile crisis and given the paper’s anti-communist stance throughout the Cold War.

However, in the 1970s the Times became more animated in challenging the logic and efficacy of the embargo and broken relations, and encouraged normalization particularly as more countries in Latin America restored ties with Havana and became increasingly vocal critics of the U.S. embargo.

Writing on the eve of Castro’s arrival in Chile in 1971, and reflecting on the momentum in Latin America to end Cuba’s isolation in the hemisphere, the Times predicted that this was the beginning of the end of the Organization of American States (OAS) boycott of Cuba and argued that when Latin American countries invited Cuba back into the fold, “the United States should not bar the door.” [20] It continued to press the point several months later: “At a time when the president of the United States has journeyed all the way to Beijing and Moscow to launch an era of dialogue and negotiations it makes no sense to persist with a policy of isolation toward a small, weak nation off our southeastern coast, whatever we may think of the policies and manners of its prime minister.” [21] The following year the Times concluded that “…all have seen a paradox in the perpetuation by the Nixon administration of a rigid stance toward a small communist-ruled country in this hemisphere while it is working overtime to advance détente with the communist giants, Russia and China.”[22]

When Gerald Ford replaced the disgraced Nixon, the Times urged the new administration to show, “a willingness to scrap an increasingly bankrupt policy of trying to maintain a Western Hemisphere boycott of Cuba.”[23] The paper continued to be hopeful that “a president unburdened by emotional attachments to the policy of an earlier decade,” would be “prepared to move in a new direction toward Cuba.” [24]

Frustrated by the lack of progress toward normalization during the Ford years, the Times editorialized one month before the inauguration of Jimmy Carter that, “the basic interests of both the United States and Cuba would be served by an end to their ‘long estrangement’.” [25] The newspaper found inspiration in the Carter administration’s early moves toward normalization in 1977 but pressed further, arguing that, “[T]he advances this year in Cuban-American relations, while overdue, are only first steps.” [26] As the progress ground to a halt over Washington’s preoccupation with Cuban activities in Africa, the Mariel boatlift, in the eyes of the Times, only served to further illuminate the continuing problems created by a lack of diplomatic ties with Cuba, but also suggested an opportunity. The Times editorial page argued that, “[T]he disarray [in Cuba]… is reason enough for Americans to sense a possible opportunity and to keep proposing diplomatic contact that, for the first time in years, Havana may need more than Washington.”[27]

During the long years of the Reagan/Bush administrations, with their much harsher approach to Cuba, little progress was made toward normalization of relations despite early calls for talks by Havana and the historic changes in the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The deterioration in relations was not reversed during the George H.W. Bush administration, and right wing members of Congress felt emboldened to push relentlessly for yet more sanctions.

The New York Times bemoaned this state of affairs on its editorial pages, and took aim at the Cuban-American zealots behind such efforts: “The Cuban Democracy Act would deepen despair on the island but achieve nothing constructive. There is, finally, something indecent about vociferous exiles living safely in Miami prescribing more pain for their poorer cousins.”[28]

With Clinton in the White House, the Times editorial page campaigned against the Helms-Burton legislation (both prior to its passage and subsequently against its implementation), arguing that it would, “prohibit the White House from relaxing virtually any aspect of the economic embargo against Cuba until a transition government is in place that includes neither Fidel nor Raul Castro.” [29] The paper viewed Clinton’s signature on the law as little more than pandering to the Cuban-American community due to its disproportionate influence in states key to electoral politics. The Times argued that, “[W]hen Congress whooped through the Helms-Burton law, Mr. Clinton was urged by senior advisers to use his veto. He signed, he said, to strike back at the Castro regime for shooting down two civilian planes. But this is an election year, and the gesture now seems a gratuitous concession to Florida’s Cuban-American hard-liners.” [30]

The establishment of the Helms-Burton law is considered something of a case study of the elite media versus mass public opinion when it comes to influencing policymakers.

The establishment of the Helms-Burton law is considered something of a case study of the elite media versus mass public opinion when it comes to influencing policymakers. It is argued, in this case, that although the White House’s opposition to the bill was supported strongly by editorials in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other leading papers, it was no match for Clinton’s fear that the public would support the bill because of the plane issue (though polling at the time suggested that mass public opinion was not changed by the incident).[31]

In the seven months following the plucking of Elian Gonzalez from the waters off the Florida coast, the Times ran 15 editorials calling for the return of Elian to his father in Cuba.

At the beginning of the saga, the Times opined that “…the unresolved custody battle over 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez in Florida are examples of how an outdated American attempt to isolate Cuba and weaken Mr. Castro’s regime accomplishes just the opposite,” adding that, “the unseemly custody battle over Elian Gonzalez was partly a symptom of the embargo and related laws.” [32]

At the end of the drama, with Elian returned safely home, the editorial page sought to find a silver lining by arguing that – through this sordid affair – the American public “became more aware of America’s outdated policy of isolation toward Cuba. It is perhaps not surprising that just one day before Elian’s flight home, the House Republican leaders agreed to end four decades of sanctions on food sales to Cuba. The saga of this Cuban child helped to hasten that shift in policy.” [33]

The contested election of George W. Bush, with Cuban-Americans in Florida attempting to stop the recount of challenged votes in order to prevent a Gore victory, probably sealed the fate of U.S.-Cuba relations for the following 12 years.

The Times, however, took comfort in the gradually changing views of many Republican members of Congress and seized every opportunity to press for change. While the White House promised even tougher enforcement of the aging embargo, Congress searched for ways to increase people-to-people contacts, which many Republicans supported. In 2003 the Times wrote, “The renegade Republicans apparently think that Mr. Bush’s approach is dictated less by a coherent vision than by electoral concerns involving anti-Castro Republican voters in Florida.”[34]

When the next presidential election arrived, the Times chastised President Bush stating that “America’s policy, followed for decades, of trying to force change in Cuba by means of an economic embargo has been an abject failure, but the administration is about to embrace it with renewed gusto.” [35] With foresight, it pointed out that “Polls show that about half the Cuban-American community in Florida resents the intrusive new sanctions,” and “[w]hen the more recently arrived Cuban-Americans become a political force in Florida, the odds of a more effective American policy toward Havana will increase substantially.”[36]

In 2006, Fidel Castro finally stepped down due to failing health and transferred power to his brother Raul. The Times saw it as an opportunity to press for a more forward-looking U.S. policy in anticipation of changes on the island.  It said, “An early easing of the economic embargo could strengthen Cuba’s battered middle class and help it play a more active role in the coming political transition.”[37]

The Times lamented that “President Bush and his top aides have said repeatedly in recent days that they haven’t a clue what’s going on inside Cuba,” [38] and suggested this was because the “administration has gone out of its way to ensure that the United States has neither access nor the slightest chance to influence events there.” As a result, “In the name of tightening the failed embargo…Mr. Bush has made it much harder for academics, artists, religious people and anyone else who might spread the good word about America to travel to Cuba, and much harder for Cubans to travel here.”[39]

Bush’s final contribution to relations with Cuba was his campaigning for Republican candidates, during which he called for doubling down on Cuba.

The New York Times heaped praise upon President Barack Obama’s early moves to repair relations with Cuba, stating that “Mr. Obama tackled the most neuralgic issue in hemispheric relations when he abandoned longstanding restrictions on the ability of Cuban-Americans to visit family members in Cuba and send them money,” and “also allowed telecommunications companies to pursue licensing agreements in Cuba.”[40] The Times’ editors concluded, however, “[t]hese steps do not go far enough. We believe the economic embargo should be completely lifted.” [41]

Improved lines of communications in Obama’s early years as president led to renewed cooperation on migration issues, counterterrorism, drug interdiction and hurricane relief efforts. But normalization of ties and an end to the embargo still seemed beyond reach.

American Public Opinion

As far back as 1973, public opinion in the United States shifted toward more-or-less consistent support for the normalization of ties with Cuba (see Table 1).[42]

Table 1

Table 1. Source: Fisk, Daniel. Cuba in Transition, Vol.9, Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy, 1999.

According to a study of the shift: “The change in U.S.-Soviet and U.S.-China relations resulted in majorities consistently expressing support for the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. This approval for establishing diplomatic relations first registers in 1973, with 51 percent favoring such a relationship to 33 percent opposed.”[43]

The study went on to say: “Between 1977 and 1986, Gallup conducted three surveys for the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations on public attitudes on U.S. foreign policy. Despite the rhetoric about the role of Cuba and “another Cuba” in Central America, pluralities, if not majorities, favored normalization of the U.S.-Cuban relationship. There was some drop-in ‘favorable’ opinion from a 1977 high of 59 percent to a 1986 level of 53 percent and opposition increased from 25 percent to 35 percent. But a majority still favored normalization five years into the Reagan presidency.” [44]

What these surveys make clear is that for a long time, neither mass public opinion nor the advocacy of elite newspaper editorials such as those in The New York Times influenced policy makers on Cuba as much as the extreme views of the Cuban-American constituency in the U.S. – owing largely to their electoral and financial clout.

By the time Obama became president Cuban-American views had begun to change dramatically. A February 2014 study, titled “U.S.-Cuba: A New Public Survey Supports Policy Change,” conducted on behalf of the Atlantic Council stated: “The majority of Americans on both sides of the aisle are ready for a policy shift. Most surprisingly, Floridians are even more supportive than an already supportive nation to incrementally or fully change course. This is a key change from the past: Cuba used to be intractable because Florida was intractable. This poll argues that is no longer true.” [45]  The study continued:

A majority of Americans from every region and across party lines support normalizing relations with Cuba. Nationwide, 56 percent of respondents favor changing our Cuba policy, with an increase to 63 percent among Florida adults and 62 percent among Latinos. Support is strongest among Democrats and Independents, but 52 percent of Republicans also favor normalization. Florida, home to the country’s largest Cuban-American population, leads the nation by 7 percentage points in supporting normalized relations. In Miami-Dade County, where the highest percentage of the state’s Cuban-American population lives, support registers at 64 percent – as high as the overall state number. [46]

Figure 1

Source: “U.S.-Cuba: A New Public Survey Supports Policy Change,” Atlantic Council.

The Secret Talks

Shortly after President Obama’s re-election he initiated the push to restore relations with Cuba. “President Obama always said he wanted to see if he could create an opening with Cuba. He knew he could not do it in the first term, but he had a window to do this after the second election,” remarked a senior official privy to the secret talks that would lead to the historic agreement. “I think he understood that if he had any chance he would have to do it through secret negotiations because the politics of the U.S. are so fraught that if it had been public it would have been impossible, it would have killed it because of domestic politics.” [47]

The official went on to say: “It was also clear that Castro wanted to do it, by Castro I mean Fidel and Raul both, but Raul would not have done it if Fidel had not given the OK. They saw it as the legacy of the Castro brothers in some ways to make this transition.[48]

Vicki Huddleston, former U.S. coordinator for Cuban Affairs (1989-1993) and former chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana (1999-2002), recalls that when considering any major policy changes, even during previous administrations, “we always assumed that the time for the opening was the last two years of a second presidential term – either Democratic or Republican.” [49]

Obama chose Ben Rhodes and Ricardo Zuñiga to lead the negotiations, to be conducted with the utmost secrecy through backchannels. During the following 18 months, the youthful duo met nine times with Cuban officials in several locations – mainly Ottawa and Rome – for talks lasting more than 70 hours altogether. [50]

“Very few people knew about it even in the State Department,” and the few who did, “played the not knowing role,” said a senior State Department official. “This is a thing that Ben Rhodes has been wanting to do very badly but Ricardo Zuñiga was critical to this because he knew the Cubans. It could not have happened without Ricardo’s fingertips and his Spanish, of course.” [51]

During the first round of negotiations in June 2013, the Cuban delegation began by recounting the long litany of crimes committed, in their opinion, by the U.S. against Cuba beginning at the turn of the 19th century. The young Ben Rhodes pushed back and used his age to move things along: “Part of the point was ‘Look I wasn’t even born when this policy was put in place…We want to hear and talk about the future.’”[52]

The final deal involved a swap of acknowledged spies, the “humanitarian” release of an ailing U.S. development agency contractor imprisoned by Havana for alleged spying, the artificial insemination of the wife of one of the Cuban spies imprisoned in the U.S. prior to his release, and the involvement and blessing of Pope Francis – the first pope from Latin America – with the Vatican hosting the last meeting in October 2014 to finalize the terms of the agreement.

At the center of the deal was the decision to restore diplomatic relations and open embassies in the two countries. The U.S. would loosen restrictions on remittances, travel and banking, and Cuba would permit greater Internet access and release over 50 Cuban political prisoners. The two countries reopened their embassies in Washington and Havana on July 20 and August 14, 2015, respectively.

Nicholas Burns, former undersecretary of state for political affairs, observed that “five decades have now passed, and the idea that by isolating Cuba in our hemisphere we would drive the communist regime from power was not successful. It required perhaps a younger president who had no professional leadership experience during the Cold War to see this clearly and to resolve now to adopt a different course.”[53]

The New York Times’ Final Push

For most of the press interested in Cuba during the past 10 years, the big anticipated story was assumed to be the inevitable death of the now 89-year-old Fidel Castro – the historical figure of the revolution, out of the public eye since his illness and retirement in 2006 and unseen for more than a year – and its consequences for the future of a country frozen in time.

But real-time Cuba had clearly been on the mind of The New York Times. Including its series of editorials, the Times published 47 pieces on the island from February 2014 to September 2015. By contrast, the Miami Herald, the leading newspaper in Florida (home to nearly a million Cuban-Americans) published a mere 17 stories during the same period.

On October 12, 2014, The New York Times began running its prescient series of editorials. This was roughly the same time that the U.S. and Cuban negotiators were preparing to travel to Rome to finalize the terms of the agreements, initiate preparations for the implementation of the spy-swaps, and prepare the simultaneous public announcements of the normalization deal.

According to Londoño, the first editorial ran a few days after it first came up at a routine meeting. “I think it got a lot of people talking about, and thinking about, Cuba policy and to consider whether a policy of engagement might accomplish more than the punitive approach we tried for five decades.” [54]

That first editorial, entitled “Obama Should End the Embargo,” certainly got the attention of the chief Cuban blogger – Fidel Castro himself. The editorial was quoted extensively in a column by the former president in the state-run newspaper Granma. Castro reproduced so much of the original that it was as if he were doing a stone-age version of “re-tweeting” the piece. As Londoño pointed out in an article he wrote two days later, “by quoting nearly every paragraph in the editorial, he amplified the reach of an article that included significant criticism of the Cuban government. Cuba has one of the lowest Internet penetration rates in the world, which keeps critical views of the government from circulating widely.” [55]

The editorial called on the U.S. to restore diplomatic relations and lift the embargo as ways to help a suffering population on the island, to encourage nascent economic reforms, to permit the two countries to better manage migration and maritime patrolling, and to improve U.S. relations with Latin American governments. The Times also argued that such a move would constitute “a significant foreign policy success” for Obama. [56]

The other editorials in the series addressed Cuba’s role in combating the Ebola outbreak and the impediments presented by the embargo and lack of diplomatic ties (October 20, 2014); assessed the shifting politics of the Cuban-American community (October 26); supported the idea of a prisoner swap (November 3); critiqued the stupid subterfuge of numerous misadventures that the U.S. pursued to achieve regime change in Cuba (November 10); lamented the brain drain effect of U.S. policies to lure skilled Cubans away from the island (November 17); and advocated facilitation of U.S. business ties to help invigorate Cuba’s own tentative economic reforms (December 15).[57]

The Times’ Londoño told National Public Radio, “I think it’s reasonable to say government has used the media…and journalists, sometimes within reason, are willing to play that game if in the process of doing so they’re also doing journalism they find worthwhile. However, in this case, there was really no such collusion or no formal cooperation or collaboration in what they were doing and what we were doing.” [58]

But a senior former Obama administration official suggested otherwise: “I am sure that the White House was talking to the New York Times editorial board and urging them on.” [59]

Foreign media also weighed in on the relationship between the White House and the leading U.S. media institution in the dramatic roll-out of the new U.S. policy toward Cuba. In a November 11, 2014 story titled “New York Times goes on a Cuban crusade,” the BBC suggested that it was, “Intriguing that the Times has been running so many consecutive pieces on the same country, with clearly defined intervals, in two languages and in moments when President Barack Obama is defining his agenda for his remaining two years in office.” [60]

Renata Keller, historian and professor of international relations at Boston University’s Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies, said: “The rest of Latin America sent Obama a clear message at the sixth Summit of the Americas in Colombia back in 2012 that they would not attend any future summits that did not include Cuba. Ironically, the U.S. Cold War policy of trying to isolate Cuba was beginning to backfire and threatening to isolate the United States.” [61] Other analysts argued that Obama had an important opportunity to change Cuba policy prior to the next summit, scheduled for April 2015 in Panama.

For William LeoGrande, an expert on Cuba and professor and former dean at the American University School of Public Affairs, “Ernesto Londoño did not know the talks were going on, but he was talking with the administration and they were not discouraging him; because I don’t think the Times runs editorials every week on one issue.’’ [62]

Pointing out that some people in Congress were also asking questions of the administration “and not being discouraged,” it shows, according to LeoGrande that “all the efforts contributed to create a political environment showing to the administration that it was safe to do this.” [63]

“If The New York Times did not know, the newspaper was taking a risk and putting its reputation on the line as in ‘we really think this is important,’” said analyst Jorge Dominguez, often referred as the dean of U.S. Cubanologists. Born in Cuba, Dominguez is Harvard University’s Antonio Madero Professor for the Study of Mexico and chair of the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, and has published various books and articles on Latin America and Cuba.[64]

“Members of the Congress, journalists could read this and understand the context of what the Obama administration was doing,” said Dominguez. The New York Times “did a good job and it certainly served its purpose,” he adds. [65]

Asked by The Washington Post if The New York Times played a role in bringing about change in U.S.-Cuba relations, the Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal was reluctant to claim credit for the stunning turn of events. “I won’t say we were like Pope Francis, but I think we contributed. The feedback we’re getting from the administration is that it did matter. We were pushing them hard. And we got a lot of attention in the Spanish-speaking world.” [66]

For some however, the convergence between newly defined U.S. interests and freshly reissued editorial positions of the Times is not a surprise.  “I don’t think the White House tried to influence the Times,” said Thomas Fiedler, dean of the College of Communication at Boston University and former executive editor of the Miami Herald. “The editorials are very consistent with the views of the paper and they have been looking at the clock ticking.” Fiedler opined that “President Obama is at the point where he does not have to worry about elections, and the Cuban-American community in Florida is going through a generational shift.” [67]

Huddleston argues that the editorials “served to cancel to a great extent the viewpoint against an opening as advocated by The Washington Post,” which had published a rebuttal to the Times. [68]The Washington Post’s strong but ill-informed position on Cuban human rights as a reason for not opening would have been difficult to overcome without the strong opposing view of The New York Times. Therefore having a strong continuous drumbeat in The New York Times was important. It provided courage and credibility.” [69]

“The scope of it [the announcement] was a surprise, I thought it would be a prisoner exchange, I did not imagine it would be normalization,’’ said LeoGrande. This statement coming from the co-author (with National Security Archive senior analyst Peter Kornbluh) of Back Channel to Cuba, which chronicles the untold history of bilateral efforts toward reconciliation between the U.S. and Cuba, shows the extent of the secrecy surrounding the negotiations.

President Obama’s calculation that he could make such a historic change in U.S. policy toward Cuba, without serious negative consequences, proved to be correct.

Also significant was how the politicians and public responded to the announcement. There was “no outrage,” according to one former administration official, who added that there was, “some opposition from some members of Congress, some have been holding up the nominations of appointees, but it could have been much worse.” [70]

President Obama’s calculation that he could make such a historic change in U.S. policy toward Cuba, without serious negative consequences, proved to be correct. The new normal now involves working on unaddressed issues and progress is likely to be slow.

The author of The New York Times’ editorials, Londoño, commenting on progress since the normalization said, “I think we’re seeing promising signs. People, information and goods are traveling more freely in and out of Cuba than ever before. I think that’s healthy as Cubans consider how their government and economy should work going forward. The Cuban government can no longer credibly blame its shortcomings on the American embargo to the extent it has for years. And it can no longer justify its repressive policies by pointing to America’s regime-change policy.”[71]


Almost a year to the day of the publication of his first editorial in The New York Times, Ernesto Londoño was rewarded with the Maria Moors Cabot Prize’s special citation for outstanding reporting on the Americas. Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University, presented the award. “The editorials,” he said, “built a compelling factual and political case for the United States to end its 50-year-old policy of confrontation with Cuba,” and “tackled all the controversial aspects of U.S.-Cuba policy which had languished in political stalemate for decades.” They “seemed prescient when the Obama administration announced bold changes last December, opening the way for the normalization of relations,” and “acted as a powerful force in shaping and informing public opinion in both the United States and Latin America, and that is what editorial leadership is all about.”

In receiving the award, Londoño said, “The editorial board shared my enthusiasm and at times obsession when it decided that it was a good idea to go big and go loud on Cuba policy.”

President Obama and President Castro, meeting face-to-face last April in Panama at the seventh Summit of the Americas, expressed their hope for better relations but remained cautious for the near future. “We are now in a position to move on a path to the future. There are still going to be deep and significant differences between our two governments,” acknowledged Obama. [72]

“No one should entertain illusions…We are willing to discuss everything, but we need to be patient, very patient,” said Raul Castro more sternly. [73]

“The government of Cuba is going to move slowly,” predicts Huddleston. “Their priorities are not the same as ours. They want a change they can control,” and want to “secure a peaceful handover to a trusted president who is part of the system.” [74]

“Cuba could not hold the world at bay for much longer,” said Fiedler, “particularly with the impact of communications, of the Web, it is going to overwhelm Cuba just as it did in China. The difference is Cuba will not have the capacity to control the Web that China did. The ability to control things is going to shrink dramatically and quickly and at least Raul Castro has understood it.” [75]

“Cuba has skipped half a century, going from 1960 to 2015 with very little happening and was quite successful in getting away with it, at least until 10 years ago, because the technology will be overwhelming and the aspirations of the people will grow proportionate to that,” Fiedler said.[76]

The day the Cuban flag was raised in Washington – July 20, 2015 – in a ceremony at the mansion that had not functioned as an embassy for more than 50 years, The New York Times had a word of caution in the midst of florid declarations and heartfelt hopes. The Times noted that “the full normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba will take years and will be an arduous process,” mentioning, among other issues, “the disposition of American property the Cuban government seized in the 1960s, and the fate of the United States Navy base in Guantánamo Bay….It would be naïve to expect that the Cuban government, a dynastic police state, will take big steps in the near future to liberalize its centrally planned economy, encourage private enterprise or embrace pluralistic political reform.” [77]

“The old model is being diluted,” but “it might take years,” said Paul Hare, British ambassador to Cuba from 2001 to 2004 and lecturer at Boston University. Cuba is a country that is still, “not articulating a clear vision” for its future.[78]

LeoGrande points out that the integration of the island into the global economy may have been the main motive for the Cuban government to come full circle with its old foe and neighbor. The Cubans have, he said, “built the domestic economy around tourism. Who is the largest source of tourism? The United States. They say they need $2.5 billion in foreign direct investment a year in order to stimulate the economy. Who is the largest investor? The United States. They have built, with the help of Brazil, this modern Port of Mariel to be a transit point for containers coming through the Panama Canal. Where will these containers be going? The United States.” [79]

Renata Keller sees “the renewal of diplomatic relations as a really positive step. Many, many obstacles remain in terms of healing the rift between Cuba and the United States,” she says, “but establishing a clear and consistent dialogue can help the two countries work together to resolve some of these significant challenges. I see an even more optimistic view in most of the U.S. press coverage of Cuba-U.S. relations. If anything, I think the press may be a little overly optimistic and less attuned to the ways that closer relations could endanger Cuba’s hard-won economic and political sovereignty.” [80]

In 2018, Raul Castro, who will turn 87 years old, will step down from power, and with him, the generation of the Sierra Maestra. Although his successor has already been chosen (the first vice president Miguel Diaz-Canel, a “young” 55-year-old apparatchik) it remains to be seen if the regime will survive the passing of its historical leadership.

As the ruling Communist Party of Cuba – which leads the only one-party system in the Western Hemisphere – gears up for its seventh congress in April 2016, proposals from the base about political reforms are being discussed in advance.

Final Note: The Time of Fidel

The leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, now 89 and frail, has replaced his fatigues with an odd Adidas tracksuit. His beard is white and scraggly and he rarely appears in public. He remains, however, the symbolic figure of his country and the indispensable reference for his successor and brother Raul. He shares occasional “Reflexiones” in the official press, preferring now to sigh rather than shout on the state of world affairs. Ironically, his crepuscular presence seems necessary to underline the fact that the times, however excruciatingly slow, are indeed changing in a Cuba where the concept of time has always seemed different than for the rest of humanity.

At the beginning of the revolution in the 1960s, the demiurge Fidel once decided to make the year 18 months instead of the usual 12, and the island had to celebrate Christmas in July. After that, Christmas disappeared altogether until the first papal visit of John Paul II in 1998. Fidel Castro holds for posterity the Guinness World Record for the longest speech ever delivered at the United Nations – 4 hours and 29 minutes – but his compatriots have had to endure for decades, and more than once, diatribes more than 7 hours long.

When the world celebrated with fanfare the entry into the new millennium on December 31, 1999, the Cuban government insisted with scientific and astronomic evidence that the start of the new century would really begin in 2001. Of course, when 2001 came around, everybody in Cuba had forgotten all about the new millennium. The playwright Arthur Miller captured it best after a visit to the island in 2000 where he dined with the Cuban leader, an indefatigable talker: “It would have been too much to expect that after half a century in power [Fidel Castro] would not become to some important degree an anachronism, a handsome old clock that no longer tells the time correctly and bongs haphazardly in the middle of the night, disturbing the house.” [81]


I would like to thank the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy for the opportunity to tell this singular story on Cuba and The New York Times, which took me through the tunnel of time on both sides of the Strait of Florida.  I want to express my appreciation for the wisdom and advice of acting director Tom Patterson as well as the insights of Nancy Palmer, Matt Baum, Marion Just, and Richard Parker. Katie Miles’s support was invaluable to guiding me through the world of Harvard. A big thanks to my fellow fellows David Ensor and Paul Wood for their camaraderie and good cheer. Special thanks to my research assistant Margarita Salas.


[1] “The Break with Cuba,” The New York Times, January 5, 1961.

[2] The seven editorials ran on October 12, 20, 26; November 3, 10, 17; and December 15, 2014.

[3] “The Break with Cuba,” The New York Times, January 5, 1961.

[4]  Lopez, Mark Hugo and Krogstad, Jens Manuel. “As Cuban American demographics change, so do views of Cuba.” Pew Research Center, December 23, 2014.

[5] “Statement by the President on Cuba Policy Changes,” The White House Office of the Press Secretary.

[6] Ibid.

[7] “Speech by Cuban President Raul Castro on re-establishing U.S.-Cuba relations,” The Washington Post, December 17, 2014.

[8] Ibid.

[9] “Obama Should End the Embargo on Cuba,” The New York Times, Oct. 12, 2014.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Wemple, Erik. “New York Times editorials timed perfectly for Cuba shift,” The Washington Post, December 18, 2014.

[12] Personal interview through email on May 20, 2015.

[13] “A Cuban Dictator Falls,” The New York Times, January 2, 1959.

[14] In July 1960 Washington had already slashed the quota for sugar imports from Cuba by 700,000 tons and reduced U.S. oil exports to Cuba. Havana became dependent upon Russia for crude oil and when all American-owned Cuban oil refineries companies on the island refused to refine Russian oil, the Castro government nationalized several of them without compensation.

[15] “The Break with Cuba,” The New York Times, January 5, 1961.

[16] Ibid.

[17] “The Cuban Charges,” The New York Times, January 3, 1961.

[18] Rice, Condoleezza. Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family. New York: Crown Publishers, 2010. 38-40.

[19] “The Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act of 1996” (Helms–Burton Act) Pub.L. 104–114.

[20] “An End to Cuba’s Isolation,” The New York Times, November 10, 1971.

[21] “Cuba and the O.A.S.” The New York Times, July 8, 1972.

[22] “Relaxation on Cuba?” The New York Times, September 12, 1973.

[23] “Cuba: Will Ford Act?” The New York Times, August 24, 1974.

[24]  “‘New Direction’ to Cuba,” The New York Times, March 4, 1975.

[25] “Policy for the Americas,” The New York Times, December 21, 1976.

[26] “The Cuban Beginning,” The New York Times, August 19, 1977.

[27] “Fidel Castro is Floundering,” The New York Times, May 19, 1980.

[28] “Making Poor Cubans Suffer More,” The New York Times, June 15, 1992.

[29] “After Fidel Castro,” The New York Times, February 4, 1998.

[30] “The Cuba Boomerang,” The New York Times, July 13, 1996.

[31] “Elite opinion is not a good barometer of the mass public’s view, nor is it a leader of the public’s attitudes in the case of Cuba. More importantly, it appears that elite opinion is not a sufficient shield from public opinion should policymakers, especially elected officials, make decisions which appear contrary to where the mass public is on this issue.” Fisk, Daniel. “Cuba and American Public Opinion.” Cuba in Transition, Vol.9 Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy, 1999.

[32] “Strengthening Mr. Castro’s Hand,” The New York Times, December 23, 1999.

[33] “Elian Goes Home,” The New York Times, June 29, 2000.

[34] “Congressional Resolve on Cuba,” The New York Times, October 25, 2003.

[35] “Election-Year Cuba Policy,” The New York Times, June 27, 2004.

[36] Ibid.

[37] “Beginning of the End in Cuba,” The New York Times, August 2, 2006.

[38] “90 Miles and Light-Years Away,” The New York Times, August 10, 2006.

[39] Ibid.

[40] “Mr. Obama and the Neighborhood,” The New York Times, April 18, 2009.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Fisk, Daniel. “Cuba and American Public Opinion.” Cuba in Transition, Vol.9 Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy, 1999.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Ibid. (312-313)

[45] “US-Cuba: A New Public Survey Supports Policy Change,” Atlantic Council, 2014.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Interview with senior Obama administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, October 28, 2015.

[48] Ibid.

[49] Interview with Vicki Huddleston, October 21, 2015.

[50] Strobel, Warren; Spetalnick, Matt and Adams, David. “How Obama outmaneuvered hardliners and cut a Cuba deal,” Reuters, March 23, 2015.

[51] Interview with senior Obama administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, October 28, 2015.

[52] Strobel, Warren; Spetalnick, Matt and Adams, David. “How Obama outmaneuvered hardliners and cut a Cuba deal,” Reuters, March 23, 2015.

[53] Pazzanese, Christina. “U.S.-Cuba ties: In from the cold,” Harvard Gazette, December 17, 2014.

[54] Personal interview through email on May 20, 2015.

[55] “Still Pondering U.S.-Cuba Relations, Fidel Castro Responds,” The New York Times, October 14, 2015.

[56] “Obama Should End the Embargo on Cuba,” The New York Times, October 12, 2015.

[57] “Obama Should End the Embargo on Cuba,” The New York Times, October 12, 2014

“Cuba’s Impressive Role on Ebola,” The New York Times, October 20, 2014.

“The Shifting Politics of Cuba Policy,” The New York Times, October 26, 2014.

“A Prisoner Swap with Cuba,” The New York Times, November 3, 2014.

“In Cuba, Misadventures in Regime Change,” The New York Times, November 10, 2014.

“A Cuban Brain Drain, Courtesy of the U.S.” The New York Times, November 17, 2014.

“Cuba’s Economy at a Crossroads,” The New York Times, December 15, 2014.

[58] “Did Editorials Influence Obama’s Decision To Normalize Relations With Cuba?” Fresh Air, National Public Radio, January 7, 2015.

[59] Interview with senior Obama administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, October 28, 2015.

[60] “New York Times goes on a Cuban crusade,” British Broadcasting Corporation, November 11, 2014.

[61] Interview with Renata Keller, November 14, 2015. [Note: The Summits of the Americas are gatherings of Western Hemisphere heads of state and government leaders. They discuss policy issues, affirm shared values and commit to concerted actions at the national and regional level to address challenges faced in the Americas. The Seventh Summit of the Americas was planned for Panama City, Panama in April 2015 and Latin American countries insisted upon inviting Cuba.]

[62] Interview with William LeoGrande, October 9, 2015.

[63] Ibid.

[64]  Interview with Jorge Dominguez, October 5, 2015.

[65] Ibid.

[66] Farhi, Paul. “Did the N.Y. Times play a role in bringing about change in U.S.-Cuba relations?” The Washington Post, December 18, 2014.

[67] Interview with Thomas Fiedler, October 2, 2015.

[68] “Cuba should not be rewarded for denying freedom to its people,” The Washington Post, October 20, 2014.

[69] Interview with Vicki Huddleston, October 21, 2015.

[70] Interview with senior Obama administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, October 28, 2015.

[71] Personal interview through email on May 20, 2015.

[72] Obama remarks in Panama City, April 11, 2015.

[73] Castro remarks in Panama City, April 11, 2015.

[74] Interview with Vicki Huddleston, October 21, 2015.

[75] Interview with Thomas Fiedler, October 2, 2015.

[76] Ibid.

[77] Ibid.

[78] Interview with Paul Hare, October 2, 2015.

[79] Interview with William LeoGrande, October 9, 2015.

[80] Interview with Renata Keller, November 14, 2015.

[81] McCoy, Terry. Cuba on the Verge: An Island in Transition, (New York: Bullfinch Press, 2003). Arthur Miller’s epilogue.