"Cuba and the United States: Historical Perspectives, Political Prospects"
September 26, 2008, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Institute for the Study of the Americas, convened a panel titled “Cuba and the United States: Historical Perspectives, Political Prospects.”.
Panelists including former State Department Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson, former American Interests Section Director in Havana and Center for International Policy Senior Fellow Wayne Smith, National Security Archive Latin America project director Peter Kornbluh, Lissa Weinman of the World Policy Institute, Kirby Jones of the US-Cuba Trade Association, Phil Peters of the Lexington Institute, Geoff Thale of the Washington Office on Latin America, William LeoGrande at American University, Sarah Stephens of the Center for Democracy in the Americas, Al Fox of the Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation, and others.
Amy Goodman interview
In July 2015, Amy Goodman interviewed several commentators on the resumption of US-Cuba diplomatic relations.
- Hundreds of dignitaries from Cuba and the United States gathered in Washington on Monday to mark the reopening of the Cuban Embassy after being closed for more than five decades. We speak to Congressmembers Raúl Grijalva and Barbara Lee; actor Danny Glover; former U.S. diplomat Wayne Smith; attorneys Michael Smith and Michael Ratner, who co-authored "Who Killed Che?: How the CIA Got Away with Murder"; Phyllis Bennis and James Early of the Institute for Policy Studies; and others.
WAYNE SMITH: I’m Wayne Smith. I was third secretary of embassy in the U.S. Embassy in Havana in 1978—I’m sorry, 1958. And I was there until we broke relations in January of 1961. So I was there when we pulled the flag down. Now here I am when we pull the flag up.
AMY GOODMAN: So talk—
WAYNE SMITH: All these years later. Thank God, it’s come to this.
AMY GOODMAN: Describe what happened then in 1961. It was President Eisenhower, is that right?
WAYNE SMITH: We broke relations with Cuba. They loaded us all on a bus, took us to the port and put us on a ferry to take us up to Washington—not to Washington, I’m sorry, to the United States. So, that was it. We got on the ferry, and most of us were very sad that we were breaking relations, but, well, these things happen.
AMY GOODMAN: Did you think you’d be back pretty soon?
WAYNE SMITH: Yeah, we all did. We thought we’d be back in a couple of years.
AMY GOODMAN: How many times—
WAYNE SMITH: Couldn’t possibly be 54 years.
AMY GOODMAN: How many times did the U.S. attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro?
WAYNE SMITH: I don’t have any idea. I was not in the CIA, thank God. But they did attempt to assassinate. That’s for sure.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think is most important, especially for young people, to understand about this day in U.S. relations with Cuba?
WAYNE SMITH: That our policy did not work. We refused to dialogue with Cuba. We tried to overthrow Castro—Bay of Pigs and all that. And then we had the embargo and a refusal to negotiate. That accomplished nothing. Look, it was totally counterproductive. As we began this policy in early 1960, Mexico was the only Latin American country that did not have diplomatic trade relations with Cuba. By 2014, the United States was isolated. Obama has switched to a new policy of engagement and dialogue. That might answer our—that might achieve something. The old policy did not. It was totally counterproductive. OK.