Fifty-one years ago today (on January 4, 1960) Fidel Castro appeared in an interview on NBC’s Today Show. At that time, his relationship with the United States was still cordial.
A transcript of the interview is provided below courtesy of Nelson Valdes and Cuba-L archives. The interview has been translated from an article printed in Spanish in Havana’s El Mundo newspaper.
Q: Are you happy with the year that just went by?
FC: Yes, I am.
Q: What do you expect now?
FC: I am happy with the New Year because I think it will be better than the one that just ended.
Q: What do you expect to do in the New Year?
FC: We desire to improve our work and our relations. We have worked hard trying to reorganize the nation.
Q: Do you think there will be elections in 1960?
FC: It depends on the people. This is a matter that is in the hands of the people.
Q: Do you hope to have better relations with the United States?
FC: Of course. I think we will have better relations. Have you seen how many schools we have?
FC: Have you noticed how happy the children look?
Q; What do you think is the most important thing that Cuba needs from the United States?
FC: Good understanding.
Q: Patience? Time? Time to understand?
Q: Doctor Castro, do you think that there will be disturbances, counterrevolutions or invasions this coming year?
FC: This has always been the trend in revolutions. They are dreaming. I am sure they cannot return. They might fight, but they will never regain power. Do you know why? Because of the people. As long as the people support the Revolution, no enemy can take power. Our faith is in the people’s support.
Q: Do you think you have done all you wanted to do in this past year?
FC: No one has a right to feel happy with what has been done up to now. This year we have built the foundations. The coming year will be better.
Q: Thank you, Doctor Castro.
FC: I wish a Happy New year to the people of the United States.
As Cold War Studies has noted in our post titled Cold War Havana: Prelude to Sanctions, 1960 was not a good year for US – Cuban relations. Along with sugar, by mid-year, the Cubans were moving against other American interests.
On August 5, 1960, the government expropriated American-owned telephone and electricity companies, 36 sugar mills, and $800 million in US petroleum assets.
In response, the US quickly pushed through a resolution by the Organization of American States (OAS) condemning extrateritorrial (Soviet) intervention in the western hemisphere.
Cuba answered by establishing diplomatic relations with Communist China and issuing a call for other Latin American countries to throw off US neocolonial control.
A month later the revolutionary government nationalized the Cuban branches of North American banks along with 382 Cuban-owned firms. These included sugar mills, rice mills, Cuban-owned banks, railroads, textile factories, distilleries, department stores, and movie theaters.
A second Urban Reform Law was passed prohibiting ownership of more than one residence.
Individuals leasing confiscated property became tenants of the state and former owners received compensation at a maximum rate of $350 monthly.
Later in August, Cuba nationalized another 166 North American enterprises, including insurance firms, import companies, hotels, casinos, textile firms, metal plants, tobacco export firms, chemical companies, and food processing plants.
US investment in Cuba was basically eliminated.
By January 1961, the US embassy in Havana had allegedly become the center for destabilization attempts against Cuba. Castro ordered the embassy to reduce its staff from 300 to 11. The US broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba and banned US citizens from traveling to the country.
Ordinary US citizens are still not allowed to travel to Cuba. What do you think about this policy? Is it an effective means of spurring regime change?