Cuba: The Breaking Point

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The crowd of desperate Cubans swarming around the U.S. embassy in Havana refused to believe that the doors were locked and that no more visas could be issued. One man hammered on the glass, waving his U.S. Army discharge papers. A woman with a broken leg was held up piteously to the scurrying U.S. staff workers inside. "But you are the humane people! You are the humane people!" a woman pleaded, grabbing a U.S. consular official as government photographers stood near snapping pictures of those who wanted to flee Castro's Cuba.

The U.S. could not help them—at the moment. After two years of harassment. President Eisenhower ordered the State Department to break all diplomatic ties, at both the embassy and consular level, for the first time in the history of U.S.Latin American relations. To most Americans the wonder was that the U.S. had stood it so long.

Ending the Line-Up. The latest provocation began with Cuba's wild and unsupported charge, placed before the United Nations Security Council, that the U.S. was "about to perpetrate, within a few hours, direct military aggression against the government and people of Cuba." Then, as Castro reviewed 100,000 militiamen in Havana and harangued the crowd celebrating his second anniversary in power, a bomb exploded near by. Raging that those responsible "received the splendid money with which the United States embassy paid for terrorism." Castro said that he would put a stop to the "swarm of Central Intelligence Service and FBI and Pentagon agents who have been operating here with impunity. The revolutionary government has decided that within 48 hours the United States embassy shall not have here one more official than we have in the United States—eleven."

But it was not to be a humiliating eleven for eleven; the U.S. pulled out altogether. The complete break presumably suits Castro to a T. One of the gravest embarrassments to the dictatorship was the daily line-up of desperate Cubans before the embassy seeking U.S. visas to flee his Communist state. As of last week, 52,000 applications were on file. And once again he needed a new crisis to distract Cuba's attention from the growing failures of his Marxist revolution.

Way to Quarantine. For the U.S.president Eisenhower's action amounted to a drastic step against Cuba without compromising the incoming Kennedy Administration's relations with the rest of Latin America. In the long run it may also open the way for a chain reaction of similar breakoffs by other nations disgusted with Castro, and lead to collective action by the Organization of American States. A hemisphere quarantine against the bearded revolutionary is probably months away, but the doors are beginning to slam shut throughout Latin America.

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