1960: A visitor to the UN became an issue in the presidential election
President Obama, and other world leaders, will be making their visits and speaking before the U.N.
In 2007, Hugo Chávez of Venezuela came and caused quite a controversy, calling President Bush "the devil." Not long ago, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the leader of Iran, came to New York and said some rather bizarre things.
By mid-September 1960, the Nixon-Kennedy campaign was underway. Everyone was talking about the debates around the corner. And both candidates were talking about a visitor to the U.N.
Cuba's Fidel Castro arrived in New York on September 18, 1960:
In September 1960, Castro led a delegation to New York City to address the United Nations General Assembly. He and his entourage caused an immediate sensation by deciding to stay at the Theresa Hotel in Harlem. While there, Castro met with a number of African-American leaders, including Malcolm X from the Nation of Islam and the poet Langston Hughes.
On September 26, Castro delivered a blistering attack on what he termed American “aggression” and “imperialism.”
For over four hours, Castro lambasted U.S. policy toward Cuba and other nations in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. The United States, he declared, had “decreed the destruction” of his revolutionary government.
Castro’s visit and lengthy public denunciation marked the final breaking point in relations between the U.S. and Cuba.
In January 1961, the Eisenhower administration severed all diplomatic relations with Cuba.
Cuba also became a hot topic in the Kennedy-Nixon debates. Kennedy took a tough posture toward Castro and criticized the Eisenhower policy. I recall that my parents, and many Cubans, followed these debates with keen interest. Cuba had never seen such an important issue in a U.S. presidential election.
Unfortunately, President Kennedy did not support the men of Brigade 2506 at the Bay of Pigs. It turned into a huge victory for the Castro regime, and the invasion was followed by severe repression against anti-Castro Cubans on the island.
The Missile Crisis followed 18 months later!
My guess is that no one 56 years ago thought the bearded Cuban would become such a headache for the winner of the election.
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