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Post JFK, Jean Daniel, and Castro
Created by John Eipper on 11/30/17 7:23 AM

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JFK, Jean Daniel, and Castro (Massoud Malek, USA, 11/30/17 7:23 am)

In two articles in the New Republic, published in December 1963, more than two years after the Bay of Pigs Invasion, Jean Daniel, an Algerian-born French journalist who founded Le Nouvel Observateur weekly, wrote that Kennedy asked him to pass on a message to Castro. He also described Castro's reaction to Kennedy's assassination.

On 24 October 1963, President Kennedy, who knew that Daniel was just about to visit Cuba in order to interview Fidel Castro, met with him in the White House. He told him:

"I believe that there is no country in the world, including the African regions, including any and all the countries under colonial domination, where economic colonization, humiliation and exploitation were worse than in Cuba, in part owing to my country's policies during the Batista regime. I believe that we created, built and manufactured the Castro movement out of whole cloth and without realizing it. I believe that the accumulation of these mistakes has jeopardized all of Latin America. The great aim of the Alliance for Progress is to reverse this unfortunate policy. This is one of the most, if not the most, important problems in America foreign policy. I can assure you that I have understood the Cubans. I approved the proclamation which Fidel Castro made in the Sierra Maestra, when he justifiably called for justice and especially yearned to rid Cuba of corruption. I will go even further: to some extent it is as though Batista was the incarnation of a number of sins on the part of the United States. Now we shall have to pay for those sins. In the matter of the Batista regime, I am in agreement with the first Cuban revolutionaries. That is perfectly clear. But it is also clear that the problem has ceased to be a Cuban one, and has become international."

After spending three weeks without being able to interview Castro, Daniel gave up hope. But on the evening of what he thought was to be his departure date, Fidel, having heard of his interview with the President Kennedy, went to his hotel at 10 in the evening and did not leave until 4 in the following morning.

Here is the part of the interview which constitutes a reply to JFK's remarks:

"Fidel listened with devouring and passionate interest. Three times he had me repeat certain remarks, particularly those in which Kennedy expressed his criticism of the Batista regime and those in which Kennedy accused Fidel of having almost caused a war fatal to all humanity."

Fidel then said:

"This is why Kennedy's good ideas aren't going to yield any results. It is very easy to understand and at this point he surely is aware of this because, as I told you, he is a realist. For years and years American policy--not the government, but the trusts and the Pentagon--has supported the Latin American oligarchies. All the prestige, the dollars, and the power was held by a class which Kennedy himself has described in speaking of Batista. Suddenly a President arrives on the scene who tries to support the interests of another class (which has no access to any of the levers of power) to give the various Latin American countries the impression that the United States no longer stands behind the dictators, and so there is no more need to start Castro-type revolutions. What happens then? The trusts see that their interests are being a little compromised (just barely, but still compromised); the Pentagon thinks the strategic bases are in danger; the powerful oligarchies in all the Latin American countries alert their American friends; they sabotage the new policy; and in short, Kennedy has everyone against him. The few liberal or allegedly liberal presidents who were chosen as instruments of the new policy are swept out of office."

On Kennedy's assassination:

"It was around 1:30 in the afternoon, Cuban time. We were having lunch in the living room of the modest summer residence which Fidel Castro owns on magnificent Varadero Beach, 120 kilometers from Havana. The telephone rang, Fidel picked up the phone and I heard him say: '¿Cómo? Un atentado?' He then turned to us to say that Kennedy had just been struck down in Dallas. Then he went back to the telephone and exclaimed in a loud voice 'Herido? Muy gravemente?' ('Wounded? Very seriously?')

"He came back, sat down, and repeated three times the words: 'Es una mala noticia.' ('This is bad news.') He remained silent for a moment, awaiting another call with further news.

"Around 2 pm, the NBC network in Miami announced that President Kennedy was dead. Then Fidel stood up and said to me: 'Everything is changed. Everything is going to change. The United States occupies such a position in world affairs that the death of a President of that country affects millions of people in every corner of the globe. The cold war, relations with Russia, Latin America, Cuba, the Negro question... all will have to be rethought. I'll tell you one thing: at least Kennedy was an enemy to whom we had become accustomed. This is a serious matter, an extremely serious matter.'

"Around 5 pm, The broadcasts were now resumed. One reporter felt he should mention the difficulty Mrs. Kennedy was having in getting rid of her bloodstained stockings. Fidel exploded: 'What sort of a mind is this!' He repeated the remark several times: 'What sort of a mind is this? There is a difference in our civilizations after all. Are you like this in Europe? For us Latin Americans, death is a sacred matter; not only does it mark the close of hostilities, but it also imposes decency, dignity, respect. Incidentally, this reminds me of something else: if you write all those things I told you yesterday against Kennedy's policy, don't use his name now; speak instead of the policy of the United States government.'"




JE comments:  Jean Daniel is still alive at 97.  (I am always fascinated by the "Where are they now?"  Daniel was a friend and colleague of Albert Camus.  He must be the last survivor of that generation.)  Massoud, what drew your attention to these 54-year-old reports?

Note above how both JFK and Castro speak in fully developed essays.  That is a lost art among politicians.

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  • Two Cuba Documentaries (Massoud Malek, USA 12/02/17 6:50 AM)
    John E (30 November) asked about the renewed interest in French journalist Jean Daniel's early 1960s reports on Castro and JFK.

    Netflix has several documentaries about Cuba. A few days ago I watched two of them, in particular The Cuba Libre Story, where Jean Daniel talks about his meetings with Kennedy and Castro. I wanted to know more about it. The other one is Cuba and the Cameraman. I highly recommend both films.

    By the way, tomorrow I am going to Cuba.

    JE comments: I've been gearing up for final exams at the College, so there have been delays with WAIS postings.  Therefore, alas, Massoud Malek's "tomorrow" is actually yesterday. Greetings to you in Cuba, Massoud!  What I'm going to request next should come as no surprise:  send a report (pretty please).

    I plan to watch both documentaries.  (First, I have to get through final exams.)

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