AP WAS THERE: US breaks relations with Cuba

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EDITOR'S NOTE — When the United States severed its diplomatic relationship with Cuba on Jan. 3, 1961, it kicked off a year in which CIA-funded counterrevolutionaries would try to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, and after that, the withdrawal or ouster of almost all American and European media from the island, including The Associated Press' American staff.

Isaac M. Flores was the first American AP reporter allowed back into Cuba, in 1965. He said the lack of diplomatic ties and tense relationship between the U.S. and Cuba in those days made reporting all the more difficult. He had to contend with officials who would summon him to their offices after he wrote something they didn't agree with and threaten to revoke his visa. But in an interview from his home in Winter Park, Fla., Flores said he never believed that the schism between the two formerly interdependent countries would last forever.

"When I was in Cuba, I knew it couldn't continue," Flores said. "In the back of my mind, I always knew it was a temporary thing. My first thought (when the resumption of diplomatic relations was announced) was that it's about time."


WASHINGTON — The United States broke off diplomatic relations tonight with the left-leaning, boisterous regime of Fidel Castro in Cuba.

The break came at 8:30 p.m. EST when President Eisenhower issued a statement saying:

"There is a limit to what the United States in self respect can endure. That limit has now been reached."

The dramatic announcement severed relations that have existed since the turn of the century when the United States went to war and helped the Caribbean island win its independence from Spain.

Castro's reaction to the break: "Cuba is alert."

Castro has charged that the Spanish-American War merely shifted Cuba from the political domination of Spain to the economic domination of the United States.

In his statement, Mr. Eisenhower gave as the reason for the break an ultimatum delivered by Cuba this morning. In it, Cuba demanded that the United States limit its personnel in its Embassy and Consulate in Havana to 11 persons.

President-elect John F. Kennedy was informed of the decision to break relations with Cuba before it was announced. His press secretary, Pierre Salinger, said in Palm Beach, Fla., that Kennedy would have no comment.

James C. Hagerty, White House Press Secretary, said he did not know whether Kennedy had been informed of the move, but Salinger said the President-elect had been. Salinger said the word was relayed to Dean Rusk, his Secretary of State-designate.

Guards were placed at Cuban establishments in various parts of the country. In Washington, police said they posted a 24-hour-a-day guard at the Cuban Embassy at State Department request shortly after Castro demanded that the American Embassy staff in Havana be reduced.

Although the Cuban note ordering the U.S. Embassy staff in Havana reduced was given as the specific cause of the break, the United States has shown growing concern and anger in the last year as Prime Minister Castro has moved closer to the Communist orbit of Soviet Russia.

Just three days ago, on the second anniversary of his seizure of power, Castro paraded Russian military equipment through the streets of Havana.

Hagerty would not elaborate on Mr. Eisenhower's statement except to point out that Secretary of State Christian A. Herter in a note to Cuba had said the United States would ask Switzerland to assume diplomatic and consular representation in Cuba on behalf of this government.

The press secretary declined to answer any questions about what the United States intends to do with the naval base it operates in Guantanamo, Cuba.

Washington reaction was generally along the line that a break was inevitable.

Chairman J. William Fulbright, D-Ark., of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said, "We certainly had sufficient provocation."

Sen. Henry M. Jackson of Washington, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said he regarded the diplomatic break as inevitable. "It was only a question of time," Jackson said.

Sen. Mike Mansfield of Montana, new Senate majority leader, said: "I'm not surprised. We've been building up to it for a long time."

Adlai E. Stevenson, President-Elect Kennedy's choice for ambassador to the United Nations, said he regrets "the deterioration of relations that has resulted in this decision being forced by the Cubans."

Rep. Charles A. Halleck, R-Ind., minority leader of the House, said he trusts the administration's judgment in its decision to break off diplomatic relations.

Vice President-Elect Lyndon B. Johnson and Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn, D-Tex., declined immediate comment.

Military officials professed to see little likelihood that the diplomatic break would have any immediate effect on this country's big base at Guantanamo, but Hagerty declined to answer all questions on that point.

He was asked whether the United States still intends to defend the base by force if necessary against any attack by Castro.

He was also asked whether the United States intended to keep its naval personnel at the base.

To both questions, Hagerty said he could not go beyond the president's statement, which did not mention Guantanamo.

This country has maintained that its rights to the base are guaranteed by a treaty of long standing.

U.S.-Cuban relations have been deteriorating steadily since Castro's accession to power two years ago, when his revolution overthrew the former regime of Fulgencio Batista.

The last straw came today.

Castro ordered the U.S. Embassy staff cut to 11, declaring that the Embassy harbored spies directing counterrevolutionary activities. The staff has recently numbered 87, having been cut in the past six months from about 120.

Castro's action was a followup to his charges last weekend that President Eisenhower had ordered U.S. Marines to invade Cuba before Jan. 18. Castro-controlled newspapers said the Cuban government had learned of such a plot from reliable sources.

At the time, Hagerty described the charges as ridiculous.


AP Corporate Archives and AP's News Research Center contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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Stanley Meisler and Ben F. Meyer


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