When Cuba opened its Washington D.C. embassy on Monday, the moment wasn’t just historic. It also felt really ironic.
Historic, of course, because Cuba was raising its flag over the U.S. capital for the first time in 54 years. When the U.S. inaugurates its embassy in Havana on August 14, it will be the crowning moment in the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two Cold War enemies.
But this might be a déjà vu moment, too, because a big reason the U.S. and Cuba severed ties in 1961 was...embassies.
In 1960, Cuban leader Fidel Castro feared the U.S. mission in Havana was a nest of spies scheming to overthrow his communist revolution. “No [foreign] embassy rules our people!” he told the U.N. then. The U.S. was just as spooked about spies inside the Cuban embassy in Washington — especially their close ties to Russian spies.
A half century later the U.S. and Cuba are finally mending fences. But what ultimately opened the door to normalizing relations?
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Tim Padgett is WLRN's Americas editor.