My late father would often speak about the Kennedy-Nixon debates of 1960.
Like he told me, many Cubans listened to that debate very carefully on the radio. It was broadcast to Cuba on short wave radio, perhaps Voice of America or some other frequency.
By the summer of 1960, Cuba was in rebellion against the Castro regime.
Cubans were asking these questions: What happened to the elections? Why are all of those Soviets landing at the airport? Why are Cuban owned businesses “nationalized”? Why is every regime critic called a CIA operative? Why so many political arrests? Why were newspapers shut down?
“In the second of four televised debates, Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard Nixon turn their attention to foreign policy issues.
Three Cold War episodes, in particular, engendered spirited confrontations between Kennedy and Nixon.
The first involved Cuba, which had recently come under the control of Fidel Castro.
Nixon argued that the island was not “lost” to the United States, and that the course of action followed by the Eisenhower administration had been the best one to allow the Cuban people to “realize their aspirations of progress through freedom.”
Kennedy fired back that it was clear that Castro was a communist, and that the Republican administration failed to use U.S. resources effectively to prevent his rise to power.
He concluded that, “Today Cuba is lost for freedom.””
Six months later, President Kennedy dropped the ball at The Bay of Pigs. On December 2nd, Castro announced that he had always been a “Marxist Lennist”! In an instant, Cuba was a Soviet satellite and nothing would ever be the same.