1963 August 1

President Kennedy Calls Cuba Travelers “Communists”


President John F. Kennedy on this day labeled as “definitely Communists” some of the 58 Americans who traveled to Cuba in defiance of a U.S. ban on travel to that country. The group left the U.S. on June 28 and reached Cuba by way of London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Prague. As soon as they returned to New York City, their passports were seized by federal authorities. The ban on travel to Cuba infringed on Americans’ right to travel and to visit parts of the world and form their own opinions about those places.

Additionally, it was completely inappropriate for the president of the United States to publicly smear private citizens regarding their political views or affiliations. It is almost certain that the information he used came from FBI surveillance of alleged Communists and radicals. Kennedy, however, came into office as a hard line anti-Communist, and so his statement on this day was fully characteristic of his political outlook.

On December 17, 2014, after decades of hostility between the two countries, President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced that they would begin the process of normalizing relations between the two countries.

Learn more about the history of U.S. restrictions on travel to Cuba: https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL31139.pdf

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