The October Crisis is a lesson for the present-day international community
• Fidel participates in opening session
BY MARELYS VALENCIA (Granma International staff writer)
FORTY years after the most dramatic episode of the Cold War, the
October Missile Crisis of 1962, when the world was on the brink of a
nuclear war, some of the protagonists are meeting in Havana, from
this Friday through Sunday. President Fidel Castro attended the
session this Friday.
Conceived of and convened by Cuba, the aim of the conference is to
"contribute to a debate that gives continuity to the process of
establishing the historical truth," as Cuban Vice President José Ramón
Balaguer announced prior to the encounter.
However, in addition to shedding light on the episode, both Cuban
and U.S. participants are agreed on highlighting the crisis’ vital lessons
For Robert McNamara, defense secretary in Kennedy’s government,
his motive for being in Havana is to discuss how the world came so
close to war, how a nuclear conflict can be initiated, and what
lessons can be learnt to prevent such a risk in the future.
The U.S. representatives, also including Thomas Blanton, director of
the National Security Archives, a select group of academics, three of
President Kennedy’s advisors and the widow of Robert Kennedy, one
of the main actors of those 13 days that frightened the world,
expressed satisfaction at this opportunity to discuss the episode in an
civil and respectful environment.
As Blanton stated to the press in the pre-meeting, the conference is
a major act of diplomacy, a demonstration of faith in dialogue. And
he added that each time the crisis has been analyzed something has
emerged that the policy makers were unaware of at the time and
which is of great significance for lives and governments.
Blanton affirmed that if we fail to learn from history, we might well be
condemned to repeat it.
In four plenary sessions, representatives from both countries plus
academics from the former Soviet Union will retrace the events prior
to October 1962, from the Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961 and
Operation Mangosta — both programs aimed at the destruction of
the Cuban Revolution — which led Cuba into the position of taking
legitimate self-defense, and thus the so-called Missile Crisis.
Hundreds of documents declassified by the three parties involved are
providing material for those addressing the conference, under the
heading: "The October crisis: a political vision 40 years on."
According to Fernández, an interconnection is being sought among
those events, the subsequent development of the conflict, the points
of greatest tension, the outcome and its impact on Havana,
Washington and Moscow. Hence the singularly significant lessons for
the present-day international community.
This Sunday there will be a visit to historical sites related to the
episode: the San Cristóbal silo in Pinar del Río; the installations in the
colonial fortress of La Cabaña, the location of a replica Soviet R-12
missile; and the offices where president Fidel Castro met with U
Thant, then UN secretary general, at key moments in the crisis.