On the road to the flag-raising, Cuban diplomats taunted Washington with cigars and rum

A Cuban cigar
(Image credit: Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

The road to reopening the U.S. embassy in Cuba was basically a game of this-for-that, The New York Times reports in its tick-tock of the crazy steps that led to the flag-raising this morning (among other standout details, the story features the Pope and artificial insemination!). However, while some trades were diplomatic — such as: these spies for that American contractor — others were a little more sneaky.

In 2012, following his re-election, President Obama tasked one of his top aides, Benjamin Rhodes, and the National Security Council's top Western Hemisphere official, Ricardo Zuniga, with holding conversations with Cuban officials in Canada. But while the Cubans generously brought gifts for the diplomats, they also made sure those gifts couldn't exactly be brought back to the States:

In April 2013, [Rhodes and Zuniga] sent a message, bypassing diplomatic channels to avoid leaks. The Cubans agreed to talk. Starting that June, the two White House aides began sneaking out of Washington and flying to Ottawa for secret talks with the Cubans in a Canadian government office.The Cubans came bearing gifts with a thinly veiled subtext: boxes of Cuban cigars and bottles of Havana Club rum that the Americans were barred by the embargo from bringing home and so had to leave in Ottawa."Someone in Canada is very well stocked," Mr. Rhodes noted ruefully. [The New York Times]

It seems that the taunting worked because the rest, as they say, is history.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.

Jeva Lange

Jeva Lange was the executive editor at TheWeek.com. She formerly served as The Week's deputy editor and culture critic. She is also a contributor to Screen Slate, and her writing has appeared in The New York Daily News, The Awl, Vice, and Gothamist, among other publications. Jeva lives in New York City. Follow her on Twitter.