The Foreign Service Journal, July/August 2018

88 JULY-AUGUST 2018 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL AFSA NEWS BOOK NOTES : OUR WOMAN I N HAVANA U.S. Ambassador Discusses Her New Book about Diplomacy in Cuba On May 3, as part of its Foreign Service Day activities, AFSA welcomed Ambassador (ret.) Vicki Huddleston to discuss her new book, OurWoman in Havana: ADiplomat’s Chroni- cle of America’s Long Struggle with Castro’s Cuba (The Over- look Press, 2018). Amb. Huddleston served under Presidents Bill Clinton and GeorgeW. Bush as chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana from 1999 to 2002. The description of the book on Amazon states: “ Our Woman in Havana chronicles the past several decades of U.S.-Cuba relations from the bird’s-eye view of State Department veteran and longtime Cuba hand Vicki Huddleston.” Amb. Huddleston did indeed have a bird’s-eye view—she told the audience that she frequently stood on the balcony of her office in Havana, which overlooked the Malecón. From there, she said, she could see 100 years of history stretching out before her and, on at least one occa- sion, she looked down on Fidel Castro in the open-air amphi- theater below, so close that “I could’ve thrown a rock at him” as he led a protest against the American presence. Amb. Huddleston dis- cussed what it was like to serve in Cuba. Until 2014, she said,“the media said we weren’t there,”when in fact the United States had the largest diplomatic presence in Havana, issuing 20,000 immigrant visas a year. “It’s a huge tragedy what’s happened to our embassy,” she said, explaining that in her view the recent “sonic attacks” on diplomats in Havana were politicized. “The injuries are real,” she said, but they shouldn’t have been used to roll back our policies on Cuba.“Now we’re in an unhappy place of having a policy that is against the interests of the Cubans, the Cuban-Americans and against our own nation’s interests.” Amb. Huddleston spoke of the outsized influence that Cuban Americans have on our nation’s poli- tics, explaining how the Elián González custody battle led directly to the elec- tion of President GeorgeW. Bush. Audience members questioned her about the success of student exchange programs, which she lauded, and the reasons Guantanamo Bay remained in operation for decades despite its useless- ness as a military facility. Amb. Huddleston decided to write the book, she said, after meeting a group of Cuban schoolchildren who asked her to take them to the United States.“Their future should be in Havana, not Miami,” she explained. She closed her talk with the hope that relations between the two nations would normalize as a new generation takes power in Havana. Amb. Huddleston wrote about her experiences in Havana for the June 2014 edition of The Foreign Service Journal . Her May 3 talk was recorded and can be viewed at n Ambassador (ret.) Vicki Huddleston. AFSA President Meets with Maryland and D.C. Retirees AFSA President Ambassador Barbara Stephenson joined lead host and retired Foreign Service Officer Tex Harris (pictured at left) at a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Retir- ees of Maryland and D.C. on May 15 in Chevy Chase, Md. Amb. Stephenson and Mr. Harris, a former AFSA president, spoke to more than 70 retirees about the work AFSA has done over the past year to engage members of Congress and the media on the important role of diplo- macy and development and our focus moving forward. n AFSA/DONNAGORMAN AFSA/CHRISTINEMIELE