HAVANA – After volunteering for the Peace Corps in Peru, Vicki J. Huddleston spent many years serving in the U.S. State Department. She worked in Haiti, Madagascar and Mali. While representing the U.S. in Africa, she was deputy assistant secretary of state and deputy assistant secretary of defense. But it was her time in Cuba that was the most impactful.
Huddleston served as the deputy director of Cuban affairs and as principal officer in Cuba. Her service under two administrations inspired her to co-author "Learning to Salsa: New Steps in U.S.-Cuba Relations," and she is promoting her second book, “Our Woman in Havana: A Diplomat's Chronicle of America's Long Struggle with Castro's Cuba."
"When the U.S. threatens, Cuba closes," Huddleston said. “When the U.S. pulls back, then the Cuban people have more freedom."
Huddleston said she favored former President Barack Obama’s policy, and the economic reforms that she says fostered the growth of the island’s private sector. President Donald Trump’s reversal of the policy, she says, has failed. She opposes the U.S. embargo.
“It didn't work,” Huddleston said. “It's 50 years, let's try something new."
Huddleston believes an injection of capitalism would be more productive for both countries. She also believes there needs to be a gradual, but continual opening for human rights to improve. She views Cuban President Raul Castro’s step down to leader of the Communist party in April as more of a succession.
"It's an authoritarian government controlled more by the military than by the party," Huddleston said. "Nobody has the ability within the country to challenge the rule of the Castros."
Huddleston believes Cuban officials don't know anything about the sonic attacks on U.S. embassy workers in Havana, but she thinks it highly likely that the Cuban military does know what happened. The Cuban government continues to deny responsibility.