An insider's account of US-Cuban relations over the past three decades by a former Foreign Service officer. The author was assigned to the American Embassy in Havana from 1958 until America evacuated the island in Fidel Castro's second year of power. He provides us with a solid record of Castro's rise, Batista's fall, and the vagaries of American policy from Eisenhower's Administration through all subsequent presidencies. While Smith finds much to be critical of in Castro--particularly his fence-straddling in relation to friendship with the Soviets and his own late conversion to Marxism-Leninsim--he also is critical of American myopia towards the Cuban ruler. The author sees Castro's messianism as crucial to understanding his early days in power. Thus, he points out, Castro was less concerned with domestic revolution than with international objectives. Specifically, he saw himself as the ultimate ""liberator"" of Latin America. Despite a penchant for personal documentation, Smith is not always totally on the mark. In attempting to show, for example, how Reagan's hard line toward Castro has accomplished nothing, he states that ""no political prisoners have been released."" Either he does not consider Armando Valladares to have been a political prisoner or his research is incomplete, but at any rate, Valladares is one political prisoner who not only has been released, but has written elegantly on his prison experiences. Nevertheless, this book goes further than ever before in bringing out the detailed history of mired Cuban-American relations. For example, Smith gives us for the first time the facts behind the story of Cuba's Mariel sealift of thousands of rejected citizens to Florida during the Carter presidency. Required reading for foreign affairs buffs.