Since 1962, the U.S. has maintained a Cuban embargo in an attempt to force the government of Cuba to adopt a representative democracy for the Cuban people.
On Wednesday, December 17, 2014, President Obama issued a statement saying that U.S. government policy would change toward Cuba and diplomatic relations would expand. The unfolding events will make a great subject for a research paper.
An embargo consists of economic sanctions that restrict trade and travel with a particular country. The Cuban embargo is the culmination of relations between the U.S. and Cuba that go back more than a century. Always a poor nation, Cuba relied on the U.S. to purchase most of its exports. As a result, the United States controlled Cuba’s sugar industry.
By 1959, many Cubans had their fill of U.S. intervention. Rebel troops led by Fidel Castro were successful in the overthrow of the U.S.-backed President Batista. Castro established Cuba as the first Communist state in the Western Hemisphere.
The existence of a Communist state just 90 miles from the U.S. was more than then President Kennedy could bear. Matters became worse when the Soviet Union began to install missile bases on Cuban soil.
For an understanding of U.S. – Cuban relations, be sure to check out the book, Response to Revolution: The United States and the Cuban Revolution, 1959-1961 by Richard E. Welch on Questia.
According to Welch, many believe that Fidel Castro and his army of barbudos were responsible for bringing down Batista. But it was internal corruption that actually rallied all spectrums of Cuban society to rise up against the dictator.
“One does not deny the historical importance of Fidel Castro or his skill as a guerilla leader and propagandist by insisting that Batista contributed largely to his own defeat. The economic problems of Cuban society and the eroding coherence of Cuban political organization paved the way for Castro’s victory,” Welch stated.
The Cuban embargo was an attempt to force Castro’s communist government to convert to a representative democracy. Whether it has been successful is open to debate.
U.S. – Cuba diplomatic relations
After more than 50 years of embargo, it now looks as if U.S. government policy toward Cuba will eventually allow for trade and travel between the two countries. Most Cubans are likely to greet this news with cautious optimism according to Michael Shifter. In his December 21, 2014, article for Politico.com, “What’s Next for Cuba?” Shifter described current conditions and future possibilities for the island nation.
Shifter explained that as much as $3 billion makes its way into the Cuban economy every year due to contributions sent home from relatives who live and work in the U.S. Government attitudes toward small business are not conducive to growth. If the country is to survive, it needs a major infusion of capital. If the U.S. opens trade relations with Cuba, then other nations will follow.
Why is Cuban President Raul Castro changing course away from communism? “Of course, it is impossible to know Raul Castro’s thinking and what convinced him to accept, however grudgingly, the path towards normalization with the United States, but it is not far-fetched to conclude that his decision was largely pragmatic and driven by economic necessity,” Shifter explained.
How will things change?
For the first time since 1961, the U.S. will operate an embassy in Havana, Cuba’s capital city. Other changes were outlined by Reid J. Epstein in a December 17, 2014, article for the Wall Street Journal, “Cigars, Rum and Credit Cards: What Is in U.S.-Cuba Agreement?”
According to Epstein the list of changes includes:
- An expansion of travel categories to Cuba to include family visits, educational activities and humanitarian projects (travel for tourism is still illegal)
- American travelers in Cuba will be allowed to use credit and debit cards issued by U.S. banks
- Americans traveling to Cuba will be allowed to bring back up to $400 worth of Cuban goods (only $100 can be alcohol or tobacco products)
- Americans can send $2,000 per quarter to people in Cuba (up from $500)
- An expansion of Internet infrastructure and increased access to the web for Cubans
“Almost no ordinary Cubans have access to the Internet. Very slow web access is available at tourist hotels. The new rules allow U.S. companies to export telecommunications equipment to build a broader Internet infrastructure. At the same time, U.S. officials said, the Cuban government agreed to allow its citizens better access to the web,” Epstein said.
You can read all about politics, government and international relations on Questia.
What do you think about the opening of relations with Cuba? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.