In February 1962, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed an embargo on trade between the United States and Cuba. What is this embargo, and what is the current status of said […]
In February 1962, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed an embargo on trade between the United States and Cuba. What is this embargo, and what is the current status of said embargo?
First, you have to understand the history between Cuba and the United States. Allow me to narrate a timeline.
1898: Spain surrenders rule over Cuba. U.S. forces occupied Cuba until 1902, when the United States allowed a new Cuban government to handle, full control of, the state’s affairs.
1959: socialist and revolutionary Fidel Castro and his group of guerrilla fighters overthrew former President Batista, who was supported by the United States for his anti-communist stance.
1960: Castro severs relations with the United States by increasing taxes on U.S. imports and forming deals with the Soviet Union. U.S. President Eisenhower then cuts the import quota for Cuban sugar, freezing Cuban assets in the United States while nearly imposing an official trade embargo. Diplomatic ties with Cuba are severed.
1961: Bay of Pigs Invasion. U.S. President Kennedy orders 1,400 “CIA-sponsored” Cubans to overthrow Castro. The Cuban military, however, only took a few days to squash the deployment and come out victorious. The U.S. government, over the next several decades, directed furtive operations against Cuba. Later, the United States announced the official embargo.
1962: Cuban Missile Crisis. The U.S. discovers that Cuba has facilitated the production of Soviet Union missiles. Kennedy demands the removal of said missiles. The negotiations resulted in a 13 day standoff. Kennedy agrees to withdraw missiles from Turkey as long as the Cubans do the same with the Soviet Union. Kennedy promises not to invade Cuba, and Soviet Premier Khrushchev accepts the deal. Kennedy prohibits U.S. nationals from traveling to Cuba.
1982: President Ronald Reagan appoints Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism, condemning Castro’s government for supporting communist groups in African and Latin American countries.
1992: U.S. tightens sanctions after the collapse of the Soviet Union. President Bush signs the Cuban Democracy Act, which increases U.S. economic sanctions on Cuba.
2000: Venezuelan President Chavez signs an accord with Castro allowing Venezuela to send oil to Cuba in return for Cuban support in education, health care, science, and technology.
2008: Fidel Castro, who’s health is declining, hands over the presidency to his brother, Raul, who had served as second-in-command of the government and a general in the armed forces. President Obama announces a possible ease of the embargo.
2011: The Cuban government enforces economic reforms, encouraging citizens to buy and sell real estate and auto-vehicles, expanding bank lending, and increasing self-employment.
2014: Barack Obama and Raul Castro declare they will restore diplomatic ties following the exchange of a jailed U.S. intelligence officer for the three remaining Cuban Five prisoners.
2015: The U.S. State Department removes Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism.
2016: Obama becomes the first sitting U.S. president in nearly ninety years to visit the nation. Fidel Castro dies.
2017: President Trump declares that he will reinstate restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba, but keep diplomatic ties. The State Department declares it will withdraw most staff from the U.S. Embassy Havana after diplomats and intelligence develop mysterious health problems, including hearing loss and dizziness.
2018: Raul Castro steps down as President. Miguel Diaz-Canel is chosen to take over, first vice president and Castro’s hand-picked successor, as president of Cuba.
2021: The U.S. State Department confirms Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism.
2022: The White House lifts some restrictions on the island. It reestablishes U.S. flights into the country, a family reunification program and dismisses the settlement cap for families.
So, as you can see, the United States and Cuba have had their fair share of complicated history. Like toxic lovers, Cuba and the U.S. are getting along fine one day, and the next, silently fighting for extended periods. But, like most toxic relationships, they always find their way back to each other.
So far, this embargo mainly prevents the U.S. from interacting with Cuba. This includes harsh restrictions in trade, travel, and business. At first, half a century ago, the embargo seemed like a good idea for the U.S. to publicly and loudly announce their fight against communism. But now the embargo has barely changed, while the times have.
The embargo greatly affects our economy, costing one billion dollars lost in export sales. This embargo has failed to achieve its goals, and it is plainly obvious to see that if the embargo hasn’t worked so far, there’s a slim chance it will work sometime in the near future. The embargo doesn’t even really hurt the Cuban government, but more so the people of Cuba. Cubans are denied access to technology, medicine, affordable food, and other goods that could’ve been available to them.
While the U.S. may be caught in some kind of staring contest with Cuba, to see who will secede first and blink, millions are suffering. The livelihood of the people, Cuban and American, is more important than the U.S. appearing weak. Arguably, the United States looks dumb for attempting to look tough instead of at least trying to appear considerate.
Even so, many like-minded Americans believe that since societal attitudes are changing, it’s only reasonable for our methods toward Cuba to change too. To restate, there are much more pressing issues to be concerned with than Capitalism vs. Communism and Socialism. Like poverty. Climate change. Homelessness. Political Divide.
Ending this embargo would be a merciful deed to many, Mr. President.
A young student watching this situation unfold, hopeful.
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