American Relations With Cuba Essay Research Paper

American Relations With Cuba Essay, Research Paper

America s Relations with Cuba

The island nation of Cuba, located just ninety miles off the coast of Florida, is home to 11 million people and has one of the few remaining communist regimes in the world. Fidel Castro came to power in 1959 and immediately instituted a communist program of economic and social changes. Castro allied his government with the Soviet Union and seized billions of dollars of American Property. The United States and Cuba have shared a long history of mutual mistrust and suspicion ever since. A trade embargo against Cuba was imposed in 1960 and is still in place today. Despite economic suffering and increasing isolation from the world community, Castro remains committed to communism.(Comptons)

During the first half of this century, Cuba resembled a United States colony. Wealthy Americans vacationed at Cuba s beaches, while the majority of the island s population lived in poverty. The pro-American dictator Fulgencio Batista ruled for almost twenty years before being overthrown by Fidel Castro s communist revolution in 1959. Cuba s turn to Communism raised serious problems for its neighbors in the Americas. Castro had repeatedly criticized the United States in long speeches at rallies in Cuba. He frequently charged that the United States was plotting to invade Cuba.(Niess)

During the first two years of Castro s rule in Cuba, the other governments in the Western Hemisphere attempted to maintain friendly relations with their neighbor. On January 3, 1961, however, United States president Dwight D. Eisenhower broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba after Castro charged that the United States Embassy in Havana was the center of counterrevolutionary activities. Eisenhower also canceled the United States sugar imports and imposed a total export embargo that seriously damaged the Cuban economy.(Niess)

Cuban refugees who had escaped from the island during Castro s communist rule, clung to their hope that with outside help, the Communist government in Cuba could be overthrown. The exiles carried out hit-and-run raids on Cuban ports and trained for an invasion, which was planned by the United States CIA. On April 17, 1961, a force of 1,500 Cuban exiles landed at the Bay of Pigs, some 90 miles southeast of Havana. Their attempt to liberate the island failed, and more than 1,100 of the invaders were taken prisoner.(Vandenbroucke)

In February 1962, President Kennedy proclaimed an embargo on United States trade with Cuba. Castro then signed a 700-milion-dollar trade agreement with the Soviet Union. After mid-July, shipments of goods from the Soviet Union were not limited to peacetime products. Freighters entered Cuban ports loaded with military equipment and supplies. Transports brought thousands of Soviets to the island, but Soviet spokesmen gave assurances that the armaments were defensive and that only Soviet technicians, not military personnel, were being sent to the island.(Comptons)

On October 22, 1962, President Kennedy announced to America that photographs taken by reconnaissance planes showed that Soviet atomic-missile sites were being built in Cuba. The missiles, already in place, according to Kennedy, had range of 1,000 miles. Sites for intermediate-range missiles were also under construction. The Soviet jet bombers, that were already in Cuba, were also capable of carrying nuclear weapons.(Comptons)

Kennedy charged that the presence of these weapons constituted a threat to the security of the nations of the Western Hemisphere and violated the Rio Treaty of 1947. He demanded the missiles and bombers be removed, and announced the United States was imposing a quarantine on ship carrying offensive military equipment to Cuba. He warned that an aggressive act from Cuba would be regarded as an attack by the Soviet Union and the United States would retaliate with nuclear force.(Comptons)

A week of international tension followed, during which the United States prepared for war. United States naval vessels patrolled the Caribbean, but the Soviet ship carrying missiles had turned back.(Comptons)

On October 26, Kennedy received a letter from Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev that indicated his willingness to remove the missiles from Cuba, if President Kennedy promised the United States would not invade Cuba. Kennedy accepted the condition, and on October 28, Khrushchev ordered the missiles withdrawn. The United States lifted the quarantine on November 20.(Comptons)

For almost forty years now, the United States has not imported any Cuban products, nor allowed any American food, medical supplies, or capital to enter Cuba. President Clinton, like each of his predecessors, supports the trade embargo. Two recent pieces of legislation have tightened the economic restrictions on Cuba.(Morici 87)

The first being the Cuban Democracy Act, which was passed by Congress in 1992. This act further isolates Cuba from the world economy by prohibiting any foreign-based subsidiaries of U.S. companies from trading with the country. The goal of the bill was to basically cripple the Cuban economy.(Morici 87)

More recently, in February 1996, President Clinton signed the Helms-Burton Act. The law was a retaliatory measure against the shooting down by the Cuban military of two unarmed U.S. civilian airplanes flying just outside Cuba s territorial waters. The Helms-Burton Act states that American citizens can sue foreign investors who utilize American property seized by the Cuban government. In addition, those who profit from this property will be denied visas to the United States. Supporters of this legislation believe that prohibiting foreign investment will quicken Castro s downfall.(Morici 88)

The goal of United States trade embargo is to help with the removal of Castro from power, but its recent effect has been to deepen the suffering of the Cuban people. Cubans live under conditions of mass unemployment, widespread hunger, insufficient wages, as well as energy and medicine shortages. One consequence of the suffering in Cuba is the great number of refugees who have tried to immigrate to the United States.

Opponents of the U.S. trade embargo point out that crippling the Cuban economy is only bringing great suffering to the Cuban people, not weakening Fidel Castro. They believe the United States is acting inhumanely by denying people basic essentials like food and medical supplies. However, supporters of the embargo argue that isolating Cuba from the global economy is the most effective way to weaken Castro s political support, and bring about his resignation or his overthrow.(Morici 88)

Six years after the breakup of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, Cuba continues to command the attention of United States policy makers. Removing Castro from power and implementing reform in Cuba are top United States foreign policy priorities, but lawmakers disagree on the best course of action. While some argue that the United States trade embargo has proved ineffective and inhumane, others respond that the United States should continue to apply pressure on Castro until he is toppled from power. As the lawmakers debate, the misery in Cuba is worsening, and some countries are now beginning to blame United States policy. Time will tell whether the United States continues its present course or revises a policy that will benefit the people of Cuba.


“Compton s Reference Collection 1996.” Copyright 1995

Compton s NewMedia, Inc.

Meyer, Karl E. The Cuban Invasion: The Chronicle of a

Diaster. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, Publishers,

1962 and 1968.

Morici, Peter. “The United States, World Trade and the

Helms-Burton Act.” Current History, February 1997:87-88.

Niess, Frank. A Hemishere to Itself: A History of US-Latin

American Relations. New Jersey: Zed Books, 1990.

Symonds, Willaim C. “Castro s Capitalist.” Business Week 17

March 1997: 48-49.

Vandenbroucke, Lucien S. “Anatomy of a Failure: The Decision

Land at the Bay of Pigs.” Political Science Quarterly,

Volume 99, Number 3, Fall 1984.


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