The revolution started by Fidel Castro in 1959 has been the major cause of struggling terms between the United States and Cuba. Revolution marked the end of diplomacy between the USA and Cuba. The USA planned invasion and attacks on the rebels, which failed on all occasions. The continued attempts by the USA to retain power led to nationalization and land reforms that continued the strain in the relationship. The United States declared a trade embargo on Cuba in 1961 after its nationalization. Sanctions such as Cuba Assets Control and Regulations, the Trading with Enemy Act, Helms-Burton Act, Torricelli Act, and the Cuban democracy act strain the Cuban economy and health sector. For economic stability, Cuba sought help from the Soviet Union. They were included in the eastern bloc trade circles that made economic growth. In the current USA administration, restrictions on travel and transfer of funds have been loosened. In the last six decades, there has been an attempt to restore relations between the two countries, resulting in resolution policies.
The USA has desired to purchase, own and control Cuba since colonial times. In 1854, during the Polk administration, the USA’s attempt to buy Cuba from its Spanish empire backfired. In 1898 war between Spain and America began after an explosion in Havana where the US military helped Cuba gain independence from Spain (Reed, 2019). In December of the same year, Spain and the USA signed a treaty of Paris, relinquishing power over Cuba to the USA. After the war, the USA gained dominance over the island’s economic and political matters. The USA bought almost ninety percent of Cuban exports, which provided forty percent of Cuba’s imports. For a persistent hold of power, the USA backed a military dictator, Fulgencio Batista, who served precedency in Cuba for two terms.
Batista received both financial and military support from the USA. During his term in office, he revoked the right to strike and empowered sugar plantation moguls. The USA owned seventy percent of large sugar plantations. He took part in the growth of organized crime, turning Havana into a prostitution and gambling base and giving lucrative contracts to his wealthy contacts. Batista’s action refuted student riots and the development of resistant movements such as the 26th July movement that opposed the government’s rules. He became unpopular among the citizens due to his fierce dictatorship (Sweig, 2016). In 1958, the 26th July movement gained momentum and supporters all around. To fight the growing resistance in Cuba, the USA supplied Batista with planes, ships, tanks, and napalm to battle against the insurgency.
In May 1959, Castro signed the first agrarian reform. The reform sought to subdivide extensive private-owned lands, latifunidos, and redistribute them to peasants who worked in them. According to Castro, this was intended to increase overall prosperity and wealth by standardizing and equalizing land distribution, economic opportunities, and acceptable living standards (Sweig, 2016). The reforms made by Guevara abolished rent payment for lands and limited the size of farms to thirteen kilometers squared and real estate to four kilometers squared. The laws forbid the ownership of sugar plantations by foreigners. In 1963, Castro’s administration introduced a second agrarian reform; this reform nationalized all private and foreign-owned lands with more than sixty-seven hectares.
In the 1960s, there was a gradual transfer of land from the private sector to the state. Centralization was done mainly by voluntary sales or acquisition of public service in support of improvement. The land sale allowed the government to gradually take ownership of vast tracts of land and own around eighty-two percent of active farmland by 1988. The control of land led to increased sugarcane, rice, milk, and meat production but gradually reduced due to supply-demand shortages of fruits and vegetables (Reed, 2019). The state went back to the soviet supply and natural resource organization model. Credit and services cooperatives (CSS) were one of the financial services that aided and supported the new method of organizing. The second reform led to heavy dependence on the Soviet Union for its manufacture and supply.
In 1960, the Castro administration was popular and faced no opposition, and communism spread within the country. The revolution led the USA to issue a memorandum recommending detachment to Cuba by denying funds and supplies and refusing to export sugar and oil to the state. The ban prompted the Soviet Union to support and purchase products from Cuba. In response to the cut-off from the USA, Cuba nationalized three renowned American- owned oil refineries without compensation. The refineries became state-owned and ran companies (Sweig, 2016). Nationalization prompted another embargo by the Eisenhower administration in 1961, which cut all diplomatic relations with Cuba under the Trading with Enemy Act 1917 (TWEA). TWEA gave the power to restrict complete trade between United States enemies and its states during wars to the president. TWEA prohibited trade or financial transactions such as travel, transportation, or business (Reed, 2019).
In 1991, The Foreign Assistance Act was approved; it forbade any aid to all socialist nations, such as Cuba, and any other state that offered help to Cuba. The act controlled creating and sustaining a complete prohibition on all trade between Cuba and the United States. The treasury secretary instigated all imports from Cuba, while the commerce secretary prohibited all distribution to Cuba (Chomsky, 2015). The declaration does not have period boundaries or states for lifting the ban, which is still in effect now. After implementing the embargo, the Eisenhower administration planned an attack to regain power from Castro’s revolution. The attack that happened in April 1961 on the southwestern coast, also known as the Bay of Pigs invasion, was approved by Kennedy. The operation took place during the ongoing era of the cold war, which was between the western and eastern blocs.
After the Bay of Pigs invasion failure, the Cuban government declared itself Marxist and socialist. Castro’s administration aligned itself with the Soviet Union for production and exports. Cuba obtained a western bloc market that contained communist and non-communist countries (Crahan, 2018). However, the dependence on the Soviet Union came to an end when the Soviet Union deployed nuclear missiles to Cuba. The Cuban missile crisis began as a confrontation between the Soviet Union and the USA, which had deployed missiles in Italy and turkey. The then-president, Kennedy, started negotiations of removing the nuclear missiles from Cuban soil. After several days of negotiation between President Kennedy and Khrushchev, the Soviets publicly took their missiles from Cuba (Baden, 2017). They submitted them to the United Nations for verification and later returned to the Soviet Union. In return, the United States declared that they would not invade Cuba again and agreed to dismantle Jupiter MRBMs based in Turkey against the Soviet Union.
In 1963, the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917 issued the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR). The authorization deprived Cuban of USA dollars and secluded the Cuban state economically. CACR authorizations instructed the treasury to control commercial trades and legal tourism to Cuba by USA citizens and inhibited all Cuban resources in the USA (White, 2014). Restriction to travel limited freedom of travel between the USA and Cuba. Furthermore, U.S. products, services, and technology were barred from direct and indirect export to Cuba by the CACR. The CACR provides illegal penalties for the heresy of the sanctions. The penalties range from time in prison to corporate fines and individual fines.
In 1992, the Cuban democracy act (Torricelli act) was signed by George Bush, forbidding USA companies from trading with Cuba. The act banned travel and sending of remittances to Cuba. The CDA sought democracy and the resumption of economic growth through sanctions. It also states that exports of medicine, equipment, and medical supplies should be exported if and only if the products are used for the service of Cuban citizens (Sweig, 2016). Onsite verification and special export license from the US government made it nearly impossible to export medical supplies. This act did not affect nongovernmental and humanitarian organizations from donating medicine and medical supplies to Cuba. However, humanitarian supplies of food, treatment, and medical supplies can only be available to Cuba when they have changed through an open and just election.
In 1996 reinforcement of the USA embargo against Cuba was approved by the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act (Helms-Burton Act). Helms-burton act aimed to gain a shifting government’s support, leading to a constitutionally voted administration in Cuba. The Helms-Burton act was subdivided into four titles; the first was to strengthen international sanctions against Cuba (Campos & Prevost, 2015). The front opposed Cuba’s membership in international financial institutions. Through this act, Cuba was barred from The International Finance Corporation, The Global Money Fund, The International Development Association, The International Bank of Reconstruction and Development, The Inter-American Development Bank, and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency. The second title conveyed steps to end the embargo once a democratically voted president is in Cuba (Reed, 2019). The label also gives policies to be implemented after the transition by the independent government; this includes returning nationalized property to the USA nationals by the Cuban government. The USA guarantees assistance of funds, food, medicine, and medical supplies and willingness to suspend all the sanctions imposed on Cuba.
Title three of the Helms-Burton Act provides compensation and sues foreign companies that benefited from invested properties belonging to the US nationals that were nationalized. This title is aimed to discourage foreign ventures in Cuba (Chomsky, 2015). USA presidents such as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have actively suspended this provision. Title four offers eviction from the USA by those who move in commandeered possessions or persons and relatives. To ease the imposition of economic and trade embargo, allowing agronomic goods and treatment to Cuba, the Senate passed The 2000 Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act (TSRA) (Erisman, 2019). Since 2005, the USA guidelines requested these exports to be cash with complete disbursement before products were dispatched to Cuba (White, 2014). Under the TSRA, the Department of Commerce controlled and necessitated a permit to export food and agronomic products to Cuba. The trade of medications and health provisions remains relentlessly inadequate.
In the last few years, the House of Representatives and the USA Senate have been presented with bills by Democrats and Republican members of Congress to ease the embargo against Cuba. The vote was due to many financial opportunities to invest and trade in Cuba. In 2009, five bills were passed encouraging great profitability and trade frankness concerning Cuba (Chomsky, 2015). The first was promoting the American agricultural and medical exports act of 2009, re-established in the Senate (H.R.1531). Secondly, the Cuban Reconciliation Act (H.R. 188) proposed elating the trade blockage and revoking the Cuban Democracy act of 1992 and the Cuban Liberty and democratic solidarity act of 1996 (H.R.188) (González & Karell, 2017). The third bill adjusts the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to remove the sanction of transactions with Cuba through the united states- Cuba Trade Normalization Act of 2009(H.R.2272). The fourth bill is the Free Trade with Cuba Act (H.R. 1530) to allow Cuba to trade with countries freely. Lastly, the Senate and House of Representatives (H.R.874) passed the liberty to travel to Cuba.
In 2014, Barack Obama met with Cuban President Raul Castro to lift some sanctions and restore diplomatic ties. Obama said it was time to follow international relations with the Castro government in his presidential campaign. In his administration, He lessened payments and travel permitting unlimited money transfer to Cuba by USA citizens, and reopened the USA embassy in Havana. Cuba’s private sector boomed and tripled between 2009 and 2013, expanding access to consumer goods (White, 2014). The Cuban thaw reduced boundaries on trade, telecommunication, and monetary services. Obama also removed Cuba’s designation as a radicalism guarantor and started negotiations on bilateral agreements. In 2016, under Trump’s administration, a campaign pledged to reverse Obama’s thaw within Cuba. In 2017 trump stated that he was canceling Obama’s administration deals with Cuba, and travel restrictions resumed.
In 2021 Cuba was added again to the list of state-run guarantors of radicalism by the USA state department. Biden administration has retained sanctions by Trump’s government and has voted against resolutions in the annual United Nations General Assembly resolution just like in the previous assemblies (Chomsky, 2015). The health care system in Cuba has deteriorated since the embargo and the defeat of the Soviet Union (Campos & Prevost, 2019). Access to nutrients, medicine, and medical supply has been limited, leading to an outbreak of the Guillain-Barre syndrome due to a lack of chlorination chemicals (Campbell, 2020). The Lye ingestion epidemic due to a shortage of detergent increased infant and toddler mortality rates. Havana syndrome has also affected USA nationals; its source and cure are still determined.
In conclusion, the infatuation with dictatorship from Batista’s government led to the revolution led by Fidel Castro, his brother Raul and other leaders in Cuba. Revolution brought about the strain in the USA- Cuba relations through the agrarian reforms and nationalization of USA-owned properties. Guevara’s policies on land and the lack of compensation for the USA nationals’ properties aggravated the USA leading to sanctions in trade, travel, and denial of funds by the USA and other countries. The reforms led to the enactment of the restraint, which was later strengthened by acts passed by the House of Representatives that crumbled the health care system in Cuba. The Helms-Burton Actin notably strengthened the sanctions imposed on Cuba. The Cuban missile crisis and the Bay of Pigs invasion were an attempt by the USA to retain its power over Cuba, which failed and prompted Barack Obama to use a diplomatic approach to solve the strain in the two countries. It is possible to conclude that US-Cuban relations remain unstable with the continued relaxation of sanctions on Cuba.
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