Historical Perspective of U.S.- Cuban Relations and the Argument for Free Trade

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Witalec, Rachel
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Cuba and the United States of America have had a mutual interest in one another since well before either of their independence movements. Since Cuba earned its independence, the United States took the small nation, 90 miles off its coast, under its wing and created Cuba's financial dependence upon it. Following the Cuban Revolution of 1959 relations have deteriorated substantially, and have since been marked by tension and confrontations. Sanctions against Cuba were first authorized in 1961; a total embargo was placed on the island in 1962. Since then relations between the United States and Cuba have been menial at best. As the Cold War took hold, relations between the United States and Cuba moved further apart as relations between the Soviet Union and Cuba formed all too quickly. As the U.S. embargo isolated Cuba from the U.S., the Soviets took up quotas and investments once left to the Americans. Cuba became the Soviet ally in the Western Hemisphere and more importantly a threat to the national security of the United States. At first trade sanctions were justified as a threat to the U.S. national security as it spread Marxist- Leninist revolutionary ideas to the Third World. As the Soviet Union collapsed, however, the justification changed. Now it was not for national security interests, but that Castro's regime's form of government and human rights abuses needed to be stopped. In the mid 1990s, the Torricelli Act (1992) and controversial Helms-Burton Act (1996) were passed, even further restricting United States' citizens from doing business in or with Cuba and extending U.S. jurisdiction of property rights to the Cuban island due to land loss in the expropriating by Castro. Such Acts discouraged investment in Cuba, however also threatened relations with countries and companies that still sought interest in the island off of Florida. Indeed today the embargo, costing the United States and its businesses billions of dollars, still exits. Its aim to overthrow Castro has failed as it as reversibly provides Castro with reason for Cuba's difficult times. The embargo, which prohibits American businesses from trading or conducting business with Cuban interests, is the most enduring trade embargo in modem history. As the United States' continuing harsh policies against Cuba have proved little success, it is time for the government to lift the embargo placed on Cuba in 1962. The impending transition of power from Fidel Castro to his brother Raul gives Washington the chance to adopt a new strategy. At the same time anti-Castro activists (who once had a strong voice in the positioning of sanctions) have lost their passion and support of the embargo. The nation is in a transitional period allowing the United States to stop playing into Castro's hands and pull the rug out from under him by ending the embargo. While Castro is a clever political manipulator, he is afraid of what will happen with the sanctions being lifted. He would no longer be able to blame the United States for Cuba's misery and also would have a huge influx of capitalist influences that would give rise to questions in his command controlled economy. This could provide the means necessary for the people themselves to oust Castro internally, instead of by externally forced sanctions that only end up hurting the people of the Cuban economy themselves. When the embargo and sanctions are lifted is when both nations will win; there will be a positive externality for the people of Cuba, as well as an enormous opportunity for United States businesses that have been prohibited by relations due to U.S. policy in the past. However, if the United States sticks to the current approach it will help consolidate Communist rule for many years to come. There is nothing to be lost from trying a different approach with Cuba; everything else has been tried without success.
vii, 38 p.
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