Fidel Castro seized control of the Cuban government in 1959, and set out to change relations with the United States. As relations declined with the United States, the Cuban government developed stronger ties with the Soviet Union, and became a communist country. In response to this intent, the United States placed an economic embargo on Cuba and later ended all diplomatic relations with the Cuban government. Now that the Soviet Union has dissolved and left Cuba on its own, should the economic embargo continue.
Fidel Castro’s revolutionary forces overthrow the military dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista on January 1, 1959. The United States recognized the new government on January 7, 1959. Terrence Cannon (109) explains, “There is no mystery about what happened between the United States and the Cuban Revolution. The morning Batista fled, two forces came into a head-on conflict: the needs of the Cuban people verse the economic policies of the United States’ corporations that owned the factories and fields of Cuba. The victory over Batista meant that the Cuban people had done away with the local overseer; now they confronted the owner of the plantation – – American Imperialism”. This conflict was inevitable if the Revolution was going to execute the reforms, it had been promising since 1953.
Cuba’s constitution of 1940 was reinstated on February 7 1959 (it had been suspended by Batista after his coup in 1952). “Although he had promised a return to constitutional rule and democratic elections along with social reforms, Castro used his control of the military to consolidated his power by repressing all dissents from his decisions, marginalizing other resistance figures, and imprisoning or executing opponents”(Background Note: Cuba). This became apparent nine days later, when Castro replaced Mira Cordons as Prime Minister without any elections.
On March 3, 1959, the Cuban government nationalized the Cuban Telephone Company, an affiliate of ITT that was a United States owned company. Many government officials resigned their post and fled the country because of the rising influence of communism. Numerous were leading figures in the revolution. On April 16, 1961, Filed Castro declares Cuba a socialist state and announces on December 20, 1961 that he is a Marxist-Leninist.
Over the last 42 years, the economic embargo has gone through numerous tightening and loosening of its restrictions. President Eisenhower first imposed a type of embargo in a covert action plan on March 17, 1960, to overthrow Castro. The plan included the termination of sugar purchases, the end of oil deliveries, the continuation of the arms embargo (in effect since mid 1958), and the organization of a paramilitary force to invade the island (Serria). This was in response to the signing of the trade agreement with the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union agreed to purchase five million tons of sugar over a five-year period. They in turn would supply Cuba with crude oil, petroleum products, wheat, iron, fertilizers, and machinery.
They also provided Cuba with $100 million in credit at 2.5 percent. The United States put pressure on the oil companies not to process the Soviet oil or sell Cuba fuel. In response, Castro nationalized the Texaco, Shell, and Esso refineries. The United States Congress passed the “Sugar Act,” eliminating Cuba’s remaining sugar quota. Cuba then nationalized all United States businesses, commercial properties, U.S. Banks, and Cuban locally owned firms (including sugar mills and large industries).
On October 19, 1960, the United States imposed a partial economic embargo that excluded food and medicine. The official break of diplomatic relations occurred on January 3, 1961. President Kennedy expanded the trade embargo in early 1962 to include all trade except for non-subsidized sales of food and medicines. Imports were banned that contained Cuban materials, even if made in other countries. President Kennedy prohibited travel to Cuba and all financial transactions for United States citizens.
The plan for Cuba to become a socialist state began formulating with Fidel Castro during his college years at the University of Havana. Castro joined the Orthodox Party while at the University of Havana. This party was against everything that Batista and his puppet government represented. Two years out of college, Castro ran for congress as a candidate for the Orthodox Party. Batista stopped the elections that were three months away by taking over the government on March 10, 1952. Six months after Castro’s revolution takes over from Batista, Castro sends Che Guevara, his right-hand man, to Cairo. There he makes contact with the Soviets (Sierra). Soviet involvement with Cuba begins. Over the next 30 years, until the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Soviet Union became the main influence in all aspects of Cuban life.
Castro’s plan for a socialist Cuba required the government to control all businesses. With the restrictions, that the United States was imposing, it was easy for Castro to nationalize everything in Cuba. The Soviet involvement was steadily increasing, so the United States felt it was time to remove Castro from power. Cuban exiles trained by United States CIA, invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. After three days of fighting, the invading force was defeated (Suchlicki).
The United States discovered the construction of intermediate-range nuclear missile sites from its reconnaissance flights on October 14, 1962. President Kennedy ordered a naval blockade to stop the Soviets from shipping any more arms. In a newly declassified United States document, then United States Attorney General Robert Kennedy warned Antoly Dobrynin, the Soviet Ambassador to the United States, “A real war will begin in which millions of Americans and Russians will die” (Cuban Missile Crisis, Revisited). The situation was resolved after two weeks, with the Soviets removing the missiles. The United States agreed to remove missiles in Turkey. President Kennedy then froze all Cuban assets in America.
The Soviet Union’s influence and control over Cuba enabled them to build up their military capabilities and project power throughout Latin America and Africa. From 1975 through the 1980s, bilateral relations continued to deteriorate (Background Note: Cuba). Cuba’s forces reached nearly 50,000 in Angola to help repel an invasion of South African forces. Cuba sent nearly 20,000 troops to Ethiopia to stop Somalia from invading. Over 1500 soldiers deployed to Nicaragua to assist the Sandanistain insurgency against Anastasia Somozu’s rule. When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, their support to Cuba also went away. Cuba’s military presence abroad virtually has ceased to exist.
Former President Clinton signed into law the “Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act,” on March 12, 1996. The bill significantly tightened the embargo. Initially President Clinton was reluctant to sign the bill because he knew it would bring Washington into conflict with its European partners. Cuba shot down two United States civilian airplanes on February 24, 1996, which forced his hand. “Free Cuba PAC,” a group of Cuban campaign contributors, had long lobbied the bill” (Vote Index: An Occasional Look at Campaign Money and Votes).
Ignacio Sanchez, an attorney with Bacardi Rum, helped draft the bill and is a donor to the “Free Cuba PAC” (Bacardi Bucks). President Clinton suspended Title III of the bill throughout his second term in office. He attached the sale of food to non-governmental entities and accelerated the processing time for obtaining a required travel license to Cuba. In 1999, he authorized that New York and Los Angeles provide direct flights to Cuba. Miami was the only authorized airport until now.
President George W. Bush remains committed to the use of the embargo and travel restrictions to encourage a rapid transition to a democratic government. The administration will oppose any effort to loosen sanctions against the Cuban regime until it frees political prisoners, holds democratic, free elections, and allows free speech. President Bush has also suspended Title III of the “LIBERTAD Act.” The Bush administration may lift the economic sanctions while Castro is still in power.
If Cuba conducts the 2003 elections correctly by internationally established standards, President Bush proclaims that he will approach congress to remove or relax the current sanctions (USINFO US-CUBA). The pressure is on the Bush administration to lift the ban on travel and the sale of American goods. The House of Representatives voted 262 to 167 against the embargo. In September 2002, the first opportunity for Americans to sell food to Cuba since 1962 occurred at the food trade show in Havana. There were 288 exhibitors, from 33 states, with over $90 million in contracts at the end.
The United States should lift the embargo, normalize relations, and respect the Cuban people’s right to self-determination. We need to make peace with Castro because the Revolution is not a threat to America. The United Nations (for 10 consecutive years), the Organization of American States, and repeatedly by the Pope, have condemned the embargo. It is also in violation of the International Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Accords. If the United States can trade with China, even granting most favored nation status, we can end the embargo against Cuba after 40 years and have normal relations.
The embargo punished the Castro government for the confiscation of American properties. American investors stole these same properties from the Cuban people after the Spanish-Cuban-American War. This continued during the six decades as an unwilling New-Colony to the United States. The Teller Amendment, which was included in the Joint Resolution for War with Spain, stated that the United States would not exercise jurisdiction or control over Cuba. Keeping the Embargo for this reason would be supporting a crime.
The move into a communist regime was another reason for the embargo. The embargo accelerated this move and powered Cuba with a Steady flow of income and military support for 30 years. With the fall of the Soviet Union came the end of a threat sitting 90 miles off the American coast. The attempt to spread communism in Latin America and Africa has ceased to exist. The Cuban military has dwindled to nothing. They are no longer a menace and the embargo is not effective for this reason.
Because of the large amount of legislation passed in more than 40 years of the embargo’s existence, it has become a full-blown blockade. Embargos are a wartime policy that employs human suffering and disease as political weapons with the intent of depriving people with food and hope to encourage them to rise up and implode into civil war and overthrow their government. Forty years later, the same government is in place and the only ones hurting from the effects of the embargo are the people. Preventing capitalism from bringing to Cuba its full effects is deterring democracy from prevailing
The United States imposed the embargo on Cuba because Castro was a communist dictator who repressed his people, stole the property of foreigners, and threatened American security and interests. The embargo should remain until Cuba becomes a free-market democracy committed to the rule of law and peaceful relations with the United States and its neighbors.
Democracy has not existed in Cuba for four decades. Since declaring Cuba a socialist country and him a Marxist-Leninist, the Cuban people have had a stranglehold placed upon them. The Communist Party is constitutionally Cuba’s only legal political party. The Cuban government imprisons its people for speaking out against Cuba or Castro. The court system denies the Cuban people due process. The Cuban government controls the job placement of all citizens and pays them as government workers. Lifting the embargo will cause the government to benefit and not the people. The embargo has deteriorated the military and the brutal police state since the fall of the Soviet Union. Castro wants the embargo removed to give new life to a crumbling regime.
Ending the embargo would not promote economic reform. The Cuban government controls all form of business. Castro does not intend to allow a free market economy. The current Cuban constitution bans the ownership of private property, prohibits free enterprise, and does not allow the hiring of Cubans by Cuban employers. Foreign investors must pay the government instead of the workers. The people only receive about one percent of what the government gets. Lifting the embargo would only subsidize the oppression of the Cuban people.
While Cuba no longer has the ability to export violent communist revolution on a large scale, Castro has not renounced the use of violence to overthrow democratically elected governments. Castro continues to let Russia maintain an electronic listening post at Lourdes. Cuba is trying to complete a nuclear reactor facility with Russian help. The facility has dangerously outdated equipment and the work is shoddy. This could endanger millions of Americans if there were an accident.
Castro has staked out the position as the last defender of Marxism-Leninism. He has reasserted the supremacy of communist ideology and to plan for a comeback when capitalism fails. Lifting the embargo and giving Castro the opportunity to strengthen his government and military, could cause reversible effects throughout Latin America. He would be able to exploit the unstable countries by promoting communism and providing military assistance.
The embargo should remain in place until Cuba is free from Castro’s tyranny and oppression. The day Cuba is free; the Cuban people are not going to forget that it was the United States, which paved the way through the embargo, for a free republican Cuba. Just as we should not forget that, it is been Spain, Canada, Italy, and Mexico who have kept Castro going since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Our government should tighten the embargo and condemn the countries that are trading with Cuba. United States citizens who lost land and businesses in Cuba, that are being used by foreign investors, should have the right to sue under Title III if the “LIBERTAD Act.”
Lifting the embargo will open the floodgate of hard currency to Cuba. This will only cause suffering for the Cuban people. The money will continue to go to the government. The military and secret police will become stronger. What the Cuban people do not need is this strengthening of this communist government. Castro does not have many more years left it would be in the best interest for all that the Cuban government is in a state of despair when he finally goes.
In conclusion, the trade embargo is the most effective weapon in the America’s foreign policy arsenal for dealing with Fidel Castro. Until the following basic demands are met: (1) free and democratic elections; (2) free-market economy and all stolen property returned to the rightful owners; (3) all political repression must stop and all political prisoners freed from jail; (4) Castro must step down from power and give the Cuban people the right to exercise their legitimate human rights, the embargo will most likely remain. When the Cuban people have these rights, they will finally be a free nation.
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