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Tense relations may be able to heal, but not before destroying old barriers (Final Copy V2)
Cuba is only 90 miles south of Florida, but these 90 miles are filled with tension and represent a long history between the two countries. Because of its proximity to the United States, one would think a good diplomatic relationship exists between the two governments but instead there is a tense, political rivalry between the two countries. Diplomatic relations and economic ties have been completely severed with trade embargos and restrictions placed on the country. These severed ties have left the relationship between the US and Cuba anything but friendly. This has led to an awkward situation where the US doesn’t know what to do with Cuba. This tense standoff started back when Castro took control of the government in 1959 (“History of Cuba, 2016 para, 7), and has continued into today for over 50 years. Despite this though, relations have improved in the past 4 years.
Statement of background
The United States has been involved in Cuba’s affairs ever since assisting Cuba in its independence from Spain in 1898 (“History of Cuba, 2016, para. 3). There are economic and political reasons why relations were severed but relations became rocky when Castro overthrew the corrupt Batista regime in 1959 and stepped into power (“Timeline: U.S. Cuba relations”, 2012). Castro’s new economic ideas and policies first signaled the end of relations between the two countries with the U.S. placing a trade embargo on Cuba that restricted all trade of American made items. The embargo was placed because Castro started to nationalize businesses on the island and he imposed heavy taxes on U.S. imports (Fabry, 2015, para. 3). The embargo worsened economic relations between the two countries as many U.S. businesses pulled out of Cuba.
Cuba aligning with the Soviet Union and accepting communism in government and society struck fear and nervousness into the United States’ government. They saw Cuba as a portal for communism in the United States so to prevent that, they completely severed relations with Cuba and closed communications to Cuba in 1961 (“United States”, n.d). Then the Cold War, a nonphysical political, ideological war, broke out between the United States and Soviet Union. Cuba was involved in the war during the Cuban where the Soviet Union was found using Cuba to build nuclear missiles and to use as a potential launch pad (“Cuban Missile Crisis”, 2010). These events completely destroyed and trust between the two countries and reduced the possibility of reestablishing diplomatic relations to almost zero for many years to come. Fortunately, the current U.S. president has been working with Cuba to reestablish relations by relaxing many of the prohibitions on trade and travel (Scott, 2015, para. 9).
The situation between Cuba and the United States is saddening as it shows how past events and changes by past leaders can separate two countries for many years. Even though 50 years have passed and there have been multiple different U.S. presidencies, relations have only barely improved with it possibly taking more years before the U.S. becomes comfortable with Cuba again. Since President Obama’s efforts, relations have improved bit by bit as the president is actively talking to Cuba’s president Raul Castro, but the reality is, the US and Cuba are locked in a tense situation that face several difficulties such as past events like the Cold War, Fidel Castro’s government and modern ideals and opinions in American society before reestablishing diplomatic ties. If President Obama and his association hopes to completely restore relations, he, and future presidents, will have to solve these difficulties to create a better future.
Proof 1: Fidel Castro
The main reason why the U.S. is refusing to reestablish diplomatic relations is past actions and policies of the old government. But 50+ years have passed; what is preventing the United States and Cuba from reestablishing relations? Well that thing, or more accurately in this case, a person, is Fidel Castro, the past prime minister and president of the country. Most people have heard this name at least once. Fidel Castro is the revolutionary leader who overthrew the corrupt Batista regime in 1959 and instituted the new government that is still in power today retaining most of its old policies (“Timeline”, 2012). Even though Castro is not in power anymore, Castro has become like a symbol of the country and is seen as the face of the government and country, with many people, thinking of Fidel Castro whenever they think of Cuba. Castro brought the trade embargo on the country and aligned themselves with the Soviet Union.
While Castro was the Prime Minister of the country back in 1959-1976, he enacted many economic changes and policies that signaled the end of U.S. relations. These changes soured the economic relationship between the U.S. and Cuba. Castro enacted changes to the economy by nationalizing all assets on the country, even U.S. owned assets, and by placing a heavy trade tax on all U.S. imports (Fabry, 2015, para. 3). Castro quickly lost support of many U.S. businesses before the U.S. placed the trade embargo on Cuba. The trade embargo that the U.S. placed was a series of economic sanctions and restrictions on Cuban travel and commerce. While this sounds like a small issue that could’ve been solved diplomatically, Castro made it clear that he and his country didn’t need help from American businesses and he even mocked them with Time magazine quoting (2015) “The U.S. need not worry that a strategic embargo will damage private industry in Cuba,” the magazine noted. “It no longer exists.” (n.p.). But these economic reasons only pile onto the tense situation of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Proof 2: The Cold War
The Cold War, which lasted from 1947-1991, was a war of political and societal ideologies “fought” by the U.S. and the Soviet Union. It was a clash of democracy and communism (“Cold War History”, 2009). The Cold War was different in that it was fought in secret, with no major battles or conflicts. The Cold War was a very tense time for the whole world as the threat of nuclear war was shown and nobody really knew what would happen. Besides the Soviet Union and United States, Cuba was also involved in the Cold War, in the teeth chattering event known as the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Tensions between United States and Cuba were already high because of the trade embargo and communism but the one major event that completely destroyed any trust the U.S. had was the Cuban Missile Crisis, a chilly confrontation between the United States, Russia, and Cuba, that lasted 13 long days. The crisis started when an American U-2 spy plane flying above Cuba spotted nuclear missiles being built on October 24th, 1962 (“Cuban Missile Crisis”, 2010). This threw the government and president into a crazed panic as these missiles were being built so close to American soil. The U.S. feared communism being brought into the country, but then they feared for their national security.
In this time, a variety of actions were thought up by President Kennedy and his ExCom group but they ultimately went with a peaceful resolution, negotiating with Nikita Khrushchev, and agreeing to not invade Cuba if the missiles were taken off the island (“Cuban Missile Crisis”, 2010). Even though they reached a peaceful resolution and prevented a nuclear war, this event only served to worsen the relationship between Cuba and the U.S. Without President Obama’s actions to reestablish relations, we most likely still wouldn’t be talking to Cuba.
Proof 3: Modern ideals and concerns
Now that Cuba’s past has been gone over, how does present day Cuba look? As mentioned before, President Obama is making a big effort in his presidency to reestablish relations between the two countries. President Obama has done things like reopen travel and commerce between the two countries, reopen the respective embassies in the cities’ capitals, and by believing that the Cuban-Americans are the ambassadors to Cuba. In fact, the number of Americans travelling to Cuba has gone up 54 percent, allowing for the exchange of culture (Somanader, 2016, para. 4). Things are looking up for these two countries but there are still plenty of difficulties that the U.S. needs to face, including lifting the trade embargo and modern opinions and ideals.
The trade embargo, set in place over 50 years ago, is one of the biggest obstacles that the U.S. needs to face before the two countries can recuperate. A big economic embargo such as the trade embargo is devastating for foreign relations as a working global economy is important for maintaining international peace. Unfortunately for the President, taking down the trade embargo is easier said than done since it needs to be passed down by congress, which strongly opposes the notion (“U.S.-Cuba Relations”, n.d.).
Even though President Obama has been working to reestablish relations with Cuba, there is a still a low chance in relations being completely reestablished. This is mostly due to the current government and modern ideals and opinions. People who especially belong to the Republican party oppose Obama’s actions. For example, Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio opposes Obama’s actions saying “the president is flat out abandoning America’s vital national security interests” and he “is cozying up to the world’s most reprehensible regimes” (Leatherby, 2015, para. 3). Not only politicians opposed Obama’s actions. In surveys conducted by the Pew research center, 28% of people disapprove of reestablishing relations and 28% oppose ending the embargo. Then, 48% of Republicans disapprove of reestablishing relations (“Most support stronger U.S. ties” 2015). In order to reestablish relations with Cuba, the U.S. will need 100% of support from the people to make this a plausible cause.
Relations between Cuba and the United States are complicated. Relations have been improving in the last 4 years, but there are still a number of difficulties and obstacles that need to be addressed before full diplomatic relations. Cuba is only 90 miles away from U.S. soil but the two governments don’t have good global relations. It’s equivalent to ignoring you next door neighbor who only lives a few steps away. There are some in the government who believe that relations shouldn’t improve and that the trade embargo shouldn’t be lifted, while past events also deter a full relationship between the two countries. Unfortunately, looking at the facts, it looks likely that relations still won’t be established for another couple years. There have been attempts made by the current president but the past events of the Cold War and Fidel Castro’s lasting effects on the nation prevent complete relations. Also, not 100% of the civilian population fully supports reestablish relations. Public opinion has a big impact on the actions of the government and on the future actions of the government. It is a rocky road ahead, but maybe someday relations will be reestablished.
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- Leatherby, L. (2015, July 27). Republicans stand against Cuba change despite public opinion Shift. NPR. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/itsallpolitics/2015/07/27/424736858/republicans-stand-against-cuba-change-despite-public-opinion-shift
- Most support stronger U.S. ties with Cuba. (2015, January 2016). PewResearchCenter. Retrieved from http://www.people-press.org/2015/01/16/most-support-stronger-u-s-ties-with-cuba/
- Somanader, T. (2016, February 18). President Obama is heading to Cuba. [Blog]. Retrieved From https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2016/02/18/big-news-president-obama-headed-cuba
- Timeline: U.S. Cuba Relations. (2012, October 11). BBC. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-12159943
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- U.S.-Cuba Relations (n.d.). U.S.-Cuba Relations – Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved from http://www.cfr.org/cuba/us-cuba-relations/p11113
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