LOS ANGELES, California — For decades, the United States and Cuba have had a turbulent history. The tension between the countries began with the rise of Fidel Castro. Fear of ideology and nuclear war, the United States placed an embargo on the island nation. The embargo left Cuba in poor economic conditions, leaving many Cubans in poverty. Furthermore, most U.S. presidents have been against diplomatic ties with Cuba. Nonetheless, President Biden has promised to create better U.S.-Cuba relations in hopes of improved economic circumstances for both nations.
The History of U.S.-Cuba Relations
Castro rose to power in 1959, after years of trying to overtake the dictator of his country. The dictator, Fulgencio Batista, was a U.S.-backed authoritarian who led a military coup to gain control. After Castro overthrew Batista, U.S.-Cuba relations became hostile. The United States began to worry about the influence the Soviet Union had on the island nation. Furthermore, the U.S. began to impose economic sanctions because of the Soviet Union’s close diplomatic ties with Cuba. President Kennedy implemented an embargo on Cuba and a travel restriction on the country.
U.S.-Cuba relations grew even more hostile when it came to light that the United States had plans to overthrow Castro. Moreover, Castro allowed nuclear missiles from the Soviet Union to be placed on the island nation, fearing a U.S. takeover. Fortunately, no bombs were ever launched but the nuclear missile crises left a clear estrangement between the countries. President Reagan even declared Cuba a state that sponsors terrorism, further dividing the two countries.
Once the Soviet Union dissolved, Cuba was no longer receiving financial support to sustain itself. To make matters worse, the U.S. did not lift its embargo on the island nation, disregarding pleas from the United Nations. Coincidentally, President Clinton signed into law the strengthening of sanctions against Cuba. It was not until 2008 when President Obama campaigned on better diplomatic ties with Cuba. Under Obama’s presidency, sanctions were eased, allowing for travel and remittances. The easing of sanctions was short-lived because, under President Trump, the restrictions were back in place.
Poverty in Cuba
While Cuba has made great efforts in reducing poverty by providing free education and healthcare, it still is hindered by the U.S. embargo. According to Amnesty International, the embargo negatively affects access to medical technology, electricity, food and water quality. Furthermore, Cuba has stated the embargo has cost the country $753.69 billion.
Under the Obama administration, remittances were allowed to enter Cuba. Many Cuban-Americans would send money to their families in Cuba which amounted to US$3 billion annually. Moreover, remittances are the third form of hard currency for Cubans, behind tourism and exports of medical services. Under the Trump administration, remittances were once again banned, ultimately crushing the economic well-being of Cuba.
The Biden Administration: Improving U.S.-Cuba Relations
President Biden has promised to fix U.S.-Cuba relations. The Biden administration has expressed its issues with the Trump administration imposing sanctions on Cuba. Additionally, the Biden administration wants to reverse the restrictions of traveling and sending remittances to the island. Cuban president, Miguel Diaz-Canal, has expressed openness to a relationship with the United States. Diaz-Canal stated, “We recognize that the U.S. people have chosen a new direction in the presidential elections. We believe in the possibility of having a constructive bilateral relationship while respecting our differences.”
U.S.-Cuba relations have been volatile for the past few decades. Noting the severe economic consequences of embargoes and sanctions for people living in poverty, President Obama was the first U.S. president who began easing the sanctions. President Biden now looks to reconcile a relationship with Cuba in efforts to reduce poverty and bring peace.
– Andy Calderon Lanza