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Part 1 OF 3 – Cuba: Moving On From The Past

Cuban-Americans march in Miami in support of Cuban pro-democracy dissidents (Joe Raedle/Getty)
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President Obama announces the historic change in US Cuba policy (Doug Mills-Pool/Getty)
President Obama announces the historic change in US Cuba policy (Doug Mills-Pool/Getty)

A lot’s happened in the world these last few years. Same sex marriage is now legal in multiple states, Nelson Mandela’s death in 2013, China and the United States reached a landmark agreement about climate change and, most notably, as of April 14, 2015, Cuba has been removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

On December 17, 2014, President Barack Obama met with Raul Castro in Panama to discuss the restoration of diplomatic ties between the two countries. This will be the first time since 1961 that Cuba and the United States are in good terms.

The history behind Cuba and the United State’s turbulent relationship is rooted to the Cold War. When Fidel Castro first seized power in 1959 the United States recognized his government, but as Castro’s trading with the Soviet Union increased the United States retaliated with escalating taxes on American imports.

President Kennedy addresses the nation during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the closest the world ever came to global nuclear destruction (Keystone/Getty Images)
President Kennedy addresses the nation during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the closest the world ever came to global nuclear destruction (Keystone/Getty Images)

In 1961 President Jon F. Kennedy enacted a total economic embargo against Cuba, which also included strict travel restrictions. As well as severing diplomatic ties with Cuba, the United States began the pursuit of overthrowing the Castro rule with a series of covert operations.

One operation, the Bay of Pigs invasion, is known more for its failure than success. After an attempt to take over the Cuban government failed, it pushed the people’s feeling of mistrust over the edge and fueled their sense of nationalism. This then led to a secret agreement with the Soviet Union that permitted the building of a missile base on the island.

This ignited the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. While Cuba hoped to deter American invasion with this invitation to the Soviet Union, the United States responded by blocking the Soviet ships that were heading to the island with the warheads. The Missile Crisis ended when the United States and Cuba came to an agreement that the sites would be demolished if the United States vowed not to invade.

Though the Cold War ended in 1989, the hostility between the United States and Cuba continued. The depth of this conflict is thought go back before the Soviet Union existed.

Cuban-Americans march in Miami in support of Cuban pro-democracy dissidents (Joe Raedle/Getty)
Cuban-Americans march in Miami in support of Cuban pro-democracy dissidents (Joe Raedle/Getty)

In 1980 Castro, in order to relieve internal tension, for a brief time allowed Cubans to leave the country. This resulted in over 125,000-exiled Cubans arrived in Florida and because of this, the way electoral politics are conducted was changed forever.

Such an influx of anti-Castro Cuban-Americans has made Florida a major swing state when it comes election time. If a presidential candidate hopes to win over Florida, he must have a policy that is sufficiently “anti-Castro”.

Resulting from the events of 1961-62, the complete economic and diplomatic isolation of Cuba, by the United States, was intensified by enacting the 1992 Cuba Democracy Act and the 1996 Helms-Burton Act. These Acts state that until Cuba is declared a democratic government, which excludes the Castros, and holds free and objective elections the embargo will remain intact.

Well ding, dong the embargo’s dead! With Raul’s confirmation of him retiring from office in 2018, it has allowed for forward steps towards repairing 55 years worth of animosity.

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