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US-Cuba Relations: A Brief History of Trouble Between Nations

By    |   Wednesday, 10 February 2016 08:16 PM

With President Barack Obama’s moves to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba, a 50-year stalemate between the two countries comes to an end. International neighbors, separated by only 90 miles of open water, have engaged in a standoff that has kept Cuba in the 1950s and the U.S. constantly worried about communism on its doorstep. Trouble between the countries has a longer history though, stretching back to the 1890s.

In 1898, war between Spain and the U.S. resulted in victory for the American forces and the Spanish giving up Cuba to U.S. rule. At times, the U.S. struggled to keep control of the colony and fought various wars with the Cuban natives over next few years. Cuba gained independence in 1902 but U.S. forces returned at times during the next three decades to put down rebellions and root out corruption.

Sgt. Fulgencio Batista overthrew the government in a 1933 military coup, leading to a long period of healthy trade with its near neighbor.

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Prior to the revolution of 1959, Cuba was a playground of sorts for wealthy Americans. The relaxed lifestyle, constant sun, cheap rum, and great music attracted film stars, writers, such as Ernest Hemingway, and other celebrities to party in Havana.

When Fidel Castro seized power in a bloody revolution, relations between to two countries began to change and President Dwight Eisenhower was very wary of Castro’s intentions.

Initially the U.S. recognized Castro’s government in an attempt to keep control of U.S. interests on the island. This soon changed as Castro put his communist policies into full action. Castro nationalized U.S. oil companies in 1960, seized other assets and put very high taxes on imports from the United States.

The Kennedy administration retaliated by putting a curb on sugar imports that soon grew into an all out ban on exports to Cuba and eventually in 1960, the imposition of the full trade embargo. In return, Castro opened up trade with the Soviet Union, importing oil and other goods it could no longer get from the U.S.

During 1961, the U.S. backed the infamous Bay of Pigs invasion and planned to topple Castro and his government. The failed attempt deepened the mistrust between the two countries, and when the U.S. suspected that the USSR was placing nuclear missiles on Cuba the situation escalated.

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The Cuban missile crisis in the autumn of 1962 had the two superpowers at the brink of nuclear war with Cuba at the center of attention. The missile crisis was solved by compromise and the world breathed a sigh of relief.

What followed was 50 years of isolation for Cuba in the standoff with the United States of America. All ties between the two countries were cut, the trade embargo was strictly enforced and a ban on U.S. citizens travelling to Cuba was put in place. Cubans wishing to escape the Castro regime took to boats to escape the island leading to a large community of expats now living in Florida, mainly in the Miami area.

Attempts were made by the various administrations to ease relations between the countries, but Castro usually responded with moves such as allowing more than 120,000 to leave in 1980 — many were prisoners — and by using force with the shooting down of two U.S. aircraft in 1996.

As their economy collapsed with the fall of the Soviet Union, Cuban dissatisfaction with Fidel Castro grew. In 2003, President George W. Bush tightened restrictions, and in 2006,  called for the Cuban people to push for democracy. When Castro stepped aside after surgery, his brother Raul assumed power and in 2007 he began to soften the traditional stance against the U.S.

Moves over the next few years lead to an easing of travel restrictions, the opening of diplomatic relations and the removal of Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

In December 2014, leaders Obama and Castro met for the first time, at a conference in Panama, the highest meeting between the countries since Vice President Nixon met Fidel Castro in the late 1950s.

The two countries are now in negotiation to open up trade, ease travel restrictions, and bring an end to the last 50 years of Cold War politics.

Vote Now: Should the US End the Embargo Against Cuba?

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With President Barack Obama’s moves to normalize relations between the U.S. and Cuba, a 50-year stalemate between the two countries comes to an end. Trouble between the countries has a longer history though, stretching back to the 1890s.
us, cuba, relations, history, usa
Wednesday, 10 February 2016 08:16 PM
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