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United States Embargo Against Cuba


The United States of America has been in the past put several sanctions and embargoes against several countries, particularly those nations that it believes are sponsoring terrorism. Such embargoes are mainly liked to effecting restrictions on finances and economic assistances. Countries that have suffered this fate include Sudan, North Korea, Cuba, China, Iran, Syria, Venezuela and Ivory Coast among others (Faria, p.248).

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This paper will concentrate on the sanctions that America Imposed against Cuba on 8th February 1962 and the controversies that surround the incident. While the move has been supported by Cuban-American exiles and a good percentage of Cuban politicians, a cross-section of business leaders have criticized it, stating that it is through free trade alone that can save the country and offer a level playing ground for all the players in the field. World religious leaders have publicly opposed the embargo, saying that “it was a case of a historic mistake and it is time to amend that false step” (Donna, p.46).

But the United States maintained their stand, explaining that they will only lift the ban if the Cuban government makes a move towards democratization and respect of human rights. This move is geared to streamline Castro’s administration to be more accountable and responsible enough to its citizens, but at he same time the restrictions are denying the Cuban public a lot of opportunities which they could have instead taken advantage of. No citizen of America is authorized to do business or offer any kind of assistance (whether public or private) to a Cuban, the concept has persisted for years, making it the most enduring trade embargo in the modern history.

The Historical Context of the Embargo

The United States made the move and put into effect the trade embargo in the year 1958 after a vicious armed conflict erupted in Cuba between the Batista government and rebels. America moved in and reduced the import of Cuban Brown sugar and the Soviet took over the trade together with other businesses that America had earlier controlled. To respond to the Cuban inclination towards the Soviet Union, President J. F. Kennedy widened the trade restrictions into travel restrictions and went further into freezing Cuban assets in the Unite States.

Later on when Cuba decided to host Soviet nuclear weapons, the U.S government decided to impose military sanctions on them, but the decision was retracted in 1975 (Faria, pp.105-175). There have been changes from administration to administration, with amendments every now and again defining the state of the sanction which has so far been relaxed a bit. For well over forty years, the economic boycott has been in place and has sparked debates from supporters and critics a like; both from the U.S very own boarders and across the boarders.

There is a unanimous agreement that the situation needs to be addressed before it is too late as things are threatening to get blown out of proportion. “A compromise point is therefore being sought to get those who want to retain the status quo and at the same time get to appease the group that want the sanctions lifted” (Gott, p.13). It is true that Fidel Castro has maintained power through employing dubious tactics, and this has driven the United States not to relent on their stands, but the time to change the unfriendly policies is long over due…not to make it easy for the Castro’s Administration, but to make life more bearable to the Cuban nationals.

But it is still not clear if Fidel Castro will be willing to let his brother ease the Marxist-Leninist principles that he struggled so much to institute. If the United States let the hostile regime alone, it will only be too glad to spread terror among the any person who dares to oppose it (Lazo, p.214). Therefore, there is a strong feeling that lifting the embargo therefore will never help Cubans, but will just expose them to more vulnerability status to exploitation by their very own government.

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Lifting the Embargo

For over two generations now, Cubans have never known what democracy really means. No election as long as we can remember since Castro assumed power has ever been free and fare, innocent citizens have been languishing in dark cells for a simple reason of speaking truth against the sitting government. All these ills have been on going despite the sanctions the United States have put on the nation; it can not be imagined the level of the ills that could have been happening on this small Island were the embargo completely absent. Despite its limited significance, the embargo has helped a great deal in lifting the living standards of the Cubans (Garfield, p.15).

As the 44th President of America assumed office, he made it clear that his mission as the President of America and as a world leader to see that Cubans enjoy freedom and justice that it deserves; a right that they are being denied by their oppressive government. The firm position that the U.S has maintained regarding the embargo is being faulted by critics, who say that it is a stumbling block to reform initiatives in Cuba, but just has been noted by a lot of human rights groups, the U.S stance has helped the fight against human rights abuses which are condoned by Castro’s regime (Lazo, pp.198-209).

Obama stated during his campaign periods that he would open diplomatic doors to discuss the Cuban issue. But the issue is not as simple as it might seem to be, since America and its interests have got everything to lose. The funding of international terrorists by the Cuban government is putting the life of American citizens in Diaspora as well as those within its boarders in jeopardy. If the Embargo is easily withdrawn, Castro will be seen as the winner and Americans and the Cuban people the losers.

Fidel Castro has been presenting himself as the holier than though president in the whole ordeal. Explaining that his actions are driven by the “bigger oppressive” government of the United States, but in real sense, it is an open secret that “Castro who has got the U.S with a loaded gun on its head, while he is sitting comfortable on a throne enjoying all the comfort, power and dominance which literally does not belong to him” (Thomas, p.285).

It is less likely that Cubans do stand to gain if the embargo is fully lifted, but the move is worth trying. It would send a sound signal to the whole world that the U.S is committed to seeing a lasting solution being reached to finally free the Cuban State. The move will also open doors to mutual respect and encourage formation of a viable platform to negotiations, which if effected to the latter will ease restrictions guarding travel, trade and diplomatic relations between the two nations.

It is so unfortunate that the innocent Cuban nationals have endured so much suffering just because of a former president. Many scholars and diplomats have in the past said that the United States are the ones to be blamed for the social ills that have been taking place in Cuba; these include political injustices, shortage of medical supplies and public health disasters (Kirkpatrick, p.1489-1491).

Besides these, Kirkpatrick is also pointing accusing fingers to the U.S embargo as the reason why economic development has stalled in Cuba. With Cubans denied access to free trade that every nation is taking advantage of world over, there is no way that the nationals’ living standards can match that of their rivals. Cubans have no market access to food, tourism, medicines and a lot other vital goods that form recipe to develop a nation.

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The embargo has limited access of important information to the Island of Cuba (Donna, pp.51-55). Donna adds that researchers are not allowed to make known their findings in the area, leaving the quest for the libraries and other educational institutions in Cuba unfulfilled. “If looked critically therefore, the policies that describe the exact situation of an embargo do conflict with the values of democracy, freedom and human right that United States claim to hold dear and respect” (p.57).

The Island will never feel cut off from the mainstream of the world if the sanctions are done away with. The services of the internet, capital flow, technological advancements and all matters related to discrimination will be part of the nation’s history. With these, development will not be hard to achieve as the country will be enjoying the benefits of globalization…”just what the country has missed for nearly four decades”. But America may lift the embargo yes! But the Cuban government still continues to stagnate the reformation process. Castro’s government was well known for that, and it would not be a new scenario for his brother Raul to gag the advent of a new era.

For the period since Fidel Castro forcefully took over power, he has been hiding behind the embargo as the only way to have the world and his followers view America as an oppressive State. He claimed that it was due to the policies that America inflicted on them that made him act the way he did. Castro asserted his doings stating that “for whoever felt that he was a dictator they should first look at the bigger fish–America” (Thomas, p.286).

The greatest oppressor that he should be helped to fight against; to Fidel, the whole world was supposed to gang up against America which he said was a common enemy. This move has helped Fidel remain at the top of the popularity list within Cuba. Any move linked to lifting the sanctions will be a big win to Fidel Castro and his brother Raul, but really not the Cuban populace. If conservatives reasoning are taken, Castro will still continue hurting the Cubans while using the embargo as a scapegoat to his ills. The whole world is watching the Cuban response on human rights matters with the lifting of the embargo.

Fears are being laid that incidences of human rights abuses may just shoot rather than fall if the embargo is lifted. It is a common practice in Cuba for individuals to be subjected to unfair trial, extra-judicial execution, torture and arbitrary imprisonment. Basic human rights are not that basic in Cuba; “freedom of assembly, expression, association, movement, privacy and due process with the law are not treated as rights, but more of high class privileges in Cuba” (Thomas, p.287).


From the facts presented in this paper, it can be said that lifting the embargo would be a very big plus to the Cuban people if and only if the current and other subsequent administration agree to respect human rights. Lifting the embargo together with all the other restrictions and replacing it with humanitarian aid, adequate medical supply and food will definitely benefit directly. But after what history has revealed about Castro’s character, it is very hard to believe that the humanitarian aids will be channeled to a good cause.

But thanks to the slightly changed attitude of Raul Castro, he seems to have positive intentions as far as reforms are concerned. If freedom of speech and friendly economic policies are anything to go by, then reformation will be finally achieved in Cuba. Questions however still linger if the latest moves by Raul are just political maneuvers to lure the United States into lifting the embargo then he will revert to their former self.

But until the sanctions are lifted and the reactions of the Cuban government seen, the future still remains uncertain and those who feel pressured will still continue to be so. One thing is however clear, if the Cuban government really wants reformation to take place, they should start by initiating the changes themselves and making life a little bit bearable for its citizens. For instance, make communication free and reduce to ground zero the hostility and dominance from the government forces, but unless that is done, freedom and democracy will still be a far off dream for the Cuban nationals.

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Works Cited

Donna, R. Kaplowitz. Anatomy of a Failed Embargo: US Sanctions against Cuba. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers. (1998). pp.31-57.

Faria, A. Miguel. Cuba in Revolution–Escape from a Lost Paradise. Hacienda Publishing, Macon, Georgia. (2002). pp.105-182, p.248.

Garfield, R. and Santana, S. The impact of the economic crisis and the US embargo on health in Cuba. American Journal of Public Health 87 (1). (1997). pp.15–20.

Gott, Richard. Cuba A New History. Yale University Press. (2005). p13. Web.

Kirkpatrick, F. Anthony. Role of the USA in Shortage of Food and Medicine in Cuba. The Lancet. (1996). pp. 1489-1491.

Lazo, Mario. American Policy Failures in Cuba–Dagger in the Heart!. Twin Circle Publishing Co., New York. (1970). pp.198-240.

Thomas, Hugh. Cuba; the Pursuit of Freedom. New York: Harper & Row. (1971). pp. 283–287.

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