The US-Cuba Thaw and Hemispheric Relations

Jvlio/ Wikicommons / CC BY-SA 3.0

For over five decades, no issue so sharply divided the United States from Latin America and the Caribbean as Washington’s punitive economic and diplomatic isolation of Cuba. The unexpected announcement made on December 17, 2014, by US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro that they would move toward normalization of diplomatic relations brought the prolonged period of estrangement between Washington and Havana to an end. The policy of isolation, a Cold War relic that had utterly failed in its goal of producing regime change in Havana—and was widely perceived to be a prisoner of US domestic politics, especially the powerful Cuban-American community—was gradually dismantled in 2015. The dramatic shift in approach and mindset was best exemplified in August 2015, when John Kerry— the first US secretary of state to visit Cuba since 1945—formally inaugurated the US embassy in Havana, following a corresponding event for the Cuban embassy in Washington.

To be sure, the US trade embargo, adopted in 1962 and reinforced by the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, remains in effect and can only be removed by Congress. For the time being at least, that policy is unlikely to be lifted by a Republican-controlled Congress that has opposed Obama’s move toward greater opening. Both Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, Cuban-American senators and candidates for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, have roundly rejected the administration’s approach, defending the embargo as necessary so long as Cuba remains undemocratic.


Full article in Current History.