Cuba US Relations – hobotorium – Jan 12

After hoping economic sanctions would allow them to smother Cuba and ignore it until the regime collapsed, the United States had a rude awakening with the missile crisis. After that, the United States put forth a motion in 1964 to isolate Cuba from the rest of Latin America to the Organization of American States to cut all diplomatic and trade relations, which only Mexico refused to do. This was slowly whittled away at in the 1970’s however. States were one by one beginning to restore ties and Henry Kissinger saw this and began secret negotiations to normalize relations and in 1975 the US supported the OAS in their move to restore ties with Cuba as he saw that this really was a fruitless endeavor. While Cuba never was a high priority, the US still was secretly meeting with Cuban diplomats trying to hash out differences through out almost every administration since the Missile Crisis.
During the Carter administration the Mariel boatlift took place, and started the policy of the US allowing Cubans to come to the US under asylum. This was meant to undermine Cuba and show that people were willing to leave it in my opinion. Castro however took this as an excuse to get rid of anyone who he considered undesirable and not just in the sense of political dissidents but also criminals and the mentally ill. In the end this worked out in the advantage of Cuba even though it showed the level of dissatisfaction with the Cuban government.
When Reagan came to office, any sort of dialogue disappeared and any concerns for human rights soon followed. Anti-communism was the plan and Reagan considered the liberation or containment of Cuba the number one priority. More harsh enforcement on trade relations, a reinstatement of the travel ban, and in general a more hostile attitude was directed towards Cuba. The US established Radio Marti in range of Cuba, which was a radio station who broadcasted counter to the line of the government controlled media. The name was chosen after Jose Marti, the hero of Cuban independence, which drew lots of ire from the Castro government.
One organization that promoted the US obsession with Cuba was the Cuban American National Foundation, which was created by Jorge Mas Canosa. Canosa was a Cuban expat who was part of the Bay of Pigs invasion, but his boat never deployed. Canosa also funded terrorism in Cuba. Using AIPAC as a model, the CANF was very successful in lobbying the US to take a very hardline approach to Castro’s Cuba.
After the Soviet Union collapsed, the newly elected Bush administration was very optimistic that the Castro regime could follow suit. They did not pay much attention to it however and instead focused on the states that already had collapsed in Europe. Canosa lobbied for the Cuban Democracy act, which was a series of sanctions and heavily regulated the sale of pharmaceuticals to Cuba. In general the goal was the economic strangulation of Cuba until Castro stepped down. The law was not that strong however and easily sidestepped or stretched when convenient.
The Brothers to the Rescue during this time were a group dedicated to flying around the area between Cuba and the US, on the lookout for refugees and if sighted, would report them to the Coast Guard so they could reach the US safely. They received used Cessna planes from the government on the cheap thanks to help from sympathetic officials. However, some of them did a bit more than patrol to rescue refugees and went as far as dropping leaflets in Havana promoting revolution. Thanks to espionage Cuba knew what was going on and pressured Washington to stop them and threatened consequences if they did not stop. When they did not stop, Cuban MiG fighter jets shot down two planes. This act caused the US to tighten embargo restrictions further.
When Clinton came to power, he took a step back from his hardline approach in the legislature and realized that the approach was not working well. The travel ban was lightened as well as the economic embargo, although both were still kept firmly in place. This worked out well for both sides as they could both claim a victory and keep the same political posturing at home.
At the end of the Clinton presidency the Elian Gonzalez incident took place.
The father of the boy wanted him returned to Cuba instead of living with relatives in the US. An armed raid took place on the house he was in and Gonzales was returned to his father. The Cuban American community was outraged, and the results of this further separated the hopes of a warming relationship from reality. When George W. Bush took office he had campaigned on bringing down Castro. Instead he mostly ignored Cuba and focused on other countries in Latin America.
When the September 11th attacks happened, Cuba immediately offered aid to the US in the form of personnel and airfields for US planes. Both ended up being ignored, but Fidel still went on the air later to express solidarity with the US in the face of terrorism. Bush’s administration did not want closer relations however, and instead pushed for more belligerent policy. Before the lead up to the Iraq War in 2003, some officials alleged that Cuba was developing bioweapons. John Bolton went as far as to say Cuba was a threat to national security. Luckily Congress and the intelligence community both put a damper on things and cool the tensions the Bush administration was creating. During the Bush administration Castro’s Cuba was very subdued and careful to not anger the US, much like someone would treat a belligerent drunk.
Since then, Fidel has stepped aside and let his brother Raul take power. It is still Castro’s Cuba but the US is optimistic and constantly watching and waiting for a further transition to be made. The American obsession with Cuba continues, and probably will for the rest of our lifetimes even if a transition to capitalism is made.