By Felix Zheng
Ever since 1961, relations between the United States and Cuba have been severed as a result of various events in history. This began during the Civil War when Fidel Castro overtook Fulgencio Batista’s regime in Havana and increased trade with the Soviet Union and taxes on American imports. Soon after, the embargo on Cuba that created the detached relations began when the US stopped Cuban sugar imports and nearly all exports to the country. However, conflict did not cease there and the Cuban Missile Crisis soon arose, where the United States government tried to topple the Cuban government with the 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion, creating widespread Cuban distrust and nationalism. This mistrust fueled the Cuban motivation to allow the Soviets to build a missile base on their island. In the end, Cuba removed the missile base in return for United States’ promises not to invade the country. Afterwards, the US mainly maintained a policy of isolationism in regards to Cuba, continuing the discontinuity between the two countries.
Today, the relations between the two countries is quickly changing. Barack Obama and Raul Castro made an announcement on December 17 of 2014 that the two countries would attempt to fully restore diplomatic ties. This process began with the mutual release of prisoners, with three members of the Cuban Five released from United States possession in exchange for Rolando Sarraff Trujillo, a US intelligence agent. In addition, the US has eased its embargo and lessened travel and banking restrictions while Cuba has released an additional 53 US political dissidents. Now, US citizens may also travel to Cuba without obtaining a government license prior. Certain economic sanctions have been lifted by Congress but certain parts of the restriction have been kept in place. Regardless, these changes mark a major step towards restoring relations and display the efforts of both countries in the process.
These improved ties are expected to bring positive changes to Cuba as a country as well. Many regional powers have predicted that the new policy of engagement, in contrast to isolation, will benefit Cuba’s human rights situation. Cuba’s participation in the Summit of the Americas in Panama on April 2015 hinted towards new, more open relations with the country. This idea leads many to believe that the United States should act further and remove the economic sanctions placed on Cuba. Despite the progress, Congress is in strong disagreement with this idea and such an action is very unlikely to happen in the near future. Obama is expected to continue to use his executive power to improve relations, however, and most likely open communications, trade, banking, etc. In fact, the US has been Cuba’s fifth largest trading partner since 2007, marking considerable progress in the economic relations of the two. This progress can very possibly persuade Congress in the future to shift their position and eventually remove the remaining sanctions on Cuba and finally fully open the US-Cuban relations. The future between these two powers seems bright and appears to only be getting better and better.