History of U.S and Cuba RelationsIn 1898 a decadent Spanish empire was faced with war against the United States on many fronts. This war began with the sinking of the American Battleship Maine in Cuba under unexplained circumstances which finally convinced or forced the American government to intervene into Cuba’s fight for independence from Spain. Cuba had been one of the last colonies of the Spanish Empire and Spain had always been reluctant to give it up even though the United States had tried to purchase the colony for costly amounts. The United States saw Cuba as one of its own states, due to geographical, economical and political reasons and felt very strongly about Spanish atrocities being carried out prior to the independence movement of Cuba. Hence with the sinking of Maine and within four months of majorly American victories in battle, Cuba was taken as a protectorate of the United States, Spain having renounced all claims to the territory in accordance to the Treaty of Paris according to Claire Suddath (2009). Till 1901 the United States had a military government in Cuba. Then in 1901 Cuba was granted freedom albeit with some restriction under the Platt Amendment which were incorporated into the Cuban Constitution. The Amendment granted the U.S. the right to intervene in Cuba's internal affairs and stated that Cuba cannot enter into treaties or financial relationships with other countries. It also contained a provision for an American naval base at Guantanamo Bay, which would later become infamous for the terrorist suspects held and tortured there. Hence Cuba became an independent country with Tomas Estrada Palma as its president but with indirect control of intervention through any means by the United States for the purpose of ‘protecting’ the Cuban people.
In the following 20 years the United States repeatedly intervened militarily in Cuban affairs. The first one was in 1906 – 1909; which took place after the collapse of President Tomas Estrada Palma's government, President Theodore Roosevelt ordered an invasion of Cuba and established an occupation that would go on for nearly four years. The objective of the operation was to thwart fighting between the Cubans, to protect U.S. economic interests, and to conduct free elections. Following the election of Jose Miguel Gomez, in November 1908, Cuba was considered to be stable enough to allow an extraction of American troops, which was completed in February 1909. Three years later in 1912 the Negro Rebellion occurred which was an armed conflict in Cuba, taking place mostly in the eastern region of the island. The conflict involved the extensive massacre of Afro-Cubans, by the Cuban Army, and an intervention by the United States military. Both the massacre and the presence of American troops quashed the violence so the strife and the occupation ended after only a few weeks. Lastly in the war of 1917 – 1922 the U.S. was again forced to intervene to put down another rebellion against the Cuban government.
By 1926 the U.S. interests in Cuba had become too intensive for the U.S. to not support the government(s) in Cuba. The U.S. was the main economic partner of Cuba as well as owning a considerable share of the Cuban economy itself; the United States owned more than 60% of the Cuban sugar industry which was the primary source of good being produced at that time. Therefore the American policy became more and more pro-government in Cuba, irrespective of how corrupt or dictatorial that government was, as long as it served American interests. This policy eventually led to Ramon Garu’s government being denied acceptance by the American government and to the rise of General Fulgencio Batista dictatorial regime which would eventually cause a revolution in Cuba. Batista ruled from 1940 to 1944 in his first tenure and was then, through a military coup orchestrated with the backing of the then American President Harry Truman. Batista was viewed as a very pro-American leader and especially in his second tenure strived for a great amount of cooperation with the United States. This ended up with the total domination of the Cuban economy by U.S. corporation as well as increased U.S. intervention in Cuban politics. Batista was accused of being highly corrupt and belligerent by the Cuban people but the U.S. was determined to keep his regime in power. Rebellions constantly took place in the 1950’s, and when finally in 1958 the U.S. government stopped the trade of arms to the Batista government, the rebels under Fidel Castro gained an insurmountable advantage over the government troops and soon overran the forces of the Cuban government. This would mark a new chapter in the history of U.S.-Cuban relations. Claire Suddath (2009)
Ending of diplomatic relationsFidel Castro was not the type of leader that Cuba had had before, he was a dedicated socialist who believed in Cuba’s national identity and was ready to take action against all those forces that would stop him from achieving his aims. One of the first things he did when he came into power was to start the nationalization of the Cuban economy, which essentially meant that he confiscated all privately held enterprises (almost all of them belonging to the U.S.) and do so without giving any sort of compensation to their original owners. Secondly Castro introduced agrarian reforms, effectively ending U.S. control of cheap labor working on U.S. held farms in Cuba as per Lana Wylie (2011). This caused uproar in the U.S. which stood against nationalization on not only an ideological point of view, but also on the basis that this alone caused billions of dollars of investments to be lost. The U.S. government reacted harshly to this, putting various trade and economic embargoes on Cuba eventually leading to a curtailment of the import of Cuban sugar and export of oil to Cuba, devastating Cuban economy and further worsening relations between the two countries according to Rens Lee (2008). In 1960 President Eisenhower of the United States authorized covert action by the CIA to facilitate the removal of Fidel Castro and his communist government through any means; which eventually amounted to assassination, support of anti-government forces and finally an invasion. Castro decided to align Cuba with the Soviet Union which finally led to all diplomatic ties between the U.S. and Cuba being broken off. The embassies of both nations were closed off in each other’s capitals and ambassadors were recalled.
Bay of Pigs InvasionThe hostility came to a head with the invasion of Cuba planned by the U.S. later named the Bay of Pigs invasion. The Bay of Pigs was not originally President John Kennedy's idea. As the communist nature of Fidel Castro's regime became apparent, the urge to bring down his government grew. President Eisenhower's administration had already designed the invasion, which would be handled by the CIA. By the time of Kennedy's inauguration, the order to invade was the only remaining piece of the plan to put into place. Planning for the invasion began in 1960, before diplomatic ties with Cuba had been broken. The state of affairs was delicate, since the plan was to overthrow a government with which the United States was not at war. Various aspects, including propaganda and military strategies, were included in the plan, along with the directive that the U.S. should not appear to be involved. Cuban and hired Americans were to be used in the invasion with equipment being provided by the CIA.
On April 12, 1961, Kennedy told a press conference that the United States clearly had no intention of intervening in Cuban affairs. Five days later, the invasion took place. This only showed the Cuban populace and government that U.S. could no longer be trusted with anything it stated. Adlai Stevenson, the American ambassador to the U.N., emphatically denied the Cuban ambassador's charges about the attack. Unfortunately, the truth came out within a few hours and Stevenson along with the U.S. government was greatly embarrassed.
The invaders surrendered on the afternoon of April 19. More than 200 people been killed; another 1,197 were taken captive. The failure of the Bay of Pigs Invasion set the stage for further hostility against Castro from the United States. President Kennedy made little attempt to hide his persistent aspiration to see Castro deposed. Castro’s insecurity about the prospect of his rule over Cuba led to the installation of Soviet nuclear missiles there, leading to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Another operation code named Mongoose was also carried out by the CIA and was also a failure and was made public.
Cuban Missile crisesIn August 1962, after some failed operations by the US to bring down the Cuban government of Fidel Castro, the Cuban and Soviet governments clandestinely began to construct bases in Cuba for a number of nuclear missiles with the capability to target most of the United States; thereby changing the balance of power in the cold war since the USSR did not have this ability of directly threatening the U.S. The thirteen days referred to as the Cuban Missile Crisis was a confrontation between the Soviet Union and Cuba on one side and the United States on the other in October 1962. This action was also due to the deployment of nuclear missiles in the UK, Italy and Turkey in 1961; which meant that the United States had the capability to strike Moscow with nuclear warheads. On October 14, 1962, a U.S. aircraft on a photoreconnaissance mission captured photographic evidence of Soviet missile bases under assembly in Cuba. Mark L. Haas (2001)
The United States considered attacking Cuba through the air and sea, but decided on a military blockade instead, calling it a”quarantine" for legal and other reasons. The U.S. announced that it would not allow offensive weapons to be transported to Cuba and demanded that the Soviets dismantle the missile bases already under assembly or completed in Cuba and remove all offensive weapons.
Both the Soviet and American forces prepared for war as it seemed that neither side was willing to back down from its position; both fearing humiliation and a weakening of their power on the international arena. The USSR was determined to protect Cuba from what was an imminent invasion by the U.S., whereas the U.S. was not willing to be threatened by nuclear weapons so close to its mainland and Soviet armed presence in what it considered its own backyard.
Eventually an agreement was reached whereby the U.S. promised to not invade Cuba and remove its nuclear warheads from Turkey and Italy in return for USSR pulling back. This allowed Cuba to be safe from anymore blatant aggression from the U.S. and further strengthened the anti-American view of the Cuban population and government. Till the 1980’s the relationship of the two countries would generally remain strained although some improvements were made.
RefugeesMigration from Cuba to the United States started since Castro took control, and the categorization of those leaving as refugees, has been heavily affected by U.S. foreign policy. During the 1959-62 migration wave, particularly preceding the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion, Cubans were welcomed as short-term exiles, liable to bring down Castro and return home. The second key migration wave began in 1965, in the middle of a U.S. campaign for methodically isolating and economically depriving Cuba and its populace. When thousands of that populace left Cuba, mainly to improve their economic conditions and reunite with family members, they were welcomed as refugees because of the iconic value of their denunciation of Latin America's sole communist state; Cuba. The third migration wave occurred in 1980, after a decade of peace and steadily improving U.S.-Cuban relations. Since it did not serve any U.S. foreign policy plan and was alleged to as helping Cuba rid itself of criminals and unwanted people. Therefore those arriving received little public support. David W. Haines & Karen E. Rosenblum(2009).
1980’s onwardsWith the diminishing of the cold war, Cuba lost its perch as an important outpost of communist operations and the United States relegated its importance as related in Jorge I. Dominguez (1985). In 1990’s the U.S., in supporting democracy in Cuba hiked up sanctions and embargoes against Cuba leading up to the Helms-Burton Act which made the sanctions law in 1996. However by 2010 the U.S.-Cuba relations had thawed considerably enough to allow U.S. corporations to export goods to Cuba. The illness and resignation of Fidel Castro also paved way for speculations that Cuba would now move closer to aligning itself with the U.S. but that has not happened under Raul Castro’s new government. The U.S. is adamant that Cuba cannot be considered a good nation in the international community until it holds democratic election and stops its human rights abuses. Cuba on its behalf has stated that impositions and coercion will not ferment any change. Cuba has also demanded that the U.S. also withdraw from Guantanamo Bay since that infringes on Cuba’s territorial integrity.
i. Claire Suddath (2009). U.S.-Cuba Relations. Time magazine.
ii. Lana Wylie (2011). Perceptions and foreign policy: A comparative study of Canadian and American policy toward Cuba. Canadian Foreign Policy Journal.
iii. Rens Lee (2008). RETHINKING THE EMBARGO. Foreign Affairs, Vol. 87, No. 6 (November/December 2008), pp. 180-182Published.
iv. Mark L. Haas (2001). Prospect Theory and the Cuban Missile Crisis. International Studies Quarterly, Vol. 45, No. 2 (Jun., 2001), pp. 241-270
v. David W. Haines & Karen E. Rosenblum (2009). Perfectly American: Constructing the Refugee Experience. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies.
vi. Jorge I. Dominguez (1985). US-Cuban Relations in the 1980s: Issues and Policies. Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs, Vol. 27, No. 1 (Feb., 1985), pp.17-34
vii. Timeline: US-Cuba relations. BBC News. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-12159943 U.S. State Department. http://www.state.gov/www/regions/wha/cuba/policy.html