North Carolina Journal of International Law

Before the 1950s, the United States (“U.S.”) and Cuba had a history of amicable relations and constant trade, depending on each other for products, tourism, and even culture.  However, this all changed after the Cuban Revolution when Fidel Castro took over the island and began killing his own citizens, nationalized all private property and U.S. investments, and allied with the Soviet Union.  In fear for U.S. national security and the spread of communism throughout the Western Hemisphere, President Eisenhower, and then President Kennedy, began the embargo on Cuba.  Kennedy’s Proclamation 3447 – titled “Embargo On All Trade With Cuba” – stated that the “United States, in accordance with its international obligations, is prepared to take all necessary actions to promote national and hemispheric security by isolating the present Government of Cuba and thereby reducing the threat posed by its alignment with the communist powers.”  What followed is now history.

In the decades that followed, the embargo was adjusted at times, but Congress eventually codified it through the Helms-Burton Act of 1998.  What began as a national security concern during the Cold War turned into a fifty-year long grudge grounded on human rights concerns.  Both the embargo and the living conditions of most Cuban people stayed practically the same until December of 2014, when President Obama announced the restoration of diplomatic ties between Cuba and the U.S.   The announcement claimed that the U.S. would ease traveling and trade restrictions, and that relations would be more amicable.  Although far from a lift of the embargo, which would improve the lives of many Cuban people, this change was seen by many as a light of hope and a step in the right direction.

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