Top 10 U.S. - Cuba Relations Facts - WMNews Ep. 12



Top 10 U.S. - Cuba Relations Facts - WMNews Ep. 12

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Angela Fafard

After decades of hostility, embargos and travel bans, can these two nations figure out how to play nice? Welcome to WatchMojo News, the weekly series from that breaks down news stories that might be on your radar. In this instalment, we're counting down 10 crucial facts you should know about U.S. - Cuba Relations
Script written by Angela Fafard

Top 10 Cuba USA Relations Facts

#10: How Was Cuba Formed?
The History

The island of Cuba was colonized by Spain shortly after Christopher Columbus reached the Americas, and remained a Spanish colony until after 1898’s Spanish-American War. That war was in turn caused by the Americans’ decision to intervene in the Cuban War of Independence, which began in 1895, thanks in large part to the shadowy sinking of the USS Maine Navy ship near Havana and fantastical propaganda and yellow journalism put forth by newsmen like Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. Ultimately, Spain initiated the peace process when it was clear they were to be defeated, and on December 10th, 1898, the U.S. and Spain each signed the Treaty of Paris. This agreement gave the Americans control of Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippine islands indefinitely, and of Cuba temporarily. By 1902, Cuba was ready to administer itself, and control was passed to a native government.

#9: How Did the Current Cuban Government Come to Power?
The Revolution

After leading a revolt in 1933 to remove the established government, Fulgencio Batista himself came to power as President of Cuba, backed by the Democratic Socialist coalition. Known for his progressive policies, he remained in the post for four years. In 1952, he decided again to run for the Presidency, and – facing the prospect of defeat – staged a military coup, which allowed his return to power. Over the next seven years, Batista ignored his previously reformist policies and instead became a de facto dictator, seeking to amass personal wealth, allowing organized crime to flourish and transforming his country into a police state that saw the execution of an estimated 20,000 people over his tenure. Shortly after Batista seized power, young rebels like Fidel Castro and his brother Raúl initiated a plan to overthrow him, eventually gaining the support of Ernesto “Che” Guevara. While their plans during the Cuban Revolution failed, at the end of 1958 the United States told Batista they could no longer support him and suggested he flee the country – which he did. Fidel Castro then took over as Prime Minister, installing his own man as president.

#8: What Is the Political Party of Cuba?
The Castros & the Communist Party

Fidel Castro has been a huge part of Cuban politics since he helped oust Batista in 1959. His legacy as a politician and revolutionary is firmly entrenched in Cuban history as he’s taken on many positions in the almost fifty years he served in office, acting as Prime Minister from 1959-76, and as President from 1976-2008. He’s known for converting Cuba into the first communist state in the West. During his reign, he reformed Cuban society by providing free healthcare and education to Cubans, by promising employment to all citizens and by overseeing the nationalization of enterprises and assets that were previously owned by foreign entities – primarily the U.S. However, with an American trade embargo in place, the Cuban economy struggled. Fidel Castro was succeeded as President of Cuba by his brother Raúl in 2008.

#7: What Led the U.S. to Break Ties with Cuba?
The Embargo

The Cuban Revolution proved to be a defining moment in relations between the United States and Cuba. Castro was offended that the Americans had supported Batista through the Revolution. The Americans, on the other hand, were worried that Castro’s Communist ideology would spread to other Latin American countries. That, coupled with the Cubans’ relationship with the USSR, engendered mistrust with the U.S. as the country was locked in the Cold War with the Soviets; a war that had no full-scale fighting but which lasted decades and involved psychological warfare, espionage and a arms race. And so, on October 19th, 1960, the Eisenhower administration government placed an embargo on exports to Cuba, with the exception of food and medicine. This restriction was expanded within a few years to include all imports. The U.S. aimed to use this embargo as a tool to force the Cubans towards democratization and to improve their human rights record.

#6: Why Did the U.S. Attack Cuba?
The Bay of Pigs Invasion

Because of their leeriness of the direction in which Castro was leading the country, U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower approved a plan to overthrow the Cuban government, with $13-million allocated to the CIA to fund the operation. When John F. Kennedy took office in January 1961, he was informed on the plan and gave his approval for the mission to move forward. On April 17th, 1961, the Americans attacked the Bay of Pigs. Although the Americans initially overwhelmed the Cubans in number, fighting lasted two days, with Cuban forces eventually overtaking the paramilitaries and sending them back to the United States. It was an embarrassment for the Kennedy administration and led to several in-depth investigations.

#5: Who Were the Cubans’ Allies?
The Soviet Union Connection

Castro modeled his Cuba and brand of communism after that in the Soviet Union. He formed even closer ties to the USSR after the U.S. put in place the trade embargo: instead of facing economic ruin, Cuba forged trade ties with the Soviets. In addition, both Castro and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev feared that the U.S. would invade Cuba after their failed attempt at the Bay of Pigs. That, coupled wit the fact that the Americans had placed ballistic missiles in both Italy and Turkey, led to the Cuban Missile Crisis, which began on October 14th, 1962. The Soviets deployed nuclear weapons to Cuba to deter the Americans from invading. The closest the Cold War ever came to escalating to all-out nuclear war, this conflict forced discussions between Kennedy and Khrushchev through October. Finally, an agreement was reached wherein the Soviets and the U.S. would each dismantle their weapons, and the Americans would agree never to invade Cuba without incitement.

#4: What Is Cuba’s Current State?
The Aftermath

In the following years, Cuba relied heavily on the Soviet Union in terms of economic development, with trade between the two totaling upwards of $8.5 billion in 1989. However, this trade decreased by over 90% in the early-‘90s as the Soviet Union tried to prop up its own struggling economy. The dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 immediately shook the Cuban economy, leading to a period of great strife referred to as the Special Period, which saw drastic changes in lifestyle, diet, industry and more sweep the country. Eventually, Cuba formed greater economic ties with other Latin American countries, notably Bolivia and Venezuela. The country has also built up its tourism industry significantly, using the proceeds from that sector to bounce back – despite travel restrictions on some countries.

#3: Why Did the U.S. Suddenly Change Its Policy on Cuba?
The Cuban Thaw

In a move that was a long time coming, on December 17th, 2014, President Barack Obama announced his plan to normalize relations between the U.S. and Cuba, signifying a major first step in bridging the gap between the nations. The two countries had been engaged in secret talks that took place in places like Canada and the Vatican for a year previous, with the Pope having direct involvement in the meetings. Referred to as the “Cuban Thaw,” this historic and sweeping policy change was scheduled to include the lifting of the trade embargo, as well as the slackening of travel and immigration restrictions. These moves were set to impact Cuban society in a huge way.

#2: How Did the U.S. React to This Announcement?
The Opposition

The White House announcement led to a quick division in opinions between the two major political parties in the United States: the Republicans and the Democrats. The more vocal opinions were drawn from 2016 U.S. Presidential contenders who viewed the subject as a potential platform upon which they could base their campaign. As for the thousands of Cuban exiles residing in the U.S. after having fled the country since the ‘60s, opinions were divided. But angry debates within the community sparked protests, and the generation gap was evident, between older Cubans who left the country and mistrust the Castro government and the younger generation that was born in the United States.

#1: How Will This End?
The Future

In his final State of the Union address, President Obama stated that the U.S. was ending a painfully out of date policy. The two countries then embarked on a series of high-level discussions in an effort to advance toward reciprocal trade and travel agreements. After fifty years of silence and mistrust on both sides, officials are now inching toward rebuilding the estranged relationship to create a collaborative and prosperous future.

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