Obama and the Beginning of the End of the Cuban Embargo

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tags: Obama, Cuba



Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,200 stations in North America. She is the co-author of “The Silenced Majority,” a New York Times best-seller.

The failed United States policy against Cuba, which has for more than half a century stifled relations between these neighboring countries and inflicted generations of harm upon the Cuban people, may finally be collapsing. On Wednesday morning, we learned that Alan Gross, a U.S. government contractor convicted in Cuba for spying, had been released after five years in prison. Another person, an unnamed Cuban imprisoned in Cuba for 20 years for spying for the U.S., was also released. This has made global headlines. Less well explained in the U.S. media are the three Cubans released from U.S. prisons. They are the three remaining jailed members of the Cuban Five. The Cuban Five were arrested in the late 1990s on espionage charges. But they were not spying on the United States government. They were in Miami, infiltrating Cuban-American paramilitary groups based there that were dedicated to the violent overthrow of the Cuban government.

By noon Wednesday, President Barack Obama made it official—this was not just a simple prisoner exchange: “Today, the United States of America is changing its relationship with the people of Cuba. ... I’ve instructed Secretary [of State John] Kerry to immediately begin discussions with Cuba to re-establish diplomatic relations that have been severed since January of 1961.”


It was President Dwight Eisenhower who severed relations with Cuba, on Jan. 3, 1961, two years after Fidel Castro took power. President John F. Kennedy then expanded the embargo. Months after Kennedy took office, the CIA invasion of the Bay of Pigs, intending to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro, went awry. It is universally considered one of the greatest military fiascos of the modern era. Scores were killed, and Cuba imprisoned more than 1,200 CIA mercenaries. 

Cuba became a flash point, most notably as the Soviet Union attempted to place short-range nuclear missiles on the island, precipitating the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962. This episode is widely considered the closest that nations have come to all-out nuclear war. The U.S. also tried to assassinate Castro. While the U.S. Senate’s Church Committee identified eight such attempts, Fabian Escalante, the former head of Cuban counterintelligence, uncovered at least 638 assassination attempts...




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